Stuck for a romantic science gift? You’ll have to be fast

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If you’re very quick you can make your own rain­bow roses, or other flowers. You’ll need a white rose, some food col­our­ing, a knife to split a stem and some time. +Anne Osterrieder has the details at AoB Blog.

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Roses are red — but they don’t need to be, if you know how to use food dyes and Fibonacci
Valentine’s Day is here and unless you share the cyn­ics’ view that this is a hol­i­day inven­ted by the flower industry, you might set off to buy a bunch of flowers for your other half on the day. Nex.…..

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The environmental cost of light pollution

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On my to-read list today is Light Pollution of the Mountain Areas in Poland by Ściężor, Kubala and Kaszowski. A quick skim sug­gests it’s about the mech­an­ics of meas­ur­ing light pol­lu­tion in Poland, but the ref­er­ences look like they could make the prob­lem more inter­est­ing. It’s not just about astro­nomy, there are meas­ur­able bio­lo­gical impacts from arti­fi­cial lighting.

It’ll be dif­fi­cult to see if there’s a sim­ilar prob­lem in the UK, because so much of it is well-lit. That means bio­lo­gical dam­age is the new nor­mal and there­fore not a prob­lem. Elsewhere this prob­lem is called the Shifting Baseline. http://​www​.ted​.com/​t​a​l​k​s​/​d​a​n​i​e​l​_​p​a​u​l​y​_​t​h​e​_​o​c​e​a​n​_​s​_​s​h​i​f​t​i​n​g​_​b​a​s​e​l​i​n​e​.​h​tml

See also: http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//full/seri/JBAA./0104//0000313.000.html

#twt   #astro­nomy   #LightPollution  

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Light Pollution of the Mountain Areas in Poland / Zanieczyszczenie Świetlne W Obszarach Górskich W Polsce : Archives of Environmental Protection
Abstract. The exist­ence of extens­ive records for the impact of night sky bright­ness on the anim­als’ beha­vior in their nat­ural envir­on­ment shows the need to invest­ig­ate the level of arti­fi­cially induce…

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The Ionia Sanction by Gary Corby

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The Ionia Sanction is a sequel to The Pericles Commission. It fea­tures Nicolaos, the young Athenian who has inven­ted the job of agent in order to learn polit­ics to avoid becom­ing a sculptor like his father.

I liked The Pericles Commission and the only quibble I had was that Athens wasn’t as grim in Gary Corby’s book as I thought it might be. That’s no bad thing because I thought the ancient world could be an unpleas­ant place. Pretty much as unpleas­ant as in The Ionia Sanction, which is slightly darker and more viol­ent than the first book.

The book opens with the appar­ent sui­cide of Thorion, a prox­enos. A prox­enos was someone who would help with the interests of a for­eign city. Thorion was an Athenian cit­izen with con­nec­tions to Ephesus, so when his sui­cide note sug­gests he’s com­mit­ted treason Pericles decides someone needs to find out what has happened. He sends Nicolaos to invest­ig­ate. It quickly becomes clear Thorion was murdered, and events lead to Nicolaos leav­ing the safety of Athens and trav­el­ling to Ionia, inside the Persian empire.

Like the first book, The Ionia Sanction is based around a his­tor­ical fact. In this case it’s the life of Themistocles. Themistocles was the gen­eral respons­ible for the defeat of the Persians at Salamis. However, Themistocles was not a mod­est man and with some Spartan help he was framed for treason and ostra­cised. To flee to safety Themistocles sur­rendered him­self to the Persian king and became sat­rap of Magnesia, on the coast of what is now Turkey.

The text runs smoothly. The only jar­ring note for me is that these are edited for the American mar­ket. It means Themistocles talks about assholes, which looks odd. Assholes fea­ture in a sec­tion of the book due to a method of exe­cu­tion that uses a sharp wooden stake, tip­toes and a slow death through exhaus­tion. Gary Corby also had to find a sexual vice that a man had that could be used for black­mail. This man was an ancient Greek, so a small round of applause is due for find­ing one.

A com­mon prob­lem for any book like this is that there were some things known in ancient Greece that the reader doesn’t know. How do you get this inform­a­tion in? Fantasy authors have that well-used standby “As you know your father, the king…” before launch­ing on five pages of expos­i­tion. Here the source of know­ledge is Diotima, the (ex)girlfriend of Nicolaos who left for Ephesus a few months before and a female slave, Asia. It’s not stretch­ing cred­ib­il­ity for Nicolaos to know very little about the Persian empire, so it works without the sound of nar­rat­ive gears crunching.

Fortunately the amount of expos­i­tion needed wasn’t too much. The book is a story, not a his­tory les­son. As a story it works. Not everything was obvi­ous, I didn’t work out any of the murders before they were revealed, but there was noth­ing that seemed too contrived. 

It’s taken me a while to read it. I didn’t want to read it while work­ing on any­thing ancient because I didn’t want it to feel like work. I’ll prob­ably make a point of get­ting Sacred Games when it comes out and buy­ing an authors next book is prob­ably a pretty good indic­a­tion of how his last one went.

The thing I’ll grouch about this time is the cover. As art I like it, but it doesn’t fit well with the book. It looks a bit YA, and I think The Ionia Sanction is more 18+. The first two books will be out shortly in paper­back, with the Australian cov­ers. After a couple more books I’ll com­plain if the cov­ers aren’t in the same style, so this isn’t a major gripe.

If you enjoyed The Pericles Commission then the The Ionia Sanction is worth your money. If you’ve read neither then start­ing with the first book is the bet­ter bet.

#blog #twt #books #AncientGreece

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Senna versus Prost by Malcolm Folley

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This past sea­son of Formula One has been the best since 1993. The next sea­son, I think, will be the first where no one on the grid has driven against Senna. Depending on how you feel about Schumacher, it’s pos­sible Senna was the last great driver in Formula One. He wasn’t the most suc­cess­ful, but Senna raced in era when other drivers had access to poten­tially race-winning cars. His biggest rival, Prost, was in the same car for a couple of seasons.

It’s easy to fix­ate on one of the drivers, but the book cov­ers the devel­op­ment both of the. Prost’s tale starts with his first spell with McLaren of that rivalry from Prost’s arrival at McLaren in 1980. Folley doesn’t simply take Prost’s recol­lec­tions. He also draws on other people around at the time, such as Tony Jardine. Senna’s early career is covered with his time in Formula Ford in the UK. Martin Brundle gives an hon­est view of how it was like to race Senna at the time.

Jo Ramirez, who worked at McLaren dur­ing the Senna/Prost era is another source of mater­ial for their time in the team. Other drivers gave brief accounts to fill out the story. There are inter­views with Hill and Williams too. Senna’s time before his death at Williams was brief, but it was Williams who gave Senna his first F1 drive as a part of a test session.

Obviously the two title char­ac­ters dom­in­ate the book, but it is a taste of what Formula One was like in the 1980s. The extra back­ground adds more con­text to what was going on. For example, the clas­sic clip of Senna first com­ing to threaten Prost is from Monaco 1984 where an irres­ist­ible Senna in a poor car chased down Alain Prost in almost undrive­able con­di­tions. Prost’s hand wav­ing in the down­pour is eas­ily mis­taken for someone appeal­ing to be given the win (1984 Monaco Grand Prix — part 7). However it is clear from the book that Prost was deeply affected his acci­dent in prac­tice for the 1982 German Grand Prix where Didier Pironi came out of heavy rain­spray to smash into the back of Prost’s Renault. Pironi never raced in Formula One again. (Didier Pironi — Hockenheim ’82, crash and recov­ery)

1982 was a black year for Formula One. Along with Pironi’s career-ending acci­dent, Villeneuve and Paletti died in races. Paletti’s death would be the last at a Formula One race till the week­end in 1994 when Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna died. Prost was aware that F1 was a dan­ger­ous career. Ayrton Senna didn’t start in F1 till 1984. His faith was a worry for some other drivers, espe­cially in his later years, when some thought Senna  believed he had divine protection.

There is a prob­lem with any book like this. Prost is alive to give his side of the story. Senna is not. It’s hard to judge now if Senna really thought he was invul­ner­able. If you’re already a fan of one over the other I don’t think you’ll find any­thing here to change your mind. But the other drivers come well out of this. Derek Warwick in par­tic­u­lar could have been bit­ter after Senna effect­ively ended Warwick’s hopes of get­ting in a race-winning car.

The close of the book is inev­it­able, but even here Folley is able to add some­thing, like the pres­sure Senna felt from Schumacher. Everything Senna had thrown at Prost was now com­ing back at him from Schumacher. A sur­prise in the book is how is seems Senna appre­ci­ated what a rival he had lost after Prost’s retire­ment. It also emphas­ises the shadow left by claims over the Benetton team using trac­tion con­trol. Did Senna die chas­ing an illegal car? http://​www1​.skys​ports​.com/​f​o​r​m​u​l​a​-​1​/​n​e​w​s​/​1​2​4​3​3​/​7​3​6​2​4​0​1​/​V​e​r​s​t​a​p​p​e​n​-​S​c​h​u​e​y​-​s​-​c​a​r​-​d​i​f​f​e​r​ent–

With no Schumacher or Barrichello on the grid for 2013, this will be the first sea­son in a long while where none of the drivers will have known a death at Grand Prix week­end. The massive advances in safety are due in part to the death of Senna. No other event could have shocked the sport into improv­ing safety by so much.

#blog   #f1  

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