Saturday, 29 December 2007

Koopman Collection

The Koopman Collection in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands consists of over 8250 French works of literature in rare and deluxe editions, including dedication copies and artists' books, a series of manuscripts and archival documents. The The books are all listed in the KB online public catalogue and are available for reference in the Special Collections reading room. A provisional catalogue also exists in book form.
first donation for the collection dates from 1934. The collection was donated by Louis Koopman (1887-1968), in commemoration of his fiancée Anny Antoine (1897-1933) who died in an accident. Thanks to a legacy, the Anny Antoine/Louis Koopman Foundation, the collection can still be expanded with new acquisitions on a daily basis.
Léger, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Colette, Cocteau, De Beauvoir, Duras, and many others… The Koopman Collection is a unique collection of French literary works of the 20th century in special editions.
A wide selection of artists' books, dedication copies and deluxe editions is highlighted in seven films on this webexhibition and in dozens of richly illustrated essays on books from the collection.
Link to the digital collection and to the web exhibition.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Venus as a more Earth-like planet

Venus is Earth's near twin in mass and radius, and our nearest planetary neighbour, yet conditions there are very different in many respects. Its atmosphere, mostly composed of carbon dioxide, has a surface temperature and pressure far higher than those of Earth. Only traces of water are found, although it is likely that there was much more present in the past, possibly forming Earth-like oceans. Here we discuss how the first year of observations by Venus Express brings into focus the evolutionary paths by which the climates of two similar planets diverged from common beginnings to such extremes. These include a CO2-driven greenhouse effect, erosion of the atmosphere by solar particles and radiation, surface–atmosphere interactions, and atmospheric circulation regimes defined by differing planetary rotation rates.
The overall sense of the results from the first year of operation of Venus Express is that the differences, particularly in climate, between Venus and Earth are much less mysterious than previously thought after the early phase of spacecraft exploration. They are consistent with theoretical ideas and interpretations suggesting that the two planets had similar surface environments in the past and that they evolved differently, with Earth's oceans converting most of its atmospheric CO2 to carbonate rocks, and Venus losing most of its water to space. Both processes can now be seen to be still going on. The high zonal winds and near-equatorial turbulence on Venus, as well of course as the high surface temperatures, result from the depth of the atmosphere and huge inventory of greenhouse gas retained by Venus. The slow rotation of Venus, as well as possibly being responsible for the lack of magnetic field that makes erosion of the atmosphere by the solar wind so effective, permits the Earth-like Hadley cell component of the atmospheric circulation to extend closer to the poles, where it breaks down in spectacular fashion to form mid-latitude jets and polar vortices that are larger and more energetic than Earth's but are in many respects quite similar (Read more).

Monday, 19 November 2007

Flying Snake

The image of airborne snakes may seem like the stuff of nightmares (or a certain Hollywood movie), but in the jungles of South and Southeast Asia it is reality.Flying snake is a misnomer, since, barring a strong updraft, these animals can’t actually gain altitude. They’re gliders, using the speed of free fall and contortions of their bodies to catch the air and generate lift.Once thought to be more parachuters than gliders, recent scientific studies have revealed intricate details about how these limbless, tube-shaped creatures turn plummeting into piloting. To prepare for take-off, a flying snake will slither to the end of a branch, and dangle in a J shape. It propels itself from the branch with the lower half of its body, forms quickly into an S, and flattens to about twice its normal width, giving its normally round body a concave C shape which can trap air. By undulating back and forth, the snake can actually make turns. Flying snakes are technically better gliders than their more popular mammalian equivalents, the flying squirrels.There are five recognized species of flying snake, found from western India to the Indonesian archipelago. Knowledge of their behavior in the wild is limited, but they are thought to be highly arboreal, rarely descending from the canopy. The smallest species reach about 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length and the largest grow to 4 feet (1.2 meters).Their diets are variable depending on their range, but they are known to eat rodents, lizards, frogs, birds, and bats. They are mildly venomous snakes, but their tiny, fixed rear fangs make them harmless to humans.Scientists don’t know how often or exactly why flying snakes fly, but it’s likely they use their aerobatics to escape predators, to move from tree to tree without having to descend to the forest floor, and possibly even to hunt prey.One species, the twin-barred tree snake, is thought to be rare in its range, but flying snakes are otherwise quite abundant and have no special conservation status.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Hafele-Keating experiment

During October, 1971, four cesium atomic beam clocks were flown on regularly scheduled commercial jet flights around the world twice, once eastward and once westward, to test Einstein's theory of relativity with macroscopic clocks. From the actual flight paths of each trip, the theory predicted that the flying clocks, compared with reference clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory, should have lost 40+/-23 nanoseconds during the eastward trip and should have gained 275+/-21 nanoseconds during the westward trip ...
Relative to the atomic time scale of the U.S. Naval Observatory, the flying clocks lost 59+/-10 nanoseconds during the eastward trip and gained 273+/-7 nanosecond during the westward trip, where the errors are the corresponding standard deviations. These results provide an unambiguous empirical resolution of the famous clock "paradox" with macroscopic clocks.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Hall of Human Origins

All species consist of individuals that differ at some level. In Homo sapiens, population diversity arose as small groups occupied varied environments around the world. Localized populations changed due to genetic drift and natural selection. For example, some populations eventually showed more susceptibility to certain diseases, or more ability to digest certain foods. Superficial differences in stature and hair, eye, and skin color also arose among individuals and populations.Although these population changes take place at a genetic level, it does not mean that genes define "race." Race is cultural and social, not biological.Small, isolated groups are less and less prevalent in the human population. Our population is now abundant, consisting of larger, varied groups that intermingle and overlap. Since humans reproduce both within and between groups, we constantly mix genetic information. As a result, genetic differences between people of the same "racial" group can be greater than the those between people of two different groups. Furthermore, influences other than genes—such as hormones and environmental factors—also contribute to individual variation (go).

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The Secret Life of the Brain

THE SECRET LIFE OF THE BRAIN reveals the fascinating processes involved in brain development across a lifetime. The five-part series, which will premiere nationally on PBS in winter 2002, informs viewers of exciting new information in the brain sciences, introduces the foremost researchers in the field, and utilizes dynamic visual imagery and compelling human stories to help a general audience understand otherwise difficult scientific concepts (go).

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Averroes' commentary on De Anima

On the Soul (Greek Περὶ Ψυχῆς (Perì Psūchês), Latin De Anima) is a major treatise by Aristotle, outlining his philosophical views on the nature of living things. His discussion centres on the kinds of souls possessed by different kinds of living things, distinguished by the different life-processes those organisms go through. Thus plants have the capacity for nourishment and reproduction, the minimum that must be possessed by any kind of living organism. Lower animals have, in addition, the powers of sense-perception and self-motion (action). Humans have all these as well as intellect.
The notion of soul used by Aristotle is only distantly related to the usual modern conception. He holds that the soul is the form, or essence of any living thing; that it is not a distinct substance from the body that it is in; that it is the possession of soul (of a specific kind) that makes an organism an organism at all, and thus that the notion of a body without a soul, or of a soul in the wrong kind of body, is simply unintelligible. (He speculates that some parts of the soul--the intellect--may be conceived to exist without the body, but most cannot.) It is difficult to reconcile these points with the popular picture of a soul as a sort of spiritual substance "inhabiting" a body. Some commentators have suggested that Aristotle's term soul is better translated as lifeforce.

Averroes (Ibn Rushd) (1126-1198) was an Andalusian-Arab philosopher and physician. He wrote commentaries on most of the surviving works of Aristotle. These were not based on primary sources (it is not known whether he knew Greek), but rather on Arabic translations. On each work, he wrote the Jami, the Talkhis and the Tafsir which are, respectively, a simplified overview, an intermediate commentary with more critical material, and an advanced study of Aristotelian thought in a Muslim context. The terms are taken from the names of different types of commentary on the Qur'an.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Super-Kamiokande

It is believed soon after the big bang, when the universe was at a very high temperature, many neutrinos were produced. In addition, when a star explodes as a supernova, many neutrinos are emitted. Neutrinos are also copiously produced in nuclear reactions in the core of the sun. Also cosmic rays which come into the earth's atmosphere and interact with oxygen or nitrogen nuclei produce neutrinos. Purposes of the research are to elucidate the source of energy of the sun and detect the properties of the enigmatic neutrinos by observing these neutrinos with considerable precision.The detector consists of an inner volume and an outer volume which contain 32,000 tons and 18,000 tons of pure water respectively. The outer detector is used to veto entering cosmic ray muons and is used as a buffer to keep radiation emitted by the surrounding rock and walls from entering the inner volume. The inner detector has 11,200 photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) attached to the bottom, top and sides facing inward. The PMTs collect the pale blue light called Cerenkov light which is emitted by particles travelling fast as light in the water. By measuring the direction and intensity of this light,information about particle interactions such as neutrino interactions or proton decay can be determined (Official Website).

Monday, 2 July 2007

Simple Creatures, Intriguing Finds

Researchers look to fruit flies and tiny worms for greater understanding of neurodegenrative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Fruit flies have many genes in common with higher animals, including humans. Researchers can easily transplant genes from humans into fruit flies. Finding mutations and observing the characteristics they produce are easier in fruit flies than in other types of animals.
Feany’s laboratory has bred a strain of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster that models Parkinson’s disease. Her team implanted mutant genes in the flies for a protein called alpha-synuclein.
Flies carrying the mutant genes lose dopamine-producing neurons in the brain’s substantia nigra, just as humans with Parkinson’s do. Also, fibrous bundles of alpha-synuclein form in the insects’ neurons. Bundles of the same structure and composition (called Lewy bodies) develop in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s.
Cellular changes in the flies correlate with behavioral changes. Normal fruit flies climb up the sides of plastic vials. Middle-aged flies carrying the transplanted, mutant gene lose that ability.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

28 New Exoplanets Discovered

Astronomers have discovered 28 new planets outside of our solar system, increasing to 236 the number of known exoplanets, revealing that planets can exist around a broad spectrum of stellar types-from tiny, dim stars to giants.
"We added 12 percent to the total in the last year, and we're very proud of that," said one of the study team members Jason Wright of the University of California at Berkeley. "This provides new planetary systems so that we can study their properties as an ensemble."
The planets are among 37 new objects spotted within the past year. Seven of the objects are failed stars called brown dwarfs, with masses that dwarf the largest, Jupiter-sized planets but too small to sustain the nuclear reactions necessary for stellar ignition.
John Johnson of the University of California at Berkeley and his colleagues presented the findings here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).
Astronomers don't directly spot extrasolar planets, but rather look for stellar wobbles caused by orbiting planets. The planet's size and distance from the parent star affect how strong or weak of a wobble, and more sophisticated techniques for measuring the stellar wobbles has led to an ever-lengthening list of such outer planets. Now they can detect wobbles of a meter per second compared with the 10-meter limit just 15 years ago.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Astronomers Find First Earth-like Planet in Habitable Zone

The new planet known as Gliese 581 c (L) orbiting a red dwarf star
Astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, an exoplanet with a radius only 50% larger than the Earth and capable of having liquid water. Using the ESO 3.6-m telescope, a team of Swiss, French and Portuguese scientists discovered a super-Earth about 5 times the mass of the Earth that orbits a red dwarf, already known to harbour a Neptune-mass planet. The astronomers have also strong evidence for the presence of a third planet with a mass about 8 Earth masses.
This exoplanet - as astronomers call planets around a star other than the Sun - is the smallest ever found up to now and it completes a full orbit in 13 days. It is 14 times closer to its star than the Earth is from the Sun. However, given that its host star, the red dwarf Gliese 581, is smaller and colder than the Sun - and thus less luminous - the planet nevertheless lies in the habitable zone, the region around a star where water could be liquid! The planet's name is Gliese 581 c.
The discovery was made thanks to HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher), perhaps the most precise spectrograph in the world. Located on the ESO 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, Chile, HARPS is able to measure velocities with a precision better than one metre per second (or 3.6 km/h)! HARPS is one of the most successful instruments for detecting exoplanets and holds already several recent records, including the discovery of another 'Trio of Neptunes'
The detected velocity variations are between 2 and 3 metres per second, corresponding to about 9 km/h! That's the speed of a person walking briskly. Such tiny signals could not have been distinguished from 'simple noise' by most of today's available spectrographs (video).

Photographs from The Met

See one hundred of the best photograph collection works of art from The Metropolitan Museum online.


Charles Nègre (French, 1820–1880). The Refectory of the Imperial Asylum at Vincennes, 1858–59
Gathered in the light-drenched refectory of a newly constructed convalescent hospital on the outskirts of Paris, patients and staff alike turned their eyes and attention to the man with the enormous camera at one end of the room, Charles Nègre. The resulting image, here in a rare unmounted and unretouched proof print from the artist's studio, is the largest and most engaging in a series of photographs that Nègre was commissioned to make as documentation and celebration of the Imperial Asylum at Vincennes. The hospital was established by Emperor Napoléon III to provide those injured on the construction site or in the factory—"the worker's true field of honor," in the words of one of Napoléon's ministers—with care comparable to that given to the nation's military veterans.
Trained as a painter in the same studio as Roger Fenton and Gustave Le Gray, Nègre was one of the era's most skilled photographers of architecture, possessing a particular sensitivity to the ways in which light and shadow animate the surfaces of centuries-old monuments. Here, he seized upon the streaming sunlight as a vehicle to enliven the structure and texture of his picture and to suggest enhanced activity and health in the hospital inhabitants.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Interactive Poster/Video of The Macaque Genome

Special interactive version of the Macaque Genome poster, with large-format images, text, and video interviews on the broad biomedical and evolutionary themes that the genome raises (view).
You can also read the Lessons from Comparative Genomic (read).

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Worldmapper

Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.
There are 366 maps, also available as PDF posters.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Summer Mountains from China

This pictures let us travel to China, during the Song dynasty—one of the golden ages of this ancient civilization. Here we see one of the finest paintings in the Metropolitan's collection, Summer Mountains, which was painted in the mid-eleventh century and was once the treasured possession of several Chinese emperors.We know, from writings of the period that we are meant to enter with our imaginations into this world created solely of ink and pale pigments on silk.(view video with explanations)

Summer Mountains, Northern Song dynasty (960–1127), 11th centuryAttributed to Qu Ding (Chinese, active ca. 1023–ca. 1056), China

Video of Statue of a Kouros

This Kouros, a work of great nobility, probably stood on a tomb, although its stance and expression are shared by cult statues of gods which suggests that it may have been created for a sanctuary. (view video with explanations)


Statue of a kouros (youth), ca. 590–580 B.C.; ArchaicGreek, AtticNaxian marble; H. without plinth 76 in. (193 cm)Fletcher Fund, 1932 (32.11.1)

What makes us human?

Music, art, language and technology are just a few of the ways we shape our surroundings and define who we are. Although they vary over time and from culture to culture, these forms of expression reveal an inventive spirit shared by all humans.
Weighing only about three pounds when fully grown, your brain stores your every memory, generates your every thought and feeling and allows you to manage your world. More than any other part of the body, the human brain—and its capacity for symbolic thought—sets us apart from all other species.
Although the human brain reached its current size some 150,000 years ago, the first evidence of symbolic thought didn't appear until tens of thousands of years later. Our symbolic awakening occurred when modern humans began to use their brains differently (read more).

Timeline of art history

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) presents an illustrative timeline of art history (view).

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Neurogenesis in the Adult Olfactory Bulb

Active neurogenesis from neural progenitors continues throughout life in discrete regions of the central nervous system of most mammals. However, human adult neurogenesis is still a contentious issue. Signs of adult neurogenesis have been reported in the hippocampus, but a second neurogenic niche described in rodents has not been found in recent human studies. Curtis et al. have just published a paper in Science not only describing this missing rostral migratory stream in great detail but also showing that it is organized around a tubular extension of the lateral ventricle that reaches into the olfactory bulb. (view figures).

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Buddhist resources

Buddhist information and educational network:
  • Timeline of Buddhist history (go).

  • Talks by Mediation teachers. Chanting and Buddhist songs (audio).

  • Insight meditation online techniques (go).

  • Go inside Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery, located in Singapore (go).

  • The Thai Buddha Images (go).

  • Daily readings from the Word of Buddha (read).

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Historical Wonders of Sanxingdui

The site of Sanxingdui, located in the city of Guanghan, 40 km from Chengdu, Sichuan Province (China), is recognized as one of the most important ancient remains in the world for its vast size, lengthy period and enriched cultural contents.
The first Sanxingdui relics were discovered by a farmer in 1929 and excavation has continued ever since. During this period, generations of archaeologists have worked on the discovery and research of the Sanxingdui culture. In 1986, two major sacrificial pits were found and they aroused widespread academic attention around the world.
The Sanxingdui finds are exciting, but they remain enigmatic. No texts have been found, nor is there any mention of this culture in the records of other countries. Analysis of lead and other elements in the bronzes indicates sources similar to those of other cultures along the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. At this point, however, the unique culture that produced these artifacts remains a mystery (View Pictures).

Book of Neuroscience

An Introduction for Young Students - is available electronically in English, Mandarin and Spanish from the British Neuroscience Association. The book is idea for those with little previous knowledge of the brain and is a wonderfully neat and concise 'primer' of neuroscience, touching on everything from development to drug addiction. A number of leading neuroscientists in the UK have contributed chapters describing their field of expertise in a simple yet imaginative and visually appealing way (View Full Text).

Friday, 12 January 2007

Neural substrates of envisioning the future


Cortical regions exhibiting activity differences and similarities during past and future thought. (A–D) Percent signal change for representative regions showing a significant interaction such that imagining of future events (SF) led to greater activation over the 10-modeled timepoints than did recollecting oneself in the past (SR). Both self-related tasks also led to greater activity than a control task involving imagery of another person participating in similar events (CI). (E–H) Percent signal change for selected regions showing a statistically indistinguishable pattern of activity across time while subjects envisioned their personal future (SF) and recollected the past (SR) in response to a series of event cues (e.g., Birthday). Imagining a familiar individual in similar scenarios (CI) resulted in a pattern of activity different from both the past and future tasks (View Full Text Paper).

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Qur'an Recitation and Translation on-line

Listen to the Quran Recitation and Translation online in Arabic, English, and Urdu.
  • Arabic audio recitation from 5 famous Qaris
  • Arabic text with English and Urdu translation
  • Audio Translations in English and Urdu

Manuscripts of the Renaissance


Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Hurricane Katrina simulation


Click on image to view movie.

Orange represents ocean temperatures at 82 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This is the temperature required for hurricanes to form. The bottom left window shows wind analysis model data from NASA's Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction (MAP '05) program. The top right window shows rainfall accumulation for Hurricane Katrina from the TRMM spacecraft. The bottom right window shows energy-releasing deep convective clouds (as high as 16 km) in the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina. These clouds, called hot towers, formed on August 28 while the storm was intensifying to a category 5 hurricane.

Planets and stars size in scale

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Cave Painting 15,000-10,000 BC

Wounded bison attacking a man. c. 15,000-10,000 BC. Bison length 43 in. (110 cm) Lascaux, France

The Christ of Dalí

Christ of Saint John of the Cross, 1951

Meteorite fragments




Click on the meteorite fragment to rotate the specimen and take a 360 degree look.

Meteorites are natural objects that survive their fall to Earth from space.When the Solar System formed, approximately 4570 million years ago, asteroids and comets were produced along with the Sun and planets. Meteorites are fragments broken from asteroids, and are our only opportunity for direct study of the material from which the Solar System was built.
Meteorites come in several forms. Iron meteorites are almost entirely metallic iron with several weight percent nickel (e.g., Henbury), whilst some are mixtures of stone and metal (e.g., Krasnojarsk). The biggest groups of meteorites are the stony meteorites, which are made from the same minerals that make up rocks on Earth. Some stony meteorite are close to terrestrial basalts (rocks made from lava: e.g., Stannern), whilst others have not melted since they formed. These unmelted stones are known as chondrites (e.g., Parnallee, Plainview). Although almost all meteorites come from the Asteroid Belt, one group of meteorites comes from Mars. (e.g., Nakhla).

Between Text and Image in Kandinsky’s Oeuvre

Wassily Kandinsky‘Klänge’ from the album Klänge, Munich c.1912.

In 1938 Wassily Kandinsky published the text ‘My Woodcuts’ in the French periodical XXe Siècle. As was so often the case, when he wrote about his prints he focused largely on general artistic principles: the majority of the text is devoted to a general discussion of the need to privilege ‘synthesis’ over ‘analysis’ in both art and in life. However, he specifically referred to the album of poetry and engravings Sounds (Klänge), which had been published in Munich c.1912, as ‘a small example of synthetic work’

Cossacks 1910-11

Wassily Kandinsky. Cossacks 1910-11. Tate Gallery.

The mysterious Cycladic civilization

The Cup-Bearer, a Cycladic figurine of unknown provenance dating between 2800-2200 B.C.. A new discovery of smashed marble figurines on an uninhabited Aegean Sea islet has shed new light on the mysterious Cycladic civilization, whose strikingly modern figurines are prized exhibits in museums and collections worldwide.

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