Sure, dinosaur fossils are priceless, but how much are they worth?

Tuesday, 28 April, 2015

I wouldn’t have thought that dinosaur fossils could be bought or sold ordinarily. But I imagine if someone is sufficiently financed, and determined enough, to buy them, they’ll succeed.

It seems money did change hands in the past though, in certain circumstances during the nineteenth century apparently, and this trade is the subject of an essay by Lukas Rieppel.

Rather, people haggling over the price of dinosaur bones looked to social norms from the mineral industry for cues on how to value these rare and unusual objects, adopting a set of negotiation tactics that exploited asymmetries in the distribution of scarce information to secure the better end of the deal.

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The dinosaur formerly known as Brontosaurus is a dinosaur again

Wednesday, 15 April, 2015

What a week it’s been hey? First up news broke that we may soon be able to learn what the lyrics to “American Pie” mean. Then we discovered that the Helvetica font had a rival, Haas Unica, that, for whatever reason, failed to fully see the light of day forty years ago.

Now it seems Brontosaurus, a dinosaur that was previously deemed not to be an actual terrible lizard, is in fact such a creature in its own right, after all.

The change in fortunes for the Brontosaurus came about after Lisbon based palaeontologist, Emanuel Tschopp, began creating a family tree of sorts for Diplodocids, the dinosaur group that Apatosaurus, the creature everyone had mistaken for a Brontosaurus, was part of, and found they actually were two distinct beasts:

Very broadly, their tree confirmed established ideas about the evolutionary relationships among diplodocids. But the scientists also concluded that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were different enough to belong in their own genera. Many of the anatomical differences between the two dinosaurs are obscure, Tschopp says, but Apatosaurus‘s stouter neck is an obvious one. “Even though both are very robust and massive animals, Apatosaurus is even more so,” he adds.

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Seen but no longer heard, Leo the MGM lion

Tuesday, 14 April, 2015

A lion named Leo has been the centrepiece of the distinctive Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer logo, that features at the beginning of movies produced by the US film production and distribution company, since 1957, even though the logo itself has undergone a number of alterations in the last fifty-eight years.

While Leo had a number of lion predecessors, he must be the longest serving to date, even if the roar we now hear isn’t his anymore… an electronic version was created some time ago.

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Cheese, a result of Earth’s first artificial environmental disaster

Monday, 13 April, 2015

The first known environmental disaster to be precipitated by humanity occurred eight and half thousand years ago, as a result of poor crop farming practices.

The crisis is however thought to have played a part in the invention of cheese, as people living in the middle east turned to farming sheep and goats, and discovered the milk of these animals would form an edible substance if it were left sitting in vessels for a certain amount of time.

The real dawn of cheese came about 8,500 years ago, with two simultaneous developments in human history. First, by then, over-intensive agricultural practices had depleted the soil, leading to the first human-created environmental disaster. As a result, Neolithic humans began herding goats and sheep more intensely, as those animals could survive on marginal lands unfit for crops. And secondly, humans invented pottery: the original practical milk-collection containers.

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The small towns of Iowa photographed

Friday, 10 April, 2015

I’m yet to visit the United States, but the small towns, those almost forgotten by the outside world, would be where I’d like to go.

Iowa based photographer Cody Weber has the same idea. Despite being a local, he realised he’d probably never visit most of the 947 small towns located in the American Midwest state, so decided to go to each and photograph them.

The result, Forgotten Iowa, isn’t just made up of photos though, where possible he has also included a summary of the town’s history.

It also seems to me that many of these places would make for great backdrops for films. In fact, many of the images reminded me of scenes from Alexander Payne’s 2013 film, Nebraska, being Iowa’s neighbouring state.

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Go time travelling by way of your old email messages

Wednesday, 8 April, 2015

I have emails, sent and received, going back almost thirteen years. That figure would be closer to eighteen, had I have not lost messages from the first computers I owned, lumbering desktop affairs, due to the backup discs they’d been stored on corrupting.

So if I wished to time travel as it were, by revisiting my earliest emails, to glean insights into the way my thought processes, and the way I communicated, may have changed over time, I may not draw quite the same conclusions, as Brooklyn based programmer Paul Ford, who did have access to eighteen years worth of correspondence.

It’s strange to see the conversations because we’re all still obsessed over the same things we were ten or fifteen years ago. We’ve gotten older, gotten married and divorced. Some of us are rich, some are poor, some like comic books, some are writing poems, some are writing novels, some are still wearing the same T-shirts. Children change us, and keep changing us. Divorce changes us, often for a while. We cling to life and resolve to do better and then just drift back to ourselves and the regular flow of life. Like a pile of rocks in a stream, time running around us. Occasionally it rains and a stone is knocked around. Change comes from without.

The thing is, it was the messages from those lost years, the late 1990s, that would make such a comparison meaningful, all the more pertinent.

I was making my first forays into web design, had become involved with the Australian Infront, a local web design community, and was contemplating the meaning of a certain chance meeting at a bar, of all things. Followed up by an equally (maybe) contingent… encounter, mere metres from said locale, just weeks ago, it should be added.

I expect I would cringe, a lot, if I could see those messages again, so I guess the test will come, if I’m able to review the emails I’m sending now, in eighteen years time. I may recoil a little, but maybe not so much.

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The return of The X Files

Wednesday, 1 April, 2015

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are set to reprise their roles as Mulder and Scully in a six episode series of The X-Files, that goes into production in the next few months. Little else is known about the new episodes, as producers are remaining tight-lipped for the moment.

And so they should, the return of Mulder and Scully will make for more of an event that way.

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For Richard III, a funeral befitting a monarch, finally

Tuesday, 31 March, 2015

Richard III was King of England from 1483 until 1485, when he was killed during the Battle of Bosworth Field. His remains where discovered buried below what is now a car park in Leicester, in 2012, after archaeologists went looking for them.

A rather ignoble end for a monarch, even if the grave was within what was once a church, that was however demolished in the sixteenth century.

Last Thursday, 26 March, Richard III was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral, with, it is likely safe to say, a little more ceremony than his original funeral.

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A list of the best books of the twentieth century

Monday, 30 March, 2015

This has to be helpful for someone, a list of fiction and non-fiction best selling books for each year of the entire twentieth century, together with titles that were either critically acclaimed or historically significant.

The novelisation of The Phantom Menace, being episode one of the “Star Wars” film saga, comes in at number four on the fiction best selling list for 1999. Could that be down to “Star Wars” fans who were trying to find a little more… meaning to the film?

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Some elegant insults… for a more civilised age, via Martin Luther

Monday, 30 March, 2015

Indeed, gibes for a civilised age, sort of… some of more crass sentences penned by Martin Luther, priest, theology professor, and an initiator of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Here’s one to get started:

You are an extraordinary creature, being neither God nor man. Perhaps you are the devil himself.

Ouch. You ought to know, by the way, that Luther’s… taunts have a certain context.

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