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October 31, 2019

"General Magic"

Über-fanbois like me will not want to miss this new movie, which documents how what was likely the greatest group of computer industry giants ever assembled in one small company tried — and failed miserably — to bring forth what would, many years later, become the iPhone.

Long, utterly absorbing story short: they built their version in the early 1990s, before the connecting parts needed to make it work on a global scale — things like widespread, fast and cheap internet; low cost, powerful chips; affordable lithium battery technology; user-friendly touchscreens and displays — were ubiquitous.

It took until 2007 for Steve Jobs to spearhead Apple's all-out push to put the iPod into a phone (or vice versa) to make the General Magic dream come true.

October 31, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Unique evaporative signatures of bourbon whiskeys

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From physics.org:

The evaporation of a drop of American whiskey leaves a characteristic web-like pattern that isn't observed in Scotch whisky and other distillates.

Americans have whiskey and Scots have whisky, but more distinguishes the two liquors than mere spelling.

Scotch whisky typically acquires its flavor while it ages in mature — often recycled — barrels, while American whiskey, such as bourbon, is aged in new, charred-oak barrels.

Understanding what this means at the chemical level could help with spotting illegal counterfeits and suggest faster alternatives to traditional aging.

Seeking such an understanding, Stuart Williams and colleagues at the University of Louisville in Kentucky — a state with twice as many barrels of aging whiskey as residents — has discovered a behavior unique to American whiskey that could lead to analytical tools for probing its chemistry.

When evaporating from a surface, American whiskey leaves web-like patterns (top) that aren't observed with other liquors.

Inspired by a previous study on Scotch whisky (see 24 March 2016 Synopsis), Williams and colleagues tested the evaporation of drops with different liquor concentrations.

As expected from the Scotch study, high concentrations left a uniform deposition layer, while severely diluted drops produced a "coffee-ring" pattern.

At intermediate concentrations, however, the team saw structures reminiscent of the blood-vessel network of a human eye.

After evaporating tens of whiskeys, whiskies, and other distillates, they found that only whiskey aged in new, charred barrels left these web-like patterns.

Furthermore, each pattern was a unique, reproducible "fingerprint" of the whiskey type and age.

Using a qualitative model, the team argues that the patterns may derive from chemicals released when whiskey interacts with the charred barrel wood.

These chemicals form agglomerates that collapse when the drop evaporates, leaving the signature residue.

To test this hypothesis and pinpoint the responsible chemicals, the team next plans to place "tracer" molecules inside the drops, allowing them to make microscopic movies of the evaporation process.

This research is published in Physical Reviews Letters.

More?

Here's

a video.

I mean, it's not like you've got anything else to do.

Oh, yeah, one more thing, from Stuart Williams of the University of Louisville Department of Engineering Microfluidics Lab, the lead investigator:

I appreciate everyone's interest in this project!

More information can be found on our research webpage whiskeywebs.org — it contains links to online articles, technical articles, and a digital online gallery!

October 31, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pylos Combat Agate: 1.4-inch-wide, 3,500-year-old Minoan Sealstone Masterpiece

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From the University of Cincinnati magazine:

Unearthing a Masterpiece

In the more than two years since University of Cincinnati researchers unearthed the 3,500-year-old tomb of a Bronze Age warrior in southwest Greece, an incredible trove of riches has emerged, including four gold signet rings that have challenged accepted wisdom among archaeologists about the origins of Greek civilization.  

But that wasn't the only secret hidden there beneath the hard-baked clay.  

It would take another year before the so-called "Griffin Warrior" revealed his most stunning historical offering yet: an intricately carved gem, or sealstone, that UC researchers say is one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered.

The "Pylos Combat Agate," as the seal has come to be known for the fierce hand-to-hand battle it portrays, promises not only to rewrite the history of ancient Greek art, but also to help shed light on myth and legend in an era of Western civilization still steeped in mystery.

The seal is the latest and most significant treasure to emerge from the treasure-laden tomb of the Griffin Warrior, which was hailed as the most spectacular archaeological discovery in Greece in more than half a century when it was uncovered in an olive grove near the ancient city of Pylos in 2015.

The remarkably undisturbed and intact grave revealed not only the well-preserved remains of what is believed to have been a powerful Mycenaean warrior or priest buried around 1500 BCE, but also an incredible trove of burial riches that serve as a time capsule into the origins of Greek civilization.

But the tomb didn't readily reveal its secrets.

It took conservation experts more than a year to clean the limestone-encrusted seal, say dig leaders Shari Stocker, a senior research associate in UC's Department of Classics, and Jack Davis, the university's Carl W. Blegen professor of Greek archaeology and department head.

As the intricate details of the seal's design emerged, the researchers were shocked to discover they had unearthed no less than a masterpiece.

"Looking at the image for the first time was a very moving experience, and it still is," said Stocker. "It's brought some people to tears."

A miniature masterpiece

Davis and Stocker say the Pylos Combat Agate's craftsmanship and exquisite detail make it the finest discovered work of glyptic art produced in the Aegean Bronze Age.   

"What is fascinating is that the representation of the human body is at a level of detail and musculature that one doesn’t find again until the classical period of Greek art 1,000 years later," explained Davis. "It's a spectacular find."

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Even more extraordinary, the husband-and-wife team point out, is that the meticulously carved combat scene was painstakingly etched on a piece of hard stone measuring just 3.6 centimeters, or just over 1.4 inches, in length.

Indeed, many of the seal's details, such as the intricate weaponry ornamentation and jewelry decoration, become clear only when viewed with a powerful camera lens and photomicroscopy.     

"Some of the details on this are only a half-millimeter big," said Davis. "They're incomprehensibly small."

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The miniature masterpiece portrays a victorious warrior who, having already vanquished one unfortunate opponent sprawled at his feet, now turns his attention to another much more formidable foe, plunging his sword into the shielded man's exposed neck in what is sure to be a final and fatal blow.

It's a scene that conjures the sweeping and epic battles, larger-than-life heroes and grand adventures of Homer's "The Iliad," the epic Greek poem that immortalized a mythological decade-long war between the Trojan and Mycenaean kingdoms.

While the researchers can't say that the image was intended to reflect a Homeric epic, the scene undoubtedly reflects a legend that was well known to Minoans and Mycenaeans, says Stocker.

"It would have been a valuable and prized possession, which certainly is representative of the Griffin Warrior’s role in Mycenaean society," she explained. "I think he would have certainly identified himself with the hero depicted on the seal."

Rewriting history

Though the seal and other burial riches found within the tomb suggest the Griffin Warrior held an esteemed position in Mycenaean society, that so many of the artifacts are Minoan-made raises intriguing questions about his culture.

Scholarly consensus has long theorized that mainlander Mycenaeans simply imported or robbed such riches from the affluent Minoan civilization on the large island of Crete, southeast of Pylos.

Although the Minoans were culturally dominant to the Greek mainlanders, the civilization fell to the Mycenaeans around 1500-1400 BCE — roughly the same time period in which the Griffin Warrior died.

In a series of presentations and a paper published last year, Davis and Stocker revealed that the discovery of four gold signet rings bearing highly detailed Minoan iconography, along with other Minoan-made riches found within the tomb, indicates a far greater and complex cultural interchange took place between the Mycenaeans and Minoans.

But the skill and sophistication of the Pylos Combat Agate is unparalleled by anything uncovered before from the Minoan-Mycenaean world, say the researchers.

And that raises a bigger question: How does this change our understanding of Greek art in the Bronze Age?   

"It seems that the Minoans were producing art of the sort that no one ever imagined they were capable of producing," explained Davis. "It shows that their ability and interest in representational art, particularly movement and human anatomy, is beyond what it was imagined to be. Combined with the stylized features, that itself is just extraordinary."

The revelation, he and Stocker say, prompts a reconsideration of the evolution and development of Greek art.  

"This seal should be included in all forthcoming art history texts, and will change the way that prehistoric art is viewed," said Stocker.

October 31, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Forgotten Books — "Today we have 1,225,886 books available"

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Wrote my Crack Bay Area Correspondent©® Tam D at 12:55 p.m. ET (9:55 a.m. PT where she lives) this past Monday, October 28, 2019:

Here's a website that might interest you

I came across this in my internet travels... this looks like a "there goes the day" site if ever I saw one (actually, "there goes the year" if I had my druthers).

In case you don't know about it, thought I'd pass it on so you can spread the word.

I mos def didn't know about it before Tam's heads-up — to that end, if you're not sure if I've seen something or not, assume I haven't and send it on: you'll never get back "Oh I know all about that" from me.

But I digress.

She followed up four minutes later with this:

One caveat

By the way, not to dampen it, but there seems to be money involved for unlimited access (can't blame ‘em), but there seems to be a way to read for free, with some restrictions, as a guest.

Oh well, can't have everything the way we like it.

October 31, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

8 Color Crayon Pen

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From websites:

Eight crayons in one!

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Just twist to the color you want and push the lever.

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$5.99.

October 31, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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