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April 8, 2019

13 Philip K. Dick stories — free

From Open Culture:


Although he died when he was only 53 years old, Philip K. Dick (1928–1982) published 44 novels and 121 short stories during his lifetime and solidified his position as arguably the most literary of science fiction writers.

His novel "Ubik" appeared on TIME magazine's list of the the 100 best English-language novels (it's No. 30) and Dick is the only science fiction writer to be honored by inclusion in the prestigious Library of America series, a kind of pantheon of American literature.

If you're not intimately familiar with his novels, then you assuredly know major films based on Dick's work — "Blade Runner," "Total Recall," "A Scanner Darkly," and "Minority Report."

We're presenting a selection of Dick's stories available for free [the way we like it].

We have pulled together 13 short stories from our collection of free eBooks and free audio books.

April 8, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Experts' Expert: Making perfume last


From the Financial Times' "How to Spend It" section; perfume blogger Victoria Frolova offered this mini-tutorial.


You have found a perfume that seems perfect — the first few moments post-application are enjoyable but then, over the course of the day, you find the scent has disappeared. You might as well not have worn anything. Fragrance that doesn’t last is one of the most frustrating occurrences for a perfume lover, and I'm often asked to explain why it happens.

A perfume may have a fleeting presence because it's based around volatile materials like citrus, leafy notes, or pink pepper. It might be a cologne designed to be an instant refresher, like Clarins Eau Dynamisante or Roger & Gallet Bois d'Orange. Citrus gives a bright opening; however, it fades quickly. If cologne is your preferred genre, then consider finding fragrances that blend citrus with woods. For instance, Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine is based on the sweet scent of orange, but it uses a base of soft woods to make the hesperidic freshness linger — and it also comes at a higher concentration than a typical cologne. Another option is to keep reapplying the cologne you love, as if hitting replay on a favorite song or switching to a different perfume later in the day.

Another reason a perfume doesn't last is because of our physiology. To put it another way, your perfume is still present, but you stop smelling it and hence it seems as if it has disappeared. This phenomenon is called olfactory fatigue, or olfactory adaptation, and it happens when odor receptors are saturated with an aroma to the point that they stop sending a signal to the brain about it. If you wear the same perfume every day, such an olfactory adaptation is likely to happen. Also, some materials are more likely to cause olfactory fatigue, such as ambers, sandalwood, and other heavy, enveloping woods.

What you can do in this instance is to temporarily switch fragrances. If I wear a perfume like Frédéric Malle Angéliques sous la Pluie for several days in a row, I eventually stop noticing it, especially if its remnants saturate my scarf or my coat. The people I meet still comment that I smell good, but I can't detect my fragrance. This is a signal that I should alternate Angéliques sous la Pluie with another spring favourite like Bottega Veneta Knot Balenciaga Le Dix (out of production, but vintage samples can be found at 4160 Tuesdays).

A more difficult situation is when you have an olfactory blind spot and can't detect the main component of a perfume. Due to their molecular structure, musks are often the culprits behind such anosmias, which is why perfumers usually blend several types of these fickle materials. Nevertheless, for some people all types of musks are hard to smell and the only solution is to keep on testing fragrances and paying attention to their longevity.

Think of the fragrance quest as a fun pursuit, rather than as an end goal to acquire a bottle. When you try a new perfume, apply it on clean skin and smell it over the course of several hours. Ideally, you'll apply it in the morning and trace its development throughout the day. If you stop detecting it, it's a good idea to ask friends or family if they can still notice the scent on you. The only thing worse than a perfume that you can't smell is a fragrance that suffocates others.

April 8, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Einstein Cross

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[Caption for photo above: The newly discovered Einstein Cross J2211-3050. An elliptical galaxy (the yellow object) is acting as a lens, producing the four blue objects (marked ABCD) that are the images of a galaxy about three times more distant. With the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) it was possible to isolate and disperse the light of objects ABC, demonstrating that they belong to the same light source. Credit: Hubble Space Telescope Credit: Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias]

From phys.org:


A new Einstein cross is discovered

This study, which has combined images from the Hubble Space Telescope with spectroscopic observations from the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), has confirmed the existence of a new example of a gravitational lens, a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity. In this case, the observed effect is due to the alteration caused by a galaxy that acts like a magnifying glass amplifying and distorting, in four separate images in the form of a cross, the light of another galaxy located 20,000 million light years away.

One of the most striking conclusions of Albert Einstein's theory of  is that the trajectory of light curves in the presence of matter. This effect can be observed in the case of light emitted by a distant galaxy, when its light passes close to another galaxy on its way to the observer. The phenomenon is known as gravitational lensing, because it is comparable to the deviation of light rays by the classic glass lenses. Similarly,  act like magnifying glasses that change the size, shape, and intensity of the image of the distant object.

Depending on the degree of alignment of the two , multiple images of the distant source can be observed, such as four separate images in the form of a cross (hence the name "Einstein's cross"), rings, or arcs. It is in general extremely difficult to spot a gravitational lens, because the separation between the images produced by the lens is usually very small, requiring high-resolution images to see them. It was precisely analyzing Hubble Space Telescope high-resolution images that it was possible to locate an asterism that looked like a new example of Einstein cross.

An exceptional discovery

However, spotting four points of light in the shape of a cross positioned around a galaxy does not assure us that it is a lens, so we must show that the 4 images belong to the same object. To do this spectroscopic observations are needed. For this reason, a team of Italian scientists led by Daniela Bettoni of the Padova Observatory and Riccardo Scarpa of the IAC, decided to observe spectroscopically with GTC the supposed lens. According to Scarpa, "the result could not have been better. The atmosphere was very clean and with minimum turbulence (seeing), which allowed us to clearly separate the emission of three of the four images. The spectrum immediately gave us the answer we were looking for, the same emission line due to ionized hydrogen appeared in all three spectra at the same wavelength. There could be no doubt that it was actually the same source of light".

A new Einstein cross had been discovered, named J2211-0350 according to its coordinates on the sky. The object acting as a lens turns out to be an elliptical galaxy located at a distance of approximately 7 billion  (z = 0.556), while the source is at least 20 billion light years away (z = 3.03). "Normally the source is a quasar, it was with great surprise that we realized the source in this case was another galaxy, in fact a galaxy with very intense emission lines which indicates it is a young object still forming large amounts of stars", explain Bettoni. Quite an achievement for GTC, considering only another lens of this type was known.

New research tool

Thanks to these new observations, presented in The Astrophysical Journal, astronomers now have one more tool to investigate the Universe. Gravitational lenses are important because they allow the study of the Universe in a unique way. Because the light of the different images, initially the same light, follows different paths in the Universe, thus any spectral differences must be due to the material that is between us and the source. Moreover, if the source is variable, we can see a time delay (one image illuminates before the others), which provides valuable information about the shape of the Universe.

Of course, the mass of the lens responsible for bending the light can be accurately derived, providing an important independent method to weight . Finally, as with a normal glass lens, the gravitational lens concentrates toward us the  from the source, making it possible to see intrinsically unreachable objects. In this case it could be calculated that the source is 5 times brighter than it would be without the .

April 8, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Post-Modernism Generator


Reader Andrew Chase emailed me as follows:


Are you familiar with the Post-Modernism Generator?

Visit the page, read the essay (generally they hover on the edge of sensical), hit refresh, and a brand shiny new page of BS is generated. It's quite impressive and thought provoking.


Point is, it's based on the DaDa Engine (available for free download). You could load that sucker up with some favorite stock phrases and voilà, a modern day Mechanical Turk, an AbojG (Auto bookofjoe Generator).



Do you think Andrew was sending me a message when he wrote "... hover on the edge of sensical?"

April 8, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Banana Salt and Pepper Shakers

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"These realistic banana-shaped porcelain shakers are hand made in Brooklyn by Michiko Shimada."

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April 8, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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