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March 1, 2008

The face of Bach

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"Experts have digitally rebuilt the face of 18th-century German composer Johann Sebastian Bach."

He is pictured above and below.

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Here is Sylvia Westall's February 29, 2008 Reuters report.

    Museum unveils new face of Bach

    Updated portrait created using excavated skull

    Experts have digitally rebuilt the face of 18th-century German composer Johann Sebastian Bach — and say the results may surprise his fans.

    Using his bones and computer modelling, they have come up with an image of a thick-set man with closely shorn white hair.

    The new Bach face, the creation of Scottish forensic anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson, will go on display at the Bachhaus Museum in the eastern German town of Eisenach, Bach's birthplace, next month.

    Eighteenth-century portraits show him very differently.

    "For most people, Bach is an old man in a wig. It is a stylized image — we have no realistic portrait of him," said Joerg Hansen, managing director of the museum.

    "We know he was a physical man, that he danced, that he stamped his feet when he played, that he sang.

    "He was a very dynamic man — with this reconstruction, you can see it."

    Bach's bones were excavated in 1894 and sculptors first used them to help create a bust in 1908.

    But it was mainly based on a portrait of the composer, and contemporary critics said it was so inaccurate that it might as well have been the composer Handel.

    "It's not really that important to know what he looked like. We love Bach through his music — that is why people come to the museum — but they are also interested in the man," Hansen said.

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Here is yesterday's press release from the University of Dundee, where Dr. Wilkinson leads the Centre for Forensic and Medical Art, about the project.

    Building the face of Bach

    Forensic artists at the University of Dundee have recreated the face of Johan Sebastian Bach, one of the world’s greatest composers.

    The Centre for Forensic and Medical Art at Dundee, led by Dr Caroline Wilkinson, was commissioned by the Bachhaus Museum in Germany to recreate the face of Bach, who only once sat for a painted portrait in his lifetime.

    Dr Wilkinson and her team have considerable expertise in the area of facial reconstruction and have worked on everything from criminal investigations to historical projects. In this case they were provided with a bronze cast of Bach’s skull from the Bachhaus Museum and asked if they could then `build’ the composer’s face from this.

    "We carried out a laser scan of the skull which allowed us to recreate the musculature and skin of the face on our computer system," explained Dr Wilkinson. "By assessing the bone structure we can determine facial morphology and produce an accurate picture of his facial appearance."

    After that other sources were used to gather information which allowed the team of Dr Wilkinson and colleagues Caroline Needham, Dr Chris Rynn and Janice Aitken to start fleshing out the face.

    "The museum provided us with a copy of the authentic portrait of Bach and from that Janice was able to start texturing of the face," said Dr Wilkinson. "There were also written contemporary documents that described his eye problems causing swollen eyelids."

    "This is really the most complete face that can be built from the available reliable information. As far as we can ascertain, this is how Bach would have looked."

    The newly-created face of Bach will go on display at the Bachhaus museum in the eastern German town of Eisenach, Bach's birthplace, next month.

    The Centre for Forensic and Medical Art is a dynamic collaboration at the University of Dundee between the College of Life Sciences and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. Forging a link between these two disciplines, the Centre's work has widespread applications, including human identification, archaeological investigation, medical illustration and museum & media exhibition.

    The Centre is perhaps most well known for work in facial reconstruction, the process of rebuilding a face from the skull, both to aid forensic identification and archaeological investigation.

    Staff members are trained in a range of art skills from the traditional to state-of-the-art technologies. These include the application of virtual reality sculpture systems for facial reconstruction. The Centre provides forensic and medical art services both in-house and to the wider community.

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More photos here.

March 1, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

'The Most Beautiful Periodic Table Poster in the World'

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I won't argue.

$15–$45, depending on size and format.

March 1, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: EDD (Empathy Deficit Disorder)

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First I heard of it was when I read Douglas LaBier's December 25, 2007 Washington Post Health section story, which follows.

    Empathy: Could It Be What You're Missing?

    A Washington Psychotherapist Suggests How to Tell... and How to Treat the Symptoms

    You may not realize it, but a great number of people suffer from EDD.

    No, you're not reading a misprint of ADD or ED. The acronym stands for empathy deficit disorder.

    Nor will you find it listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, even though that tome has been expanding as normal variations of mood and temperament have increasingly been defined as disorders. I'm hesitant to suggest adding another one. But this one is real.

    Based on my 35 years of experience as a psychotherapist, business psychologist and researcher, I have come to believe that EDD is a pervasive but overlooked condition with profound consequences for the mental health of individuals and of our society. People who suffer from EDD are unable to step outside themselves and tune in to what other people experience. That makes it a source of personal conflicts, of communication failure in intimate relationships, and of the adversarial attitudes — even hatred — among groups of people who differ in their beliefs, traditions or ways of life.

    Take the man who reported to me that his wife was complaining that he didn't spend enough time with their children, that she had most of the burden despite having a career of her own. "Yeah, I see her point," he says in a neutral voice, "but I need time for my sports activities on the weekends. I'm not going to give that up. And at night I'm tired, I want to veg out." As we talked further, it became clear to me that he was unable to experience what his wife's world was like for her.

    Or the computer executive who prided himself on having a stable family life, then casually told me that, even though he believed in the environmental threat of global warming, he couldn't care less. "I'll be long gone when New York is under water," he said. And when I asked him whether he cared about how it might affect his kids or grandkids, he replied with a grin: "Hey, that's their problem."

    Or the woman who works in the financial industry who told me she's indifferent to how American Muslims might feel: "I think they're all terrorists," she said, "and would like to kill us all, anyway."

    These may sound like extreme examples, but I hear variations of those themes all the time. By breeding this kind of emotional isolation, EDD is particularly dangerous in today's increasingly interconnected, global world. It plays out in ways both small and large: In troubled intimate relationships, when partners become locked into adversarial positions; and in warfare between groups with different beliefs, such as Palestinians and Israelis locked in a death grip.

    Unlike sympathy — which reflects understanding of another person's situation, but viewed through your own lens -- empathy is what you feel when you enter the internal world of another person. Without abandoning your own perspective, you experience the other's emotions, conflicts or aspirations. That kind of connection builds healthy relationships — an essential part of mental health.

    EDD develops when people focus too much on acquiring power, status and money for themselves at the expense of developing those healthy relationships. Nearly every day we hear or read about people who have been derailed by the pursuit of money and recognition and end up in rehab or behind bars. But many of the people I see, whether therapy patients or career and business clients, struggle with their own versions of the same thing. They have become alienated from their own hearts and equate what they have with who they are.

    The net result is that we don't recognize that we're all one, bound together. We only see ourselves. I sometimes invite people to think of it this way: When you cut your finger, you don't say, "That's my finger's problem, not mine"; nor do you do a cost-benefit analysis before deciding whether to take action.

    You respond immediately because you feel the pain.

    Recent research shows that the capacity to feel what another person feels is hard-wired through what are called mirror neurons. Functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) showed that brain regions involving both emotions and physical sensations light up in someone who observes or becomes aware of another person's pain or distress. Similarly, research shows that altruistic behavior lights up the pleasure centers of the brain usually associated with food or sex.

    Just as you can develop EDD by too much self-absorption, you can also overcome EDD by retraining your brain to take advantage of what is known as neuroplasticity. Similar research shows that as you refocus your thoughts, feelings and behavior in the direction you desire, the brain regions associated with them are reinforced. What's more, changing your brain activity reinforces the changes you're making in your thinking. The result is a self-reinforcing loop between your conscious attitudes, your behavior and your brain activity.

    By focusing on developing empathy, you can deepen your understanding and acceptance of how and why people do what they do and you can build respect for others. This doesn't mean that you are whitewashing the differences you have with other people or letting them walk over you. Rather, empathy gives you a stronger, wiser base for resolving conflicts and trumps self-centered, knee-jerk reactions to surface differences.

    It puts you in a frame of mind where the words of the Elvis Costello song resonate: "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?"


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LaBier, who directs the Center for Adult Development in the District of Columbia, offers "a few exercises to help increase your feelings of empathy."

March 1, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Gucci Limited Edition 2008 Beijing Olympics Bicycle

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Available only in Gucci stores in China and Hong Kong.

Leather details.

In China Red.

$3,420.

March 1, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

My favorite word of 2007 is 'flog'

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But not with the conventional meaning.

Or the unconventional medically-related meaning.*

No, the meaning that made it my choice for best in class is "a derisive name given to fake blogs that do not identify themselves as sponsored."

That's as opposed to "splogs" — spam blogs.

"Splog," according to Wikipedia's entry, is said to have been popularized by Mark Cuban around mid-August of 2005.

I came across "flog" in this wonderful new context in Stuart Elliott's New York Times Business section "Advertising" column of December 19, 2007.

You could look it up.

The graphic heading this post appeared on Sony's ill-fated flog of mid-December, 2006, intended to fan the flames of desire for its PSP until it was unmasked and then quickly pulled down by an embarrassed Sony.

* In medicine, more often than not used as a noun rather than a verb; as such it means an enormously time-consuming task. As a verb it means to force a fellow member of one's service (always an underling, as an intern is to a resident or a medical student is to an intern) to do something requiring a lot of work.

March 1, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gripeez Finger Pads — How much did you say you paid for that manicure?

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From websites:

    Gripeez Finger Pads

    Fits over finger and nail.

    For finger and nail protection.

    Last 4 times longer than ordinary rubber tips.

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12 for $3.60.

March 1, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Olfactory Camouflage — The Squirrel Wore 'Eau de Snake'

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Olfactory camouflage — applying a scent to mask a creature's own odor — is rare among vertebrates.

Scientists at the University of California, Davis recently published a paper documenting just that.

Here's Henry Fountain's "Observatory" column item from the February 5, 2008 New York Times Science section with the details.

    Ground Squirrels Chew Snakeskins to Mask Their Scent

    Here’s an odd animal behavior for you: the California ground squirrel chews on the molted skins of one of its main predators, the rattlesnake, and applies the scent to its body by licking itself all over.

    This eau de snake has a purpose, says Barbara Clucas, a doctoral student at the University of California, Davis. It acts as camouflage, covering up the squirrel’s own scent so a meal-seeking rattlesnake will leave it alone.

    Camouflage is nothing new in nature — it’s used by animals big and microscopic, and by plants, too. But among vertebrate animals at least, most of the deception is visual. The California ground squirrel’s behavior is a rare documented case of olfactory camouflage among vertebrates, Ms. Clucas said.

    The squirrels are not the only rodents to chew snake skins, nor the only animals to apply the scent to their bodies. Ms. Clucas said that with the ground squirrels it seemed likely that the behavior was an antipredator one, because adult males, which are resistant to snake venom, don’t do it. Squirrel pups, which are not resistant, do the chewing, as do their mothers, which are resistant but look after the pups in the burrows.

    Ms. Clucas and two colleagues, Donald H. Owings and Matthew P. Rowe, tested the reactions of hungry rattlesnakes to pieces of filter paper with rattlesnake scent alone, squirrel scent alone and a combination of the two. The snakes flicked their tongues over the squirrel-only scent, but not over the combined scent or the snake-only scent. The finding, reported in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, suggests that if a rattlesnake is hovering over a squirrel burrow, it can be tricked into thinking that there are no squirrels there.

    Ms. Clucas noted that people tend to think of camouflage more in visual terms. “But there are a lot of animal predators where the main sense they use is olfaction,” she said. “So this kind of behavior could be more widespread.”

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In the photo heading this post, a ground squirrel chews rattlesnake skin in preparation for scent application.

Want more on the subject?

Here's the abstract of the paper, as published online on January 15, 2008 in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

    Donning your enemy's cloak: ground squirrels exploit rattlesnake scent to reduce predation risk

    Ground squirrels (Spermophilus spp.) have evolved a battery of defences against the rattlesnakes (Crotalus spp.) that have preyed on them for millions of years. The distinctive behavioural reactions by these squirrels to rattlesnakes have recently been shown to include self-application of rattlesnake scent—squirrels apply scent by vigorously licking their fur after chewing on shed rattlesnake skins. Here, we present evidence that this behaviour is a novel antipredator defence founded on exploitation of a foreign scent. We tested three functional hypotheses for snake scent application—antipredator, conspecific deterrence and ectoparasite defence—by examining reactions to rattlesnake scent by rattlesnakes, ground squirrels and ectoparasites (fleas). Rattlesnakes were more attracted to ground squirrel scent than to ground squirrel scent mixed with rattlesnake scent or rattlesnake scent alone. However, ground squirrel behaviour and flea host choice were not affected by rattlesnake scent. Thus, ground squirrels can reduce the risk of rattlesnake predation by applying rattlesnake scent to their bodies, potentially as a form of olfactory camouflage. Opportunistic exploitation of heterospecific scents may be widespread; many species self-apply foreign odours, but few such cases have been demonstrated to serve in antipredator defence.

March 1, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Trippy Light Show Umbrella

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From the website:

    Spectrum Starlight Umbrella

    Guaranteed not only to keep you dry but to brighten up even the dullest of days.

    Being black in colour with a silver lining and completely waterproof, it's an ideal gift for anyone.

    A switch on the handle illuminates the LED fibre optic tips and they slowly phase through a beautiful spectrum of colours.

    Three-function switch allows you to select a twinkling effect which creates the appearance of a beautiful star-filled night sky or a static effect in which all the tips are lit continuously.

    For the less adventurous there's always the off setting.

    That setting will leave you carrying a normal boring umbrella which, lets face it, is not something you would normally buy from us here.

    Requires 3 AAA batteries (not supplied).

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Tell you what, the rave reviews on the website say to me this puppy will sell out in a Manchester minute, so don't come crying to me next month when you can't find one.

£14.99.

Wait a minute... what's that music I'm hearing?

March 1, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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