Blogging is the act of regularly updating your website with some humdrum information about your life or a link to something you’ve just read on the internet in the mistaken belief that anyone actually cares. It is the 21st century equivalent of hanging around railway stations writing down pithy but erudite descriptions of the passing trains.
Disney have released a few entries from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy via iTunes to promote the film which opens next week. Clearly with the entry on ‘Blogging’ they’re trying to get a reaction and gain some cheap publicity by appealing to bloggers’ egos and provoke them into making a response. Hah! Well I’m not falling for that. It’ll take more than that to get me to link to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film site.
Google have the magic touch. What other company could say in their Terms and Conditions that they reserve the right not to delete your personal emails so they can build a better customer profile, and still have people queuing up for invites to the service? Like Microsoft and Yahoo! they’re collecting smaller technology companies but so far haven’t yet suffered a public-relations backlash. Blogger woes may yet trigger one, but one possible reason for their PR success is that when it comes to search they know what they’re doing. Keyhole, their most recent acquisition, is a case in point.
ARLT and NTGateway note the new Guardian league tables are out (see Archaeology and Classics). I saw the old ones and thought they were utter pants, but didn’t bother writing on them because they old. I have applause for this new batch though. In Archaeology they’ve moved from inaccuracy to surrealism. Kent comes in at 28, behind Glamorgan and Lincoln. It must be doubly galling for them because not only is it an undeservedly low score, but Lincoln and Glamorgan don’t even offer archaeology. You could argue that Heritage Investigation counts but if you’re opening the field that wide then why doesn’t Leicester appear in the Classics tables?
The overall score is the sum of individual marks in several categories, which seems plausible, but the methodology for getting the figures is baffling.
We contacted you because we believe your accomplishments to be of significant reference value
Marquis Who’s Who
I’m a post-grad in the second year of his PhD with no publications yet. Obviously they must know this. A publication this prestigious isn’t the result of just anyone being invited is it? I assume my role is to be the baseline.
For those of you who don’t want to pay $500 for a copy, here’s my entry. I’m not sure if it’ll make the final cut. Obviously with identity theft being such a problem one or two entries aren’t entirely accurate.
[Name] Salt, Alun Danger;
[Retired] Not Retired;
I’ve said elsewhere it looks as though Marsala’s (ancient Lilibeo) street grid is aligned so that the Decumanus Maximus faces the winter solstice sunrise. After looking through George Scheidt’s plans published in Kokalos and my own data I’ll revise that. It looks as though Marsala’s (ancient Lilibeo) street grid might be aligned so that the Decumanus Maximus faces the winter solstice sunrise. If I went straight off the plans then I’d say I was wrong, the street points to 128 degrees, and the sunrise would be around 120~121 degrees. Seven degrees might not sound a lot, but it is comfortably measurable. If hold out your hand at arms length and look at your little fingernail, that’s about half a degree, so imagine fourteen of those in a line and there’s your error.
However, it’s not that simple. The north orientation on the photographs on which the plan is based has the street aligned at 120 degrees. My own data has it at 121 degrees. The article does have one city plan explicitly measured from north. Unfortunately it’s a plan of Carthage. At the moment I think it probably faces the winter solstice sunrise, but it is possible there’s an error somewhere that I haven’t found. As the discrepancy is so large I’m trying to track down better plans of Marsala.
On the whole the Carthaginian cities in Sicily do broadly share a similar pattern of orientation. Palermo deviates, but in a peculiar but predictable way given its landscape. I’ll need more data to see whether the pattern is meaningful or in the eye of the beholder.
Orbis Quintus noted that the Voyager programme was under threat on April 13. At the time of writing the decision had not been announced, but the fact that the issue was raised at all got me wondering how blind we are to the creation of what will be, to future generations, monuments as magnificent as the Pyramids. The twentieth century has produced sites that will stand in human memory for all time. Preservation of material on the Moon means that Tranquility Base will surpass Botany Bay or Plymouth Rock as heritage site in the future. As I write the Voyager probes will cross / are crossing / have crossed the heliopause (no-one’s entirely sure – there’s not enough data) making them the first artefacts to enter interstellar space. There is a scientific significance in this, but is there social significance in the space programme that we’re missing?
Voyager Probe. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
I’ve got a Google News Alert set for “dover evolution”, following the acceptance of creationism (known in America by some people as Intelligent Design) onto the curriculum of a school in Pennsylvania. The plan is/was to write up a short piece on event for TUP, along with the cartoon below from a site which offers hours of juvenile fun. The article hasn’t been written yet because it is a controversial subject and I thought it a good idea to read a little around it on both sides of the subject. I still haven’t written it a few months on because there’s a lot to read. It seems the big issue most people concentrate on is whether an alternative to Darwinism should be taught at high school. In fact it could be much more serious.
I thought it might be useful to define what I mean when I use words like ‘probable’ or ‘possible’, so I’ve created my own scale to define how likely I think something is to be significant. It’s meant for whether or not an astronomical correlation is meaningful to archaeological material, but it probably has general applications.
The Aventis Prize celebrates the best in science publishing. I’ve only recently seen the short-list and it looks like my card and I will be off to Amazon again. The long-list is interesting too. I’ve read Gribben’s Deep Simplicity, and life would be much more wonderful if several pseudo-mathematical archaeologists had too. I also see Brian Fagan has a new one out. I suppose with him being so prolific that was always going to be a safe bet, and he’s a consistently good communicator so that’s another book to add to the ‘to-read pile. Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another by Philip Ball looks essential too as it tackles collective decision making, which has implications for ‘agency’ in archaeology.
A couple of years ago I would have followed this up with a whine about how it’s a shame that archaeologists cannot communicate, but that’s thankfully totally inaccurate now. I have Steve Mithen’s After the Ice and that Cave of the Mind one by someone whose name I forget on my to read pile. As for other books, while I don’t agree with all of Francis Pryor’s Britain BC, it is nonetheless an excellent bit of work. Martin Jones’s Molecule Hunt is also fantastic.
When I get time™ I’d like to have a go at writing a SETI paper from a classical perspective. There’s a lot that can be said about biological and astronomical speculation in ancient Greece and the ancient authors weren’t averse to mixing the two. In the meantime there’s an article on the Borana calendar at the SETI Institute.
The Borana calendar is interesting to me because it’s based to a large extent around the constellation Triangulum. The name Triangulum should pretty well sum up how distinctive the constellation is. It’s an important reminder that just because a star or a might seem important to us, it wasn’t automatically important to the ancients.