February 26th, 2011

such beautiful Tyndallian eyes you have

Apparently the blue colour in blue irises is not exactly due to pigmentation per se, but a certain kind of light scattering that produces the effect, based on the density of the fluid through which the light passes. Blue eyes have “structural colour” as opposed to “pigment colour”.


A blue iris in an eye is due to Tyndall scattering in a turbid layer in the iris. Brown and black irises have the same layer except with more melanin in it. The melanin absorbs light. In the absence of melanin, the layer is translucent (i.e., the light passing through is randomly and diffusely scattered) and a noticeable portion of the light that enters this turbid layer re-emerges via a scattered path. That is, there is backscatter, the redirection of the lightwaves back out to the open air. Scattering takes place to a greater extent at the shorter wavelengths. The longer wavelengths tend to pass straight through the turbid layer with unaltered paths, and then encounter the next layer further back in the iris, which is a light absorber. Thus the longer wavelengths are not reflected (by scattering) back to the open air as much as the shorter wavelengths are. Since the shorter wavelengths are the blue wavelengths, this gives rise to a blue hue in the light that comes out of the eye. The blue iris is an example of a structural color, in contradistinction to a pigment color.

Tyndall effect (vie reddit)

See also: Eye color at wikipedia.

February 23rd, 2011


The radio show This American Life presents a fun, journalistic exploration of the history of Coke’s “secret recipe” and the process of making it. They find an old recipe for Coke and try their best to recreate it for a taste test.

They also put the recipe they found online with instructions if you want to try it yourself. Snip:

For a home recipe, you can get an eyedropper and count drops the old-fashioned way, but if you want to be more precise, Steve Warth at Sovereign Flavors says he estimated each drop was .025 grams, which means you want 0.5 grams of Orange Oil, 0.75 of Lemon Oil, 0.25 grams of Nutmeg Oil, 0.125 grams of Coriander Oil, 0.25 grams of Neroli Oil, 0.25 grams of Cinnamon Oil (historian Mark Pendergrast says the original Coke recipe was made with a kind of cinnamon called Cassia).

Combine those with 8 ounces of food grade alcohol. This ingredient, we’ll be frank, will be kind of a pain in the ass to find. Important: Do NOT use Ethyl Rubbing Alcohol or Rubbing Alcohol or Denatured Ethyl Alcohol. These will make you sick. You need food grade ethyl alcohol. Sometimes people swap Everclear or other neutral grain spirits for this, and our beverage guys suggest this as an easy, cheap substitute.

Recipe. Listen online.

I want to try Coke’s predecessor: French Wine Coca, a wine, caffeine and cocaine drink. Sounds too weird not to try. From Wikipedia:

French Wine Coca was marketed mostly to upper class intellectuals, afflicted with diseases believed to have been brought on by urbanization and Atlanta’s increasingly competitive business environment. In an 1885 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Pemberton claimed the drink would benefit “scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion.”

French Wine Coca at Wikipedia.

February 20th, 2011

mijn hart was toegevroren

Simplicity works:

Immortelle XXXIII

Mijn hart was toegevroren,
Mijn tranen vloeiden niet meer.
Toen trof mij haar gloeiende blikstraal,
En de wateren ruischten weer.

O ware ik toch verdronken
In den bitterzilten vloed!
In liefdetranen, hoe brak ook,
Te smoren, is honingzoet.

By Piet Paaltjens (thanks, Kasina).

February 18th, 2011

in brainbows

Proto magazine has some gorgeous images and representations of brain structures. Above is “Broad Overview [of a Human Hippocampus],” Tamily Weissman, Jeff Lichtman and Joshua Sanes, 2005.

It was the hippocampus as no one had ever seen it, illuminated in radiant hues. The image is called, aptly, a Brainbow, the colors serving a scientific purpose by highlighting specific neural structures. Yet their choice also reflects an artistic bent; scientists display the brain not the way it is (an undifferentiated gray) but the way we want to see it, “painted” with bursts of fluorescent color.

Below is “Olfactory Bulb [of a Dog],” by Camillo Golgi, pen and ink on paper, 1875.

More at Proto magazine.

February 16th, 2011


February 16th, 2011


Early John Zorn interview (part 1).

Part one on youtube. Part two on youtube. Thanks Esther for the link!

February 14th, 2011

reese’s pieces calories

A spambot left this poetic string of words on my blog in a comment:

reese’s pieces calories hydrophilic ointment fougera yellow diarrhea vit b deficiency textured paint finishes nursing responsibilities of intravenous fluids sodium chromate hydrate buy cholecalciferol in nj etanercept for crohns testosterone cypionate injections every five maalox gelcaps microgestin caverject info do b12 shots hurt pfs capsules trypsin zinc kams inc travel care for barberry bushes badlander seats

That kind of spam I don’t mind receiving. See previous found poems:

  • sugar corn sirup butter milk
  • inattention gory beachcomb allbright prayer
  • February 13th, 2011

    you can’t lose something you aint never had

    From 1964, England. Almost like a music video!

    February 12th, 2011

    Parsley Seaweed Soup

    A recipe I wrote for parsley and seaweed soup. The parsley soup element is based on various recipes I found online, and the seaweed was just an afterthought that actually works very nicely. If you like seaweed.

    February 11th, 2011

    an example of making anything signify anything

    For much of his long and largely secret career, Colonel William F. Friedman kept a very special photograph under the glass plate that covered his desk. As desks go, this one saw some impressive action. By the time he retired from the National Security Agency in 1955, Friedman had served for more than thirty years as his government’s chief cryptographer, and—as leader of the team that broke the Japanese PURPLE code in World War II, co-inventor of the US Army’s best cipher machine, author of the papers that gave the field its mathematical foundations, and coiner of the very term cryptanalysis—he had arguably become the most important code-breaker in modern history.1

    At first glance, the photo looks like a standard-issue keepsake of the kind owned by anyone who has served in the military. Yet Friedman found it so significant that he had a second, larger copy framed for the wall of his study. When he looked at the oblong image, taken in Aurora, Illinois, on a winter’s day in 1918, what did Friedman see? He saw seventy-one officers, soon to be sent to the war in France, for whom he had designed a crash course on the theory and practice of cryptology. He saw his younger self at one end of the mysterious group of black-clad civilians seated in the center; and at the other end he saw the formidable figure of George Fabyan, the director of Riverbank Laboratories in nearby Geneva, where Friedman found not just his cryptographic calling but also his wife Elizebeth (flanked here by two other instructors from Riverbank’s Department of Ciphers). And he saw a coded message, hiding in plain sight. As a note on the back of the larger print explains, the image is a cryptogram in which people stand in for letters; and thanks to Friedman’s careful positioning, they spell out the words “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.” (Or rather they almost do: for one thing, they were four people short of the number needed to complete the “R.”)

    The photograph was an enduring reminder, then, of Friedman’s favorite axiom—and he was so fond of the phrase that some fifty years later he had it inscribed as the epitaph on his tomb in Arlington National Cemetery.2 It captures a formative moment in a life spent looking for more than meets the eye, and it remained Friedman’s most cherished example of how, using the art and science of codes, it was possible to make anything signify anything.

    More at cabinetmagazine via 3qd.

    February 5th, 2011

    sculpting compassion and calm

    Over the December holidays, my husband went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Not my idea of fun, but he came back rejuvenated and energetic.

    He said the experience was so transformational that he has committed to meditating for two hours daily, one hour in the morning and one in the evening, until the end of March. He’s running an experiment to determine whether and how meditation actually improves the quality of his life.

    I’ll admit I’m a skeptic.

    But now, scientists say that meditators like my husband may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The findings will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

    M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

    In a 2008 study published in the journal PloS One, researchers found that when meditators heard the sounds of people suffering, they had stronger activation levels in their temporal parietal junctures, a part of the brain tied to empathy, than people who did not meditate.

    “They may be more willing to help when someone suffers, and act more compassionately,” Dr. Hölzel said.

    More at NYT.

    February 5th, 2011

    some girls are more important than other girls’ mothers

    It’s nice to think that there are still people living in such mystery and wonder. And that there are other people so keen on preserving that.

    Posted in Green, Video | No Comments »
    February 4th, 2011

    the van gogh cake company

    Google has a new project that allows you to “virtually” visit art galleries around the world and view super high resolution photos of paintings. You can zoom in so close that Van Gogh’s Starry Night starts to look like cake icing. So close that you can go for a walk in the woods in the background of Bruegel’s The Harvesters.

    February 4th, 2011

    down here on earth

    The Galaxy Song from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

    February 3rd, 2011

    translation installation take 2

    In January I showed a second, improved version of my translation of a poem into sounds and smells.

    This time the environment was more fitting, some of the visual elements of the installation were improved upon or added to, and the mechanism of the machine was made more accurate and automatic through the addition of a braking system*. I got some very positive feedback from my mentors and classmates. Even the librarians were excited to have my work in situ.

    *The brakes use a touch sensor to stop the turntable motor, in combination with an electromagnet to open and close a gate at the appropriate time. This way one can stop the turntable spinning at intervals of 1 sixth each time. It’s a rather amateurish or indirect solution to the requirement, but that’s in the spirit of the original poem — the playful spirit of finding your own interest and excitement in something you’re not equipped to understand yet, the spirit of looking in on a world that’s not your own and finding wonder/beauty through or despite your ignorance.

    So I’m off to a good start in the experimental studio. Time for a new undertaking.

    See my previous posts about this project.

    February 2nd, 2011


    Hungarian director Béla Tarr’s film Sátántangó has a running time of over seven hours. Thankfully that’s not the only remarkable thing about it.

    February 1st, 2011

    flowering kales


    Many varieties of kale are referred to as “flowering kales” and are grown mainly for their ornamental leaves, which are brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet in the interior or the rosette. Most plants sold as “ornamental cabbage” are in fact kales. Ornamental kale is as edible as any other variety, provided it has not been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

    Kale is undervalued.

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