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She’s rich and powerful and wants you to remember that.

How do we know? She told us.

Mummy Portrait of a Woman, about A.D. 100 - 110, Attributed to the Isidora Master. J. Paul Getty Museum.


Smart page with string

These pages from a late-16th-century scientific manuscript share a most unusual feature: they contain a string that runs through a pierced hole. Dozens of them are found in this book. The pages contain diagrams that accompany astronomical tracts. They show such things as the working of the astrolabe (Pic 1), the position of the stars (Pic 4), and the movement of the sun (Pic 6). The book was written and copied by the cartographer Jean du Temps of Blois (born 1555), about whom little appears to be known. The book contains a number of volvelles or wheel charts: revolving disks that the reader would turn to execute calculations. The strings seen in these images are another example of the “hands-on” kind of reading the book facilitates. Pulling the string tight and moving it from left to right, or all the way around, would connect different bits of data, like a modern computer: the string drew a temporary line between two or more values, highlighting their relationship. The tiny addition made the physical page as smart as its contents.

Pics: London, British Library, Harley MS 3263: more on this book here; and full digital reproduction here.

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Giacinto Boccanera, Saints Filino and Gratiniano, c. 1720-40


10 July - Happy birthday Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

Image. It’s everything.

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Iridescent clouds over Thamserku

Why would a cloud appear to be different colors? A relatively rare phenomenon known as iridescent clouds can show unusual colors vividly or a whole spectrum of colors simultaneously. These clouds are formed of small water droplets of nearly uniform size. When the Sun is in the right position and mostly hidden by thick clouds, these thinner clouds significantly diffract sunlight in a nearly coherent manner, with different colors being deflected by different amounts. Therefore, different colors will come to the observer from slightly different directions. Many clouds start with uniform regions that could show iridescence but quickly become too thick, too mixed, or too far from the Sun to exhibit striking colors. The above iridescent cloud was photographed in 2009 from the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal, behind the 6,600-meter peak named Thamserku.

Image credit & copyright: Oleg Bartunov

Colourful day on nanodash



King Minos’s Labyrinth

"In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth (Greek λαβύρινθος labyrinthos) was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at the palace Knossos.

Its function was to hold Minos’s son, Minotaur, a mythical creature that was half man and half bull.

Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that he could barely escape it after he built it.

Every nine years, Minos made King Aegeus pick seven young boys and seven young girls to be sent to Daedalus's creation, the Labyrinth, to be eaten by the Minotaur.

After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in the underworld. The Minoan civilization of Crete has been named after him by the archaeologist Arthur Evans.

In colloquial English, labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two: maze refers to a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate.”

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'Rosamund, Queen of the Lombards' by Frederick Sandys. Originally published in 'Once a Week.'

‘English Illustration’ by Gleeson White.

Published 1903 by A. Constable in Westminster            


Puako, Kohala, Hawaii (circa 1859) by Paul Emmert (1826–1867).

Honolulu Academy of Arts via Wikimedia


'Plums and Apricots' (date unknown) by Emilie Preyer (1849–1930).

Source- BONHAMS via Wikimedia


Gustav Klimt, born today in 1862, is primarily known for his paintings of figures, but he also painted landscapes throughout his career. 

[Gustav Klimt. The Park. 1910 or earlier.]

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Guitar on a Chair, 1913. Juan Gris. Oil on canvas

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Augustin-Jean Fresnel - Scientist of the Day

Augustin-Jean Fresnel, a French physicist and mathematician, died July 14, 1827. Fresnel’s name is well-known to physicists because of his theoretical work in optics, but his greatest impact may have come from a practical device he invented, the Fresnel lens. Fresnel was asked by the French government to find some way to make lighthouses more efficient. A typical lighthouse of the day would have a kerosene flame and some sort of lens and reflector system to direct the light out to sea, but most of the light was lost, and beams were very faint. So Fresnel came up with a lens that looks like a multi-sided crystal barrel, surmounted with an elaborate crown of prisms. It was so designed that nearly every ray of light from the source is re-directed out on a horizontal path. The first Fresnel lens was installed in France in 1823, and by the 1850s they were in use everywhere. Fresnel lenses are ranked in “orders” of first through sixth; a first-order lens, the largest in ordinary use, is about 12 feet high and 7 feet wide, and sends out a beam that can be seen for over twenty miles. There are only about a dozen first-order Fresnel lenses left in the United States; each is worth millions of dollars. In our opinion, they are the most beautiful cut-glass objects ever made.

The images show, in order, a first-order lens from Cape Canaveral, now on display at Ponce Inlet, Florida; a first-order lens in place in the Heceta Head Light, Oregon; a restored third-order lens from Queensland, Australia; and a fourth-order lens at Horton Point, Long Island. This link shows a variety of Fresnel lenses on display in American maritime museums.

Fresnel did not live to see the popularity of his invention; he died of tuberculosis on this day in 1827, only 39 years old.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City

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Corinthian black-figure amphora with animal friezes, from Rhodes, ca. 625-600 B.C.

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Here is Richard Feynman accompanying himself on the bongos.

That’s all.

In case you missed it