May 28, 2011
Experts' Expert: Paul Theroux's favorite hotel outside the U.S.
He told the Wall Street Journal's Steve Garbarino, "Abroad, my favorite hotel is Rambagh Palace [above], in Jaipur. It's the palace of a maharajah, made into an inn, where you are offered all the pleasures befitting a maharajah and none of the duties of being one."
"Japanese paper company Postalco strayed from their traditional color palette
to produce this playful line of spiral-bound notebooks
using their 'Chance Printer.'"
"Each notebook offers an unmatched ink pattern
and features pin-graph pages,
making it a perfect place to draw or write."
"Zapatos Magnéticos — Francis Alÿs (1994)
Peter Schjeldahl, in an article in the May 23, 2011 New Yorker, described the 52-year-old Belgian-born artist, who has lived in Mexico City for the past 25 years, as "something of a combined public jester, soft-core political agitator, and freelance director of recreation."
All-Girl Foosball Table
Wrote Michael Hsu in today's Wall Street Journal, "Table soccer may be a frat-house staple, but this sleek, steel version puts a Title IX spin on the game. In response to popular demand (mainly from American girls), the manufacturer RS Barcelona added female players to the rosters of its high-end table and named it Ella."
"It's made to order (the players are painted by hand), you can put the dream teams of your choice head to head (Germany vs. Nigeria World Cup rematch!) and pit women against men or create mixed teams. If owning a pink foosball table comes off as too Barbie, you can also get Ella in less gender-specific shades: white, black, red, gray and an outdoor-friendly raw steel."
The Voynich Manuscript — A mystery not by Robert Ludlum
Excerpts from Michael Day's May 24, 2011 Telegraph story follow.
Somewhere deep inside the bowels of Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library – the Ivy League institution's own cemetery of lost books – lies a tome that experts have studied for centuries, but which has yet to be understood by a single soul.
The book has no known author or official title; Yale librarians simply refer to it as manuscript MS 408. But thanks to its peculiar language, symbols and diagrams – often strangely familiar, but insistently elusive in meaning – it has intrigued and frustrated anthropologists, linguists and mathematicians for centuries: even the elite cryptologists at the US National Security Agency drew a blank, after they spent years trying to decode it in the 1950s. And the time that some researchers have dedicated to the problem seems all the more remarkable given the possibility that, for all the complexity and consistency of the script it contains, it could simply be an elaborate hoax.
Written in an as yet undecipherable language, with unknown letters or "glyphs" arranged into a form of seemingly consistent but unintelligible syntax, the book is commonly referred to as the Voynich manuscript, after the Polish-American bookseller Wilfrid Voynich, who acquired it in 1912. Its history, however, begins long before.
Although the earliest suggested owner is Rudolf II, the 16th-century emperor of Bohemia, the first that we know of for sure is Georg Baresch, a 17th-century alchemist from Prague, who was so perplexed by the book that he sent it to Jesuit scholars in the hope that they might translate it.
They failed, but they did pass it on to the Roman Jesuit University, from where it was whisked away to Frascati, near Rome, in 1870 to keep it safe from Vittorio Emanuele's marauding soldiers. It was bought by Voynich, and then donated to Yale in 1969.
Most theories about the book's meaning are inevitably informed by its illustrations [top], says Prof Rubio. These pictures, drawn in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red ink, are – like the script used in the manuscript's 240 remaining pages – unique. Yet while the words cannot be read, the illustrations provide a clue about the nature of the book. They suggest that the book was a scientific text, mostly an illustrated herbal manual with some additional sections on astronomy, biology and pharmaceuticals. The script itself is widely believed to be about alchemy, the medieval science with metaphysical and magical overtones, whose practitioners sought ways to turn base metals into gold.
One of the theories that has gained ground in recent years, says Prof Rubio, is that the manuscript employs steganography to conceal its contents. This means that some or even most of the text is nonsense, and that only parts or even individual characters form part of the language. If this method was indeed employed, in addition to a cipher, then translating the contents might be exceedingly difficult.
Yellow Submarine Ice Cubes
"2.75-inch-long submarine-shaped reusable ice cubes
will not water down your drink."
Fleet of six:
The YouTube caption:
Fifteen uncoupled simple pendulums of monotonically increasing lengths dance together to produce visual traveling waves, standing waves, beating, and (seemingly) random motion."
The period of one complete cycle of the dance is 60 seconds. The length of the longest pendulum has been adjusted so that it executes 51 oscillations in this 60 second period. The length of each successive shorter pendulum is carefully adjusted so that it executes one additional oscillation in this period. Thus, the 15th pendulum (shortest) undergoes 65 oscillations.
Our apparatus was built from a design published by Richard Berg [Am J Phys 59(2), 186-187 (1991)] at the University of Maryland. The particular apparatus shown here was built by our own Nils Sorensen.
More details here.
[via Melbourne correspondent Kate Ulmer]
Ray-Ban Folding Wayfarers — Episode 2: Price Break
Wrote Tomasso in a comment on Thursday's Episode 1 post:
Why pay more while you can pay less?
Just ordered a pair, I'll update you on quality when they arrive.
You may recall — if your medium term memory's not completely shot — that the originals cost $111.
Tomasso's $5.49 find is thus 95% less expensive.
In case you don't have a calculator plugged into your brainport.
You don't have a brainport?
More's the pity.
But I digress.
You say these white Ray-Bans are fakes?
Am I arguing the point?
Wait a minute... what's that music I'm hearing... it's from the 60s... it sounds like folk singer Allen Sherman... yes, it is him.
One of my all-time favorite lyric excerpts:
Here's what I've been looking for,
A genuine copy of a fake Dior.