Spandrels

The late American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote a lot about passive strategies within evolution. He used the architectural term “spandrel” to refer to a byproduct of adaptation that is not necessarily adaptive in itself.

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Spandrel characters appear subsequently as co-opted by-products. An example is in the extinct Irish Elk. It had a hump at its shoulders, seen in cave-paintings and interpreted from fossils. The hump had no known function, like the vestigial appendix –

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Also in Ireland many bare walls of houses are used for political paintings. Such space assumes the character of a spandrel.

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It is an art-form that has evolved its own genre:

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Cool Canada

Most of Canada is covered with Boreal Forest, a mix of conifers such as pine, larch and spruce. To its south there is temperate forest and to its north there is ice and frozen swamp or taiga.

map-provinces-sidebar BSI-logo  30Weidensaul-blog427 Conservation groups are active throughout Canada and some are as much concerned with culture and art as with the hard objective and testable facts.

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Scott Weidensaul’s recent history of this territory – The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America – traces 250 years of history through poignant personal stories.  There is a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century warfare; a mixed-blood interpreter on the Pennsylvania frontier trying to straddle his white and Native heritage; Indian slave-hunters who turned on their colonial partners when they themselves feared enslavement; and a Puritan woman whose bloody acts with a scalping knife remain deeply divisive even today.

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Greek Catastrophe

Greece is used to being the site of catastrophic events.

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These maps show its underlying fault lines (above left) and geologically recent earthquake epicentres (above right). They are associated with the proximity of a major boundary between two tectonic plates, The North Africa plate is moving north. Along the southern line of the faults and earthquakes it moves underneath the more northerly Eurasian or Balkan plate.

Greeks have learnt to live through these shocking episodes through centuries, both on land and at sea.

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………………………………………………………………………………………fresco of a fisherman, Akrotiri

Value

Art and science attract very different financial value, if the sums being achieved at auction sales are anything to go by. Recently, Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers was sold for $179,000,000. 150325114132-picasso-780x439  th-1 At a forthcoming auction of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Bonham’s, a preprint of Watson and Crick’s 25th April 1953 article in Nature, Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids is estimated to be worth £3,000 to £5,000. Estimates of the value of other items in this sale are: Carl Linnaeus 1737 Hortus Cliffortianus £1,500 – £2,000 Isaac Newton 1687 Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica £60,000 – £80,000 250px-Sir_Isaac_Newton_(1643-1727)    200px-Manchester_John_Rylands_Library_Isaac_Newton_16-10-2009_13-54-26 Charles Dickens Great Expectations £1,000 – £1,500 220px-Charles_Dickens_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_13103  220px-Breakhisheart 220px-Pip-magwitch

The Bolt

An exhibition at the Gallery for Russian Art and Design, Little Portland Street, London, recalls a ballet, The Bolt, performed just once in Soviet Moscow in 1931 before being banned.

 

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The plot was by Victor Lopukhov – a factory worker plans to throw a bolt into the new machinery but is challenged and stopped by his more faithful colleagues.  The ballet was choreographed by Fyodor Lopukhov, music was by Shostakovich and designs by Tatiana Bruni.

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The political trials in Soviet Russia of the 1930s made the ballet very topical. On one hand it had creative fervour, experimental spirit and enterprise. One the other it encouraged originality that could threaten the new political theory. Lopukhov wrote: “Comrade Smirnov has read me the libretto. Its theme is extremely relevant. There once was a machine. Then it broke down (problem of material decay). Then it was mended (problem of revitalisation) and at the same time they bought a new one. Then everybody dances around the new machine. Apotheosis.”

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Britain Burns US Capital

Two hundred years ago this week British troops torched and looted the US White House in one of the final episodes of the War of 1812.

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Unfortunately, the British scientific experiment to blockade the United States failed.

More happily, the United States experiment to take Toronto from the British also failed.

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British troops collected souvenirs from their fire, including portraits of the monarch King George III and Queen Charlotte, which they took to the safety of Bermuda.

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Strangely, the Americans have no interest in reclaiming the pictures. But the White House still shows scars from the fire, due to the reluctance to redecorate one of the doorways.

888,246 poppies

One of the victims of the Battle at Flanders made a will that used the poppy flower to symbolise:

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“The blood-swept lands and seas of red

Where angels fear to tread”.

A century later, 888,246 ceramic poppies will be planted in the moat at the Tower of London. That is one poppy for every British and Colonial death.

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It is the idea of artist Paul Cummins who designed the memorial. _76733274_76732852