Renovation

Scientific advances in materials science and image analysis enable the work of renovation tackle more ambitious challenges. A recent example of this is the Hudson Theatre in Manhattan.

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One of Broadway’s oldest surviving theatres, first opened 114 years ago, has been renovated and reopened earlier this year –

05HUDSON3-jumbo-v2.jpg— with Jake Gyllenhaal in the revival of “Sunday in the Park With George”. It becomes Broadway’s 41st and newest playhouse, 114 years after it became one of Broadway’s first. Then, it opened with a production of “Cousin Kate” starring Ethel Barrymore.

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The theater was built by Henry B. Harris, above left, who ran it until 1912, when he perished on the Titanic. His wife, Renée, also above, survived and returned to New York to operate the theater. She became one of Broadway’s first female producers but she lost it to foreclosure in the Depression.

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Located on 44th Street just east of Broadway, the ornate theater has led a life as various as Manhattan itself, with stints as a TV studio (1950s), a reborn theater and then a porn palace (’60s), a rock venue (’80s), and, for the last 20 years, an event space for Millennium Hotels.

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After the renovation by the Ambassador Theatre Group of Britain the Hudson is ready to be a showplace again and one of the few new theatres on  Broadway.

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Hokusai’s volcano

At the British Museum, there is an exhibition of the popular paintings by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). There are several images of the Fuji volcano.hokusai_highlight_fuji_1000.jpg

They are symbols of natural power and human vulnerability.  Hokusai’s infatuation with Mount Fuji was much more than an admiration of its beauty. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter told that a goddess placed an elixir of life at the top of the peak, and thus the mountain was a secret source of immortality, as well as a secret reason for Hokusai’ obsession with the mountain.

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This gave him a chance to explore and experiment with its beauty. hokusai_highlight_snowy_1000.jpg

A section through a present-day volcano shows its hidden structure:

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Cross-section through a stratovolcano (vertical scale is exaggerated):

  1. Large magma chamber
  2. Bedrock
  3. Conduit (pipe)
  4. Base
  5. Sill
  6. Dike
  7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano
  8. Flank
  9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano
  10. Throat
  11. Parasitic cone
  12. Lava flow
  13. Vent
  14. Crater
  15. Ash cloud

Long Exposures

Jason Shulman photographs entire movies with ultra-long exposures, creating impressionist photographic images:

Alice in Wonderland 1951 –

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Dr Strangelove 1964 –

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Le Voyage dans la Lune 1902 –

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 –

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The Wizard of Oz 1939 –3543-3.jpg

Book of Miracles

The recently discovered Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs reveals a 16th Century society gripped by anxieties that we can relate to today, The illustrated manuscript is now available, edited by T. Borchert and J.P. Waterman.

Danger! White Light

Between the River Crouch and the River Thames in Essex a footpath leaves the land at a place called Wakering Stairs and heads due east, straight out to sea.

p04p1fl9.jpgSeveral hundred metres offshore it curls northeast and runs in this direction for around 5kms, still offshore, before cutting back to make landfall at Fisherman’s Head, the uppermost tip of a large, low-lying and little-known marshy island called Foulness.

p04p1g0t.jpgThis is the Broomway, allegedly “the deadliest” path in Britain,

p04p1dr7.jpgand certainly the unearthliest path. It gets covered by the tide twice a day and usually these rise and fall more quickly than most human explorers. The Broomway is thought to have killed more than 100 people over the centuries; it seems likely that there were other victims whose fates went unrecorded. Sixty-six of its dead are buried in the little Foulness churchyard; the other bodies were not recovered.

p04p1cj8.jpgEdwardian newspapers, alert to the path’s reputation, rechristened it “The Doomway”.

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The Broomway is known as the most perilous path in Britain – and is a favourite walk of writer Robert Macfarlane, who describes it in his book The Old Ways.

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The path leads towards a white light.

Books Smell

On March 4th the New York Times asked whether books smell the same. The question was inspired by Vladimir Nabokov who wrote:

“Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.”

For many people, the smell of books, in particular, is one of memory’s most powerful messengers, especially as the printed page gives way to the digital.

Over the past year, a Columbia University preservation expert and a curator at the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan have been engaged in an unusual poetic-scientific experiment in the little-visited olfactory wing of history, trying to pin down the powerful connection between smell and memory — in this case, collective memory.

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Jorge Otero-Pailos, director and professor of historic preservation at Columbia University, smells a bookcase in Pierpont Morgan’s study at the Morgan Library & Museum.

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Robert Prather, assistant to Carlos Benaim, master perfumer at International Flavors and Fragrances, preparing fragrance samples
Thousands of molecules will be categorized to determine which of them constitutes the smell profile of objects and surfaces from the Morgan Library.

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Rorschach Tests

Nearly a century after Hermann Rorschach invented his ink blot test, a controversial assessment that he used in psychiatric clinics. Patients gave many different interpretations of the shapes and figures in Rorschach’s blots.

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Now, in the journal Plos One, R. Taylor et al at the University of Oregon, claim to have an answer. They analysed ten Rorschach ink blots and found that the five black and white patterns varied in their fractal complexity. The less complex the fractals in the blots, the more images people tended to see.

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Rorschach’s Blot Seven is shown at the top (a). Note the tell-tale fractal signatures of irregular curves or shapes at the edges of the symmetrical image. Some people see a woman’s head with a ponytail. Below (b) the inkblot has been altered with the fractal borders removed. The ability to see hidden patterns is reduced.

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Fractals are patterns that repeat themselves over different size scales. The most familiar ones appear in nature, in the branching of trees, the edges of clouds, and the contours of coastlines. When the ratio of fine to coarse details is high, scientists say the image has a high fractal complexity.

“Your eyes are amazing pattern detectors, but why are they getting fooled? It’s almost as if they are getting trigger happy, seeing things that aren’t there,” Taylor told The Guardian. His work on fractals began with studies of Jackson Pollock’s spectacular drip paintings