Deep-Time Maps

The “Ancient World” as Deep Time Maps have just become available at a new website from Colorado Plateau Geosystems Inc. The series of paleogeographic global maps is based on the latest geologic information. Go to

Global Paleogeography and Tectonics in Deep Time
©2016 Colorado Plateau Geosystems Inc.


The global maps go back more than 300 million years and show the latest interpretations of plate movement, boundaries and present national outlines. Some of the land masses have familiar shapes but there are mysterious connections that represent a ghost-like world.

Human as Animal

I’ve been reading Jacob Bronowski’s 1956 Science & Human Values, with its essay, The Habit of Truth about Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Lady with a Stoat.


He explains how the painting is a pun about so much that is human: man and animal, a creation of unity. AN Wilson has posted an annotated version of this @MailOnline in 2011:


Bronowski (1908-1974) was a mathematician and anthropologist, best known for his 1973 tv series The Ascent of Man:

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Searching for a truth that human and animals are closely related, Leonardo tests and explores the consequences of the relationship. In the girl and the stoat there is the long brow of the skull, the lucid eyes, the gesture of the hand and the claw, the pale complexion of both, their body language and searching interests.

Natural Music


Most musicologists think that music began within a human culture. Another idea is that our love of music has biological roots, perhaps mimicking the sound of heartbeats in the mother’s womb. Now there is scientific evidence to support a cultural origin, though the biological influences are not entirely discounted.

Deep in the Bolivian Amazon, the Tsimane Tribe make their own kind of music. It has a strong contrast between consonance and dissonance, sounds that have interested musicologists since the culture of ancient Greece.

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JH McDermott et al write in today’s Nature (July 28) that the Tsimane perceive consonance and dissonance differently to westerners. Their harmonies are simple, only played one at a time, while there is an indifference to dissonance. In the west this is used for background texture or to express tension: not so in Bolivia.


This is distinctive cultural variation in music perception. Some observers also say that the new conclusions are confirmed by the observation that the Tsimane prefer laughter to unpleasant gasps.

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Wooden Theatre

Chateau d’Hardelot is near Boulogne-sur-Mer by the English Channel and now has a 388-seat Elizabethan theatre. Its first public performance was on Friday, 24 June, the day after the referendum vote.


The theatre is made of wood with a vertical and galleried auditorium. There is a stage thrust into the middle, and behind it an update of a Shakespearean tiring house, a two-storey structure whose doors and balconies enable actors’ appearances and exits.


The architect wanted to make a building that “is absolutely up to date but could be 500 years old”. There is also selective use of steel though the basic structure is of cross-laminated timber, a modern technique using factory-made panels that are strong, lightweight and efficient in their use of wood.



Europe in tatters at Pompeii

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What’s the point of loving Pompeii if we let it fall?

The ancient Roman city preserved in ash by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79 has never been more popular. The Neoclassical imitations and fashion for “Pompeiian red” that its beautiful art inspired when Pompeii first captured imaginations in the 18th century were enjoyed by an elite.



Now, large areas of Pompeii are closed off to visitors, behind ugly wire fences put up by a Neapolitan construction company after a series of collapses due to heavy rains in 2013 and 2014 caused worldwide consternation.


An emergency restoration project, funded by the EU and Italy, got under way to put right seeming years of neglect. Now it looks like a project that is scarring Pompeii as much as saving it. The fences have been slapped up carelessly looking like an urban building site.

Joseph Wright of Derby


How does a museum fight back when its very purpose is questioned and its public funding is taken away? In the case of Derby Museum, its most famous son, Joseph Wright, the seventeenth century painter, has come to the rescue.



In a New York auction room it has bought what may be his last two landscapes.


The paintings were of industrialist Francis Hurt and his wife Mary and were painted around 1780, the couple owned Alderwasley estate and several iron works and lead mines. The price of the paintings were £122,000 and through a mixture of grants and donations Derby Museums were able to raise the required funds and purchase the paintings, which were situated and displayed in the museum’s Enlightenment exhibition but are now undergoing conservation.


Joseph Wright was one of The Lunar Men, a group led by Erasmus Darwin and formed from amateur experimenters, tradesmen and artisans who met and made friends in the Midlands in the 1760s. They all lived far from the centre of things, but they were young and their optimism showed through in their creativity.

Water, Water Everywhere

Why is there so much water on and around our planet, and where did it come from?

One idea is that it originated from ice specks floating in a cosmic cloud more than 4.6 billion years ago. Such interstellar water is millions of years older than the solar system itself. This water survived the solar system’s chaotic creation and came to Earth.


(Bill Saxton, NSF National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

Much of the heavy water formed in the interstellar cloud and then traveled across the solar system.

About one atom in 6420 of hydrogen has a neutron and is called deuterium. It accounts for approximately 0.0156% of all the naturally occurring hydrogen in the oceans. The more common isotope (hydrogen-1 or protium) accounts for more than 99.98%.

Deuterium-rich water is found on other planets and moons, even here on Earth, but researchers are not sure where it came from.

A recently constructed computer model shows how such old ice molecules could have survived the sun’s violent radiation blasts, and gone on to the present planet Earth and its neighbours.


Water is strongly associated with this sculpture called Barbora, by the American artist Vladas Vildžiūnas, presently found in Thornton Park, Vancouver.  The original concept was a lady walking in a park in solitude with breezes adding movement to her garments. Others see it as the movement of water in similar free space.