Shock leads to Myths

The popular support for Trump and Brexit may be explained in an unexpected space in Chichester, The Pallant House Gallery (22 October – 15 February).

Painted after the trauma of the First World War, Morning is by D Proctor (1929) and shows a girl alone, at the brink of waking.



The exhibition compares this to a classical statue of Ariadne in Phrygian marble. The curator’s thesis is that the artists exhibited are engaged in a project that has some kind of parallel with Ulysses.  They are using myth, or classicism more generally, to give a shape to the “immense panorama of futility and anarchy” of the postwar world. And it is science that is ultimately  responsible for this trauma of the modern catastrophe.



Titian’s Danae is compared to M Frampton’s portrait of Marguerite Kelsey.

3237.jpgThis way of co-opting the classics is through clean lines and ordered compositions. After catastrophe there is order, after war the people are cold and tired.

Peopling Asia

Scientists are correlating the genetic features of different races with their territory. Many of the genetical groups have restricted locations.


The patches of strong colour in the map represent distinct genetic features, based on human genome data. They follow familiar geographic features such as mountain ranges, sea barriers and deserts.

In Asia, the migration routes have been recognised for some time.

th.jpeg      th-1.jpeg

(See Nature October 13. 2016: Genomic analyses inform on migration events during the peopling of Eurasia – by Luca Pagani et al)

London Bridge was Falling Down

Parson Brinckerhoff and Grimshaw are leading the design to develop London Bridge Station. The new station building is beside The Shard (Europe’s tallest building – top left in the photograph below) and is opening in stages while the railway continues to run.

3648.jpg  th-1.jpeg

Over 150 years, science has advanced building structure and design. But nature allows familiar images to prevail. One such is London Bridge At Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1836-1893







Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature is about the life of the Prussian explorer and naturalist Humboldt. Yesterday, the book was named winner of the Royal Society Insight Investment science book prize.


2465.jpgth-1.jpeg           51IHVaHKsSL._AC_US160_.jpg

Humboldt (1769 – 1859) inspired scientists and writers such as Jules Verne and Charles Darwin. He has more things named after him than anyone who has ever lived, including an ocean current, the Berlin university a six-foot squid and a breed of penguin.

120px-Humboldt_current.jpg        th-2.jpeg

Bravely, he travelled in the Americas, exploring, climbing and describing natural history. Later, he repeated these holistic feats with horses and carriages from Berlin to east of the Urals.

Wulf’s biography makes clear just how close together science and art were, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It also credits Humboldt for anticipating the destructive influence of humans on the environment.

Sun and Moon

The winning images from this year’s Astronomy Photographer of 2016 have been announced.

Kolbein Svensson photographed an aurora entirely in black and white –


Catalin Beldea (photograph) and Alson Wong (processing) use 12 images to convey the beauty of an eclipse –


Dani Caxete took Man on the Moon, using a telescope, while his friend posed on Pena Munana, in Cadalso de los Vidrios, Spain –


Ainsley Bennett took a picture one early morning when he saw the Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter all in close conjunction. The mist added an extra dimension by accentuating the brightness of the crescent moon and Venus, making them look like glowing spheres –


Turning in the Wind

Large-sycamores-small-2-140x140.jpg  BJMdN-cCcAACeGj-140x140.jpg   574055831_130x73.jpgSycamore-1a-school-landscape-140x140.jpg

David Watkinson has made a series of sculptures based on seeds of the many maple species. They rotate gently in the breeze.


Acer rubra has the typical pairs of seeds with opposite wings:



80px-Bi-colored_Maple_Tree.jpg     220px-Acer_saccharum.jpg




Fairy Cottage

A Romanian couple have spent two years building an eco-friendly “fairytale castle” in the mountains of Transylvania, using only natural materials.

Razvan and Gabriela Vasile sold their home near the capital Bucharest to build the “castle” in a village 24 miles (40 km) from the city of Sibiu, Casa Mea website reports. Called the “Clay Castle of the Valley of Fairies”, it is made of “100% organic” clay, straw and sand, with all wooden pillars and not a lick of modern paint or varnish. As the couple are singers rather than master builders, they enlisted the help of a professional architect to make their dream come true.

Casa Mea says the building “looks like something out of the Hobbit” rather than a castle in the conventional sense, and the owners hope eventually to open it as a hotel, given its location in the spectacular Carpathian Mountains and proximity to the famous Transfagarasan highway and medieval Sibiu.