February 27, 2015

That Dress: The Science Behind It


This has been all over the internet so here's one explanation.

Hosted by: Hank Green

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 Do You See Albert Einstein Or Marilyn Monroe In This Photo?
 Can You See A Duck Or A Rabbit? This Optical Illusion Says A Lot About Your Creativity
 Optical Illusions In Art


February 26, 2015

Keep Your Old Typewriter: Thanks To The Digital Age We’re All losing Our Memory!


I am sorry I no longer have mine! Not so easy to get another one either, especially if you need to replace the ribbons. And judging by the clip above they have other uses!
I think the Russians are onto something here!

THE Russian Federal Guard Service, the body given the task of protecting the country’s top officials, recently invested in 20 old-fashioned portable typewriters. These were to be used to ensure that documents of a particularly sensitive nature would not be written electronically and stored digitally, but typed out by hand and then filed away. 
The message was clear and as old as writing itself: if you want to preserve something, write it on paper and then put it somewhere safe.

The digital age was supposed to render obsolete the traditional ways of preserving the past. Everything written, recorded, filmed or photographed could now be safeguarded for ever at the push of a button. No more filing, storage or dusty archives: the present would be captured and the past curated by the machines themselves. Increased computer power and ever-expanding digital storage would ensure infinite memory-retention, an end to forgetting.

The reality has proved very different. Digital memory has proven fragile, evanescent and only too easy to lose. Technology has moved on so fast that the tools used to access stored material have become obsolete: CD-roms degrade, tapes crumble, hard disks fall apart; the laser disk and the floppy disk have gone, soon to be followed, no doubt, by the USB and memory card. I have half a novel, written 20 years ago on what was then a cutting edge Amstrad and “saved” on a 3.5in disk. I will never know how unreadable it really is, because I now have no way to read it.

As the internet pioneer Vint Cerf warned recently, the disappearance of hardware needed to read old media means we are “nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become a digital black hole”. In 1986, the BBC Domesday project set out to record the economic, social and cultural state of Britain on 12in videodiscs. Today, those disks cannot be read, unlike the Domesday Book itself, written a thousand years earlier.

The internet will carry more data this year than was created in the entire 20th century — some 330 petabytes, or enough capacity to transfer every character of every book ever published 20 times over — but our descendants may be unable to read it.

Quite apart from the technical inaccessibility of the past, the assumption of digital permanence has eroded the habit of archival hoarding. Earlier generations wrote letters, diaries, postcards and notes, on paper, stored them, and forgot them. Who archives their emails, let alone texts, tweets, or posts?

We blithely assume that these are being preserved somewhere, when most are simply evaporating into the ether. The old-fashioned photo album has given way to the digital photo-file — as prone to sudden wipe-out and technical obsolescence as every other “saved” electronic artefact. The images of your grandparents may be better preserved than those of your grandchildren.

What looks like never-ending growth on the internet is really a form of endless decay. The average lifespan of a web page is 44 days. Pages are constantly being updated, overwritten, shifted or left to expire in the process known as “reference rot”. We may lecture our children that anything posted on the net will be there for ever, but in fact it’s true of very little on this strange, unstable, ephemeral medium.

A web page link that leads only to a “page not found” message encapsulates the transitory nature of digital data: solid information that has shifted into nothingness, with no clue to where it has gone.

Historians looking back on our time will face a mighty challenge, with a patchy digital record and a culture lulled into believing that the past is being preserved every time the save button is pressed.

Bizarrely, despite the vastly larger flood of daily information, we may end up knowing more about the beginning of the 20th century than we will know about the start of the 21st.

The world is waking up to the danger of collective memory loss. Cerf has called for the creation of “digital vellum”, technology that can take a digital snapshot, at the time of storage, of all the processes needed to read it at later date. The British Library now routinely gathers information from millions of public websites as well as tweets and Facebook entries, to create a constant, rolling record of the digital present. The American Library of Congress is archiving the whole of Twitter.

Immediately after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France set out to gather the rolling digital story and the web response — media reportage, public reaction, blogs, Twitter, online commentary — to create a genuine digital archive of the moment.

A similar shift in attitude towards digital preservation is needed in the wider culture. Psychological studies show that people who gather evidence of their own lives are happier and more self-confident.

Just as our grandparents hoarded the physical evidence of their worlds, so we should print out the photographs, preserve the emails, write, cut, paste, and print the stories, memories and relics of our own lives and times, and put them all in the attic.

Thankfully, as the Russians know, a machine has already been invented that can solve the problem of digital impermanence: the typewriter.

By Ben Macintyre

With thanks to The Australian
Can Our Culture Get Lost In The Cloud?


February 25, 2015

First Faberge Egg Created For 99 Years Goes To Doha



ONCE prized by Russian tsars and sought by collect­ors around the world, Faberge eggs are making a comeback, with the first to be created for 99 years going on display in Qatar. 
Almost a century after prod­uction was scrapped at the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, the Saint Petersburg jewellery house has started making its most famed product again.

A “Qatar-inspired” egg, studded with 139 pearls from the Gulf state and more than 3300 diamonds­ and valued at $US2 million ($2.5m), went on display yesterday at a jewellery exhibition in the capital, Doha.

The egg is officially for sale, but collectors are likely to be disappointed. It is rumoured to have been snapped up by a member of the Qatari royal family.

Faberge made only 50 eggs before the family fled Russia after the revolution in 1917.
The most famous “Imperial” eggs were commissioned by ­Alexander III and Nicholas II as gifts for their wives and mothers.

Forty-two eggs are known to have survived. The Kremlin ­retains 10, while the British royal family owns three among a huge collection of Faberge jewellery.

The largest private collector is Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who bought nine ­of the eggs from the Forbes publishing family in the US a decade ago.

By Hugh Tomlinson

With thanks to The Australian


Map with thanks to Google Maps.


Above: A classic example.

Some other posts on Art:
Van Gogh On Dark Water Animation
This Fake Rembrandt Was Created By An Algorithm  

Fore-edge Painting: Artists Hide Paintings Along The Edges Of Old Books  

Insanely Realistic Pencil Drawings

Found: A Missing Paul Gauguin Painting

Royal Academy of British Art Coming To Town

Australia and the UK Battle Over Historic Paintings Of A Kangaroo And A Dingo

Finally: A Digital Home For Lost Masterpieces

America: "Painting a Nation" Exhibition in Art Gallery of NSW

Chauvet Cave Paintings: Cave Women Left Their Artistic Mark

London exhibition of Australian art holds up a mirror to our nation: more iconic images
500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

Some Fascinating Pictures featuring Alyssa Monks

Visual Art of the Human Body by Cecelia Webber

Ronnie Wood: His Art and The Rolling Stones

The lost Van Gogh: Painting found in Norwegian attic is confirmed as priceless work by Dutch master

Market Find Turns Out To Be A Lost Faberge Egg

Charles Dellschau: Secrets of An Undiscovered Visionary Artist

Tom Pinch: Time - Lapse Portraits of Paul McCartney and John Lennon

How JMW Turner Set Painting Free 

The Curious Case Of The Renaissance Cockatoo

Images On Andy Warhol’s Old Computer Discs Excite University Students

Human Ingenuity: From the Renaissance to the Age of the Internet - The Sistine Chapel

Katsushika Hokusai: Japanese Artist

Picasso's "Women of Algiers" Breaks Auction Record

Looted Treasures Open Door To The Dark Nazi Past

Long-lost Caravaggio Masterpiece Found In French Attic

Frederic Remington: The Man Who Helped Bring The West To Life 

Loving Vincent: The World's First Fully Painted Film 

Vincenzo Peruggia: The Man Who Stole The Mona Lisa And Made Her more Famous Than Ever

The Isleworth Mona Lisa: A Second Leonardo Masterpiece? 

 Optical Illusions In Art

MC Escher: An Enigma Behind an Illusion     
Hidden Degas Portrait Revealed

David Bowie's Personal Art Collection Auctioned Off For $30 Million

These New Flowers Change Colour On Demand



Researchers in the US are working on a new variety of petunia that changes colours throughout the day, from red in the morning to blue in the evening, with various purple hues in-between. They're calling it the 'Petunia Circadia,' because its pigment molecules - or anthocyanins - will be expressed based on the plant's circadian rhythm over a 12-hour period.

Researchers in the US are working on a new variety of petunia that changes colours throughout the day, from red in the morning to blue in the evening, with various purple hues in-between. They're calling it the 'Petunia Circadia,' because its pigment molecules - or anthocyanins - will be expressed based on the plant's circadian rhythm over a 12-hour period.

"No chemicals, no complicated care - just sunlight, soil and a flower that changes colour," Nikolai Braun, co-founder and chief scientific officer of a new biotech company, Revolution Bioengineering, told Diane Nelson at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). "Plants have circadian rhythms, or cyclical expression of genes throughout the day. These rhythms allow them to start photosynthesis when the Sun comes up, for example, or release fragrance in the evening when their pollinators are active. Petunia Circadia will harness this internal clock to regulate flower colour."

Braun and his colleague, Keira Havens, haven't mastered the Petunia Circadia just yet, but as you can see above, they're well on their way. So far, they've managed to engineer a petunia that grows white, and turns pink over a 24 hour period, when an ethanol solution is applied. It works because when the flower is about to bloom, it's unable to produce pigment-containing anthocyanins, so appears white. But when ethanol is applied, this repairs the pathways that are needed to distribute the pigment throughout the flower's cells.  

"The petunia typically produces white blooms, but if you water it with the ethanol solution, the existing flowers will go from white to red and new flowers will bloom a purplish red," Braun told Megan Gambino at Smithsonian Magazine. "The flowers are typically all white because the enzymatic pathway to produce anthocyanins is broken at an early step. When elements in the cell come in contact with ethanol, they will cause the missing enzyme in the anthocyanin pathway to be produced, and the flower will turn that purple colour." 

All it takes is a little fresh water to shift the flower back into a pristine white. 

While these cute new flowers aren't meant to be anything other than a sweet little curiosity, Braun and Havens hope they will help introduce people to the benefits offered by genetically modified plants. "For almost everyone outside of the farming world, it will be the first time they will have interacted with a genetically modified organism, and by engineering traits for consumers - flower colours, shapes, smells." Braun told Gambino at Smithsonian Magazine. "We hope to normalise that technology to eventually fully realise the promise of plant biotech to provide food, fuels, and fibres in a sustainable way." 

Gambino reports that the pair is looking into how to create single plants that produce many different coloured flowers, and flowers that produce new scents, and new patterns, such as polka dots. 

Plant geneticist Pam Ronald at UC Davis told press officer Diane Nelson that projects like this could help educate people about her own research. Recently, she managed to develop genetically engineered bananas that are resistant to the Xanthomonas wilt disease, which has already destroyed millions of acres of fruit trees in East Africa, where they're a staple food source.

"It can be hard to connect to the reality of people struggling in far-away places," she told UC Davis

 “So when you tell people that genetic engineering can be used to fight hunger by increasing vitamin content and reducing crop loss to insects, sometimes it just doesn’t register. Maybe seeing this technology at work in your own backyard can make the science more accessible."

Source: Smithsonian Magazine

With thanks to Science Alert.

Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island - Canada

February 23, 2015

Top 10 Best Actress Oscar Winners Ever?


Interesting choices, and often these Oscars go to people in biopics which I have listed at the links below.

I think Lady Gaga did a great job of the medley from "The Sound of Music" this year - which is, of course, another highly poetically-licensed biopic. 

Not many, IMHO, have a voice as beautiful as Julie Andrews, but all credit to Lady Gaga where credit is due.   


Happily my favourite actress, Elizabeth Taylor is in the clip as indeed she deserves to be.

Like Charleze Theron she took on a very unflattering appearance to win one of  her Oscars,"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" but then again she also got one for "Butterfield 8" which highlighted her beauty and acting ability. Also included is Vivien Leigh, an obvious choice.


From You Tube:
These are some of the most well deserved Best Actress Oscars awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

Join http://www.WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Best Actress Oscar Winners.
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Below - The Oscar selfie that never was - via Twitter


Some related posts:
Elizabeth Taylor's Bulgari Jewellery Goes On Show In Melbourne
Daniel Day-Lewis Receives A Knighthood
How Sergio Leone’s Westerns Changed Cinema
Top 10 Movie Twists of All Time
 Oscar Winners 2016: The Full List Tina Turner: What’s Age Got To Do With It? 
Sylvester Stallone: Not Feeling Old!
Hedy Lamarr - Beauty And Brains in Abundance
Charlie Chaplin: The Birth Of The Tramp
Alfred Hitchcock: Mysteries Of The Master Of Suspense
Carlos Gardel And The Tango In Movies
Audrey Hepburn Quotes
Julie Andrews To Direct My Fair Lady production At Sydney Opera House
The 100 Most Iconic Movie Lines of All Time
The Importance of Costume in Films: Some Iconic Images of our Culture
Hollywood Costume Exhibit In Los Angeles
Biopics Now Focus On Key Moments Rather Than A Whole Life 
"Rush" - An Under-rated Ron Howard Movie
Some Biopic Actors And Their Real-Life Counterparts
Edith Piaf: In search of La Vie en Rose 
Is "Gone with the Wind" America’s Strangest Film? 
A Look at a Legend: Elizabeth Taylor
The Best Movies Of 2014
Elizabeth Taylor Quotes
The Sound of Music at 50: Still Our Favourite thing?
10 Historically Inaccurate Movies

The Book Every Movie Lover Should Own:David Thomson’s New Biographical Dictionary of Film
Hollywood's 100 Favorite Films
10 Historical Movies That Mostly Get It Right
Woman in Gold: Another Biopic For Dame Helen Mirren 
Queen Latifah To Play Bessie Smith
The 100 Greatest Movie Characters
Burt Bacharach Brings Back The Hits: From Marlene Dietrich to Glastonbury
Cilla Black's Biography On TV    
Alfred Hitchcock: Mysteries Of The Master Of Suspense
"Love and Mercy" - A Review Of The Brian Wilson Biopic
Orry-Kelly:The untold story Of A Hollywood legend - "Women He's Undressed" Review
Top 10 Movie Sets Ever Built
23 James Bond Themes And How They Charted
Cleopatra: Was She Killed By A Snake?
A Look at a Legend: James Dean