https://www.vox.com/2015/7/28/9050469/watermelon-breeding-paintings, posted 26 Jun by peter in art food history nature
The watermelon originally came from Africa, but after domestication it thrived in hot climates in the Middle East and southern Europe. It probably became common in European gardens and markets around 1600. Old watermelons, like the one in Stanchi's picture, likely tasted pretty good — Nienhuis thinks the sugar content would have been reasonably high, since the melons were eaten fresh and occasionally fermented into wine. But they still looked a lot different.
That's because over time, we've bred watermelons to have the bright red color we recognize today. That fleshy interior is actually the watermelon's placenta, which holds the seeds. Before it was fully domesticated, that placenta lacked the high amounts of lycopene that give it the red color. Through hundreds of years of domestication, we've modified smaller watermelons with a white interior into the larger, lycopene-loaded versions we know today.
Of course, we haven't only changed the color of watermelon. Lately, we've also been experimenting with getting rid of the seeds — which Nienhuis reluctantly calls "the logical progression in domestication." Future generations will at least have photographs to understand what watermelons with seeds looked like. But to see the small, white watermelons of the past, they too will have to look at Renaissance art.
https://www.popsci.com/story/science/charted-pale-blue-blip/, posted Apr '20 by peter in history science visualization
Humans have gotten a lot done in 300,000 years: We invented agriculture, developed writing systems, built cities, created the internet, and shrugged off gravity to land on the moon. These innovations make our past seem long—and stuffed with significance. But in the brief history of life, everything we’ve ever accomplished fits into a tiny sliver of time—just 0.008 percent of the entire continuum shown below. This is how the rise of the animal kingdom stretches out compared with our relatively insignificant existence.
When Europe lost Latin as a shared communication tool, it was a new Babel Tower: Europeans couldn't understand each other any longer except within the boundaries of their national states. Not surprisingly, people who don't understand each other tend to resort to war to sort out conflicts. But Europeans also tried to replace Latin with some non-verbal tools: one was music. It is a long story that needs to be told from the beginning.
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n06/michele-pridmore-brown/unfeeling-malice, posted Mar '19 by peter in autism history literature politics
Edith Sheffer argues in Asperger’s Children that, regardless of the science, and regardless of whether autism is one condition or several, it remains steeped in the cultural values of its Nazi origins, and in the idea of a model personality: obedient, animated by collective bonds, socially competent, robust in mind and body. Rooted in years of meticulous archival research, Sheffer’s book has already had an impact on activists who have called for the burial of Asperger’s syndrome along with statues honouring racists. But that’s too easy. Her book does not offer a univocal message. It explores the various ways in which, over time, cultural ideals shape ‘scientific’ diagnoses, and vice versa. It’s about the way words like Gemüt create models, and the way these models help create ‘defects’. It’s about conscious and unconscious complicity, in-the-moment improvisation, and the moral grey areas where so much human action takes place.
Yet today, the US continues to hold overseas territory. Besides Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and a handful of minor outlying islands, the US maintains roughly 800 overseas military bases around the world.
None of this, however – not the large colonies, small islands, or military bases – has made much of a dent on the mainland mind. One of the truly distinctive features of the US’s empire is how persistently ignored it has been. This is, it is worth emphasising, unique. The British weren’t confused as to whether there was a British empire. They had a holiday, Empire Day, to celebrate it. France didn’t forget that Algeria was French. It is only the US that has suffered from chronic confusion about its own borders.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/17/arts/music/stradivarius-sound-bank-recording-cremona.html, posted Jan '19 by peter in art audio history music
On Jan. 7, the police cordoned off the streets. The auditorium’s ventilation and elevators were turned off. Every light bulb in the concert hall was unscrewed to eliminate a faint buzzing sound.
Upstairs in the museum, Mr. Cacciatori put on a pair of velvet gloves and took a 1615 Amati viola from its glass display case. He inspected it thoroughly, and then a security guard escorted him and the instrument down two flight of stairs to the auditorium.
The curator handed the instrument to Wim Janssen, a Dutch viola player, who walked to the center of the stage.
There are four related issues here. First, how did "begging the question" come to be a technical term for (a certain kind of) circular reasoning? Second, do people really need a way to talk about circular reasoning, anyway? Third, why did "begging the question" get re-purposed in common usage to mean "dodging the question" or "raising the question", rather than simply subsiding, along with the rest of the terminology of medieval logic, into the midden heap of obsolete idioms? And fourth, should you go with the flow and use "beg the question" to mean "raise the question", or should you fight for the traditional usage, or what? I'll take up these issues one at a time.
In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century's end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There's every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn't happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/there-never-was-real-tulip-fever-180964915/, posted 2018 by peter in business history
For decades, economists have pointed to 17th-century tulipmania as a warning about the perils of the free market. Writers and historians have reveled in the absurdity of the event. The incident even provides the backdrop for the new film Tulip Fever, based on a novel of the same name by Deborah Moggach.
The only problem: none of these stories are true.
What really happened and how did the story of Dutch tulip speculation get so distorted? Anne Goldgar discovered the historical reality when she dug into the archives to research her book, Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age.