17 December 2012

What a Lot We Missed!

In our occasional (well it's been something like three weeks since the last) series we have a really bumper crop of links to items I've spotted but which you may have missed — and which I think may be of interest.

First up we have an item on cracking codes, specifically in this case the easy (to us) but confusing (to our ancestors) Pigpen Cipher

And then there's a cabal of crackers who have opened a 250-Year-Old Code to find (some variant of) freemasonry within.

Not quite a code? Well maybe it is, because this amazing 120-year-old "musical box" just so perfectly mimics a bird. Well it would be perfect if they could work out what the bird was!

And so to another amazing piece of Victorian engineering: Tower Bridge. Apparently the walkways high above the river are to get (part) glass floors, so people can look down on the bridge when it opens. I wonder how many heads will manage that one? Sadly I doubt mine will.

If a little red wine is good for you ... Why you really should prefer red over white.

And talking of red, some clever chemists have been able to tweak one of the key pigments in our visual system so it is sensitive further into the infra-red. The implication is that this would give us much richer red vision. Yep that should be easy, just change the metal in the complex ... oh wait there is no metal!

So yes, it's all down to experimental science; time spent at the laboratory bench. But what about when you have an experiment that outlives you? Yep, you have to find an heir. The story of two such experiments from the same university.

Back to colour for a moment ... So why is the sky blue not violet? Excellent trick if you can pull this one off!

We all know how people of Pompeii died, right? Well maybe not so fast. Some interesting perspectives both here and here.

Ash on the floor? Oh dear, you need to know how to clean your house in 15 minutes. No, I don't believe it either!

Is it a filter? Is it a manufacturing plant? It's a cleanroom — which is actually a plant that manufactures pure air. And it's all done by big fans and gravity. An interesting read, especially when you consider this was one of the gateway technologies to our modern electronically connected world ... some part of whatever device you're reading this one was made in a cleanroom.

Ten well-known facts that are nothing of the sort.

But then, once upon a time, we didn't know how to make cheese either. Seems we learnt longer ago than was thought, like 7500 years ago!

Which is all probably down to some variant of the restless genes which have (and still do) driven some to explore further afield.

Meanwhile back at home in the UK there's been a project running for the last 10-ish years to photograph and put online images of every oil painting which is owned by the nation. All 211,861 of them! And it has finally achieved it's aim. Telegraph article about the project. And the Your Paintings website itself which is free for anyone to use. What a fantastic achievement and a wonderful resource!

So from the sublime to the prosaic and worse ...

Amusing snippet detailing the top ways we (well Americans) manage to accidentally (one assumes) injure their genitals. Be warned, boys and girls: don't play with your genitals!

And at long last the UN has got round to approving an agreement on banning female genital mutilation. I don't care how ancient and how supposedly important a ritual this is, it should have been stamped on long, long ago.

Mind you it seems that pubic hair is in even greater danger extinction than we thought. Oh dear! As if they don't have anything better to do with themselves.

After all of which we probably all need a bit of stress relief.

Happy popping!

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