There's a new internet service exclusively for cats. Billed as streaming "mew-vies", it's called Netfelix.
I see today's Google Doodle honors Dimitri Mendeleev who first described the periodic table. I can still remember the sense of wonder I felt, many years ago now, when I read that all chemical element fitted in to a system.
Because of that system it had been possible to predict the existence, and properties, of elements as yet unknown, but subsequently discovered by other investigators. This thought made me very excited and for a time I wanted to be a chemist.
By coincidence I've just been reading Primo Levi's book The Periodic Table. Published in 1975, it is a collection of short stories, each themed on a particular element. Two or three are works of pure imagination, but for the most part they are autobiographical, mainly from Levi's career as an industrial chemist in post-war Italy. Some draw on his experiences in Auschwitz.
Although the book wasn't published until the 1970s some of the stories seem to have been germinating for a long time. From something I read I believe final essay Carbon had been in Levi's mind since before his imprisonment. It is this story that first drew me to The Periodic Table (and later to Levi's other writing), because I read a very enthusiastic letter about it in a science journal, and I realized it was about an idea I've always had an interest in (and have tried to write about myself, but far less well).
In 2006 The Periodic Table was voted the best science book ever by the Royal Institution, in a very strong field. Paradoxically it probably won the prize because it is ultimately a humanistic book rather than a scientific one.
I've just finished reading Primo Levi's book about his time in Auschwitz.
He wrote as he said "to be a witness, not a judge", and even while in the camp made fugitive jottings on scraps of paper, although all had to be destroyed; had they been found he would have been executed.
He survived and was repatriated after a long and winding railway journey lasting nine months (the subject of a second book). Once home he soon started work on If This is a Man and had it finished by the end of 1946, less than two years after he had been freed from the camp.
Levi believed in rationality and wrote in a very objective way in order not to dilute his testimony. He hadn't been very good at Italian at school — more inclined to science — but the urge to tell his story to the world made him into a great writer.
These wild snowdrops bloom by a path I often take. In the middle ages it was a road but today it is only a track-way.
Linnaeus named this flower Galanthus nivalis; Galanthus from Greek gala+anthos, 'milk-flower', and nivalis from Latin 'of snow'.
The common name snowdrop is only recorded from the 17 c and the origin is unclear, although the Oxford English Dictionary suggests a connection with the German schneetropfen, which itself possibly comes from the name of a kind of earring once popular.
Surprisingly Galanthus turns to have pharmacological importance. Some species of the genus are a source of galanthamine, which was traditionally used in eastern European countries for treating polio, and is now used for slowing the progress of Alzheimer's.
* My title "The snow-drop paths of innocence" comes from W. R. Spencer.
Well I'm not fooled. You're looking for what you can steal before Spring does.
Pyramus and Thisbe were star-crossed lovers who wooed through a wall.
The story had an unhappy ending though. Mine has a better. The relic above is a fragment of the Berlin Wall, which divided East Berlin from West between 1961 and 1989, and cost many lives.
When we visited the Iron Curtain had just been raised, and there were still border guards — it was their job — but they waved us through with every appearance of relief.
When we came to the Wall most of it was gone but there were plenty of bits on sale. You can still buy them easily enough today, with a stamp of authenticity, but mine was authenticated by a hammer.
I was surprised just recently to find how much of the Wall has survived and where the bits are. It is a symbol of freedom prevailing against barriers (something poor Pyramus and Thisbe longed for) and so parts of it have been dispersed to every continent save Antarctica — a sort of wall-diaspora — as you can see in this marvelous piece of journalism.
My landline is obsolete really. I just keep for the nuisance calls.
Q. What teaching approach sounds like someone who makes all the calls?
A. See comment
All on an Easter morn.
Five white swans came riding by
And beat us to the dawn.
The sky was clear and I saw before me/
The majesty of Orion. Seven stars.
Years ago I was riding pillion on my wife's motorcycle, on a winter night. I looked up and suddenly saw a constellation. "Look there's Orion!" I cried.
We swerved all over the road to avoid the lion.
I don't mind a bit of tality. But I don't want more.
I particularly dislike the fuh kind.
Q. How do you attract an English breakfast lover?
A. See comment
Sorry to sound negative, but this attraction was just a let-down for me.
Hi Rapunzel, long time no see. Gruyère?
I hear the voice of my redheaded friend
He's always there
When I visit that room again.
The one with the white round tables, where we last met.
I still remember how my eyes filled
When I saw the message. I didn't have to open it.
If the subject is simply a name
It can only mean one thing.
What 1,000 kg cheese doesn't move a lot?
A. See comment
Could ever such an odd hybrid exist?
It might. Tonight I heard this
A. "Guess what the second word is".
B. "Oh my God, I thought you said, 'Guess what the semen word is.' "
Q. Why did Engels fail his exam?
A. See comment.
Whose knees are these?
He put them in peril.
By living in a barrel.
I followed the instructions.
Let it extract the hurt and poison.
Then return it in the prepaid envelope.
If we can be so kind."
Why is a beaver dam like a retirement party?
I was thinking about red dwarf stars.
The second closest star to us is a red dwarf but we can't see it with the naked eye (or see any other red dwarf directly for that matter).
The star is Proxima Centauri, only discovered about 100 years ago. It may have a loose connection with the binary star Alpha Centauri, which to the naked eye seems to be a single star but is actually a pair.
What a marvelous story this is, to my mind. We have gradually increased our visual reach over recent centuries, and now know that very close to us there is a system of three interrelated stars. Imagine what it must be like to live there.
Moreover we now think red dwarfs are the commonest kind of star, at least in our neighborhood. Theory predicts that a small red dwarf will have a lifetime of about 2,000 billion years, and then become a blue dwarf. No-one (human or other) has ever seen one of these blue dwarfs, even through a telescope, because the universe is nothing like old enough for a blue dwarf to have formed.
Our star is a yellow dwarf and won't last very long at all in comparison.
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