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February 19, 2019

Where the Dolmens are: Part 2


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Yesterday's 4:01 p.m. post about the spread of dolmen building in Europe featured a link to University of Gothenburg prehistoric archaeologist Bettina Schulz Paulsson's original scientific paper, published in the journal PNAS on February 11, 2019, on which the New York Times article was based.

Among the paper's figures is the superb map above, illustrating how the culture and techniques spread.

Map caption:


Map showing the hypothetical route of the megalithic expansion in three main phases (red−green−yellow), periods of megalithic stasis (brown−white), and episode of a megalithic Mediterranean revival (orange) in the second millennium cal BC, with the estimated start of megalithic graves in the different European regions at 95% probability (68% probability in brackets). Italic bold type is used for date ranges of the posterior density estimates based on samples from megalithic graves, regular bold type is used for simple calibrated radiocarbon dates from megalithic graves, and regular italic type is used for the probabilities of the posterior density estimates associated with the earliest cultural material in the megalithic graves.

February 19, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

First-ever MRI of a tarantula's beating heart

From Ann Chin's ScientificAmerican.com post : "A tarantula's small beating heart has been imaged for the first time and revealed in real time with the help of a specialized MRI. Edinburgh University researchers used scanners built for medical research on rodents at the Glasgow Experimental MRI Centre to see into the living arachnid's gut as well."

"The team colored the MRI images to highlight the tarantula's ticker, visible as lighter colors in the posterior part of the body. The image was acquired one slice at a time moving up the length of the spider's heart. In some of the slices — 5% to 10% — the heart seemed to beat twice instead of once, suggesting that the tarantula might experience sudden unpredictable fluctuations in its heart rate at times, or 'double beating.'"

The video up top shows the tarantula's beating heart, with darker areas being cardiac tissue and brighter areas circulating blood.


In the image above, the tarantula's heart, located in the spider's abdomen, is the elongated yellow region pointing to the lower right corner of the graphic.



3-D maximum intensity projection of a tarantula.

February 19, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Peeled Peas — Appealing?


That question was the central focus of Rowley Leigh's "On Cookery" column in the July 1, 2006 Financial Times (FT).

Investigating, Leigh (above) learned that fine Lebanese restaurants peel their chickpeas (garbanzo beans to those in the U.S.) "before pounding them into an incredibly silky hummus."

Who knew?

Here's his piece.


The appeal of peeling

To peel or not to peel, that is the nagging question that troubles chefs and, just occasionally, the home cook. When it comes to the paring, shaping and peeling of vegetables there is always a bourn beyond which few will cross. I know many domestic cooks who will not peel a potato or, when forced to do so, set about the task with a knife and therefore throw half the potato — and most of its nutrients — away. Personally, I disapprove of any attempts to pass off unpeeled potatoes — with the honourable and laborious exception of scraping new potatoes — as any kind of workmanship. "Home fries" and the like are concepts dreamt up by accountants and lazy chefs rather than by a conscientious cook seeking to elicit extra flavour.

Carrots, likewise, come under the same categorical imperative, as do all roots and tubers. But it is with pulses that culinary certainties start to waver. By and large, broad beans, unless very young and small, need to be peeled because as the beans develop, the skins become increasingly tough and bitter. At home, guests are always surprised to see me peeling broad beans and think this extraordinarily painstaking and dedicated. A technique of nicking the blanched beans with the thumbnail and popping them out is soon acquired and once the habit is formed it would seem heretical not to peel the beans, the result being so much superior in tenderness and sweetness.

So far so very good. However, Chris Galvin and Andre Garrett, taking over the Windows restaurant in the Hilton in Park Lane, have raised the bar somewhat. Taking their cue from Pierre Gagnaire and Guy Savoy in Paris, they peel their peas. I thought the petits pois a la Francaise, despite the heretical inclusion of both bacon and carrots, that I was enjoying were exceptionally sweet but did not notice, until my dining companion pointed it out, that I was indeed eating peas that had been, each and every one, peeled. I was mortified by the prospect of a mountain of peas that would now have to be peeled as well as podded. The problem with being a purist is that you can never be purist enough: there is always a new generation of even greater purists just behind you.

Discussing this pea peeling issue with another chef, the delightful Jeremy Lee of The Blueprint Café, he told me that the finer Lebanese restaurants peeled their chickpeas before pounding them into an incredibly silky hummus. It seemed that there was no end of peeling to be done. Nightmares of peeling lentils and split peas, rice even, began to fill my thoughts. Luckily sanity was resumed with a quite exceptional dinner at The Castle Hotel in Taunton. I did not dare tell the brilliant and genial chef, Richard Guest, about my pea anxieties.


Leigh was the chef at the highly-regarded Kensington Place restaurant in London, besides being an award-winning writer: he was the 2006 winner of the prestigious Glenfiddich Food & Drink Award for Cookery Writing for his work in FT weekend.

February 19, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Narcissus of Pompeii

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From the Guardian:


Stunningly preserved fresco of Narcissus discovered in Pompeii

Archaeologists working in a richly decorated house in ancient Pompeii have discovered a stunningly preserved fresco (above) depicting the mythological hunter Narcissus enraptured by his own reflection in a pool of water.

The figure of Narcissus, who according to the myth fell in love with his own image to the point that he melted from the fire of passion burning inside him, was a fairly common theme in the first-century Roman city.

The discovery, announced on Thursday, is in the atrium of a house where, back in November, excavations brought to light another fresco that portrays an erotic scene from the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan.

"The beauty of these rooms has led us to modify the project and continue the excavation," said the site's director, Alfonsina Russo.

"In the future this will allow us to open at least part of this domus to the public. Its excavation has been possible in the context of the broader intervention of stabilization and re-profiling of the excavation fronts, overseen by the Great Pompeii Project."

The ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed in C.E.79 by an eruption that killed more than 2,000 people.

The ruins have become one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world.

The city, which attracts almost 4 million visitors a year, has come a long way since 2013, when UNESCO threatened to place it on its list of world heritage sites in peril unless Italian authorities improved its preservation.

On October 16, 2018, archaeologists discovered an engraving that suggested the eruption occurred in October of C.E. 79, not August as had been previously thought.

Surprises unearthed in recent months include the remains of a horse and a home with an elaborate shrine.


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More here.

February 19, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rule of Thirds Finder


From the website:



This pocket-size gazing device is based on the Rule of Thirds, which breaks an image into nine equal parts using two equidistant vertical lines and two equidistant horizontal lines.


This ratio is often used by artists to create compelling compositions.

It encourages artists to avoid placing the subject of their image in the center.


Use the Rule of Thirds Finder to add visual tension to your compositions.


Features and Details:

• 3.1" x 3.1" x 0.11"

• Laser-etched acrylic

• Clear, Orange, or Green

• Designed by Parsons & Charlesworth



February 19, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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