Irish Sun

The 17th-century Beaulieu House in Co Louth is one of the first country houses built in Ireland without fortification. Now it’s the site of Ireland’s first solar farm. The estate’s first owner was the Plunkett family and in 1666 Sir Henry Tichborne was granted a patent by Charles II.

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The present house was designed by Dutch artist Willem van der Hagen, who settled in Ireland in the 1720s.

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K. O’Sullivan reports in The Irish Times that the present owner is installing 20,000 solar panels, a five-megawatt, fixed-array solar farm spread across 23 acres that can generate enough electricity to power 1,500 homes a year.

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Photovoltaic cells are becoming more efficient in such applications.

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Queer Monster

Nineteenth Century ideas of evolution and development form the basis of many artistic fantasies. This year’s video work by Alex Da Corte is called “Slow Graffiti” and mixes many of them: psychological, embryological and hierarchical.frankenstein-slide-LRLJ-master768.jpg

It seems to be far from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein fantasy. Mary Shelley’s monstrous allegory is approaching its 200th birthday and the story remains darkly resonant with artists and scientists alike.

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When you’re gay and grow up feeling like a hideous misfit, fully conscious that some believe your desires to be wicked and want to kill you for them, identifying with the Monster is hardly difficult.

But for the original Monster, being scary is always coupled with being sad. This melancholy is captured in Da Corte’s new film “Slow Graffiti,” which premiered in Vienna this summer. 

Da Corte recaptures the fact that the Monster’s rage lies in his anger from being abandoned and isolated. He is heartbroken. The video is an experiment in empathy for the supposedly unlovable, continuing the queer tradition of sympathy for the Monster: “Man will not associate with me.” Da Corte’s video fixates on odd dislocations of intimacy.

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We-Heart.com magazine says that the show is ‘A riot of ‘perfect’ pop culture references, Da Corte’s installation sees a video screened every 20 minutes in a seating area — a shot-for-shot remake of Jørgen Leth’s 1967 short The Perfect Human (1967), featuring the artist masked as Boris Karloff and Frankenstein’s monster set to a score by Devonté Hynes; lending an unease to the artist’s disjointed wasteland of Instagrammable aesthetic. The contemporary desire for perfection … we’ve created a monster.’

Tenners

The Bank of England £10 note has a new design and security feature.

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Jane Austen replaces Charles Darwin. Charles Dickens was of an earlier generation.

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The notes are made of Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene (BOPP), a non-fibrous and non-porous polymer that is processed through the following steps:

  • Opacifying – two layers of ink (usually opaque white) are applied to each side of the note, except for any areas deliberately left clear;
  • Sheeting – polymer substrate roll is cut into sheets to suit a flatsheet printing press;
  • Printing – traditional offset, intaglio and letterpress processes are used; and
  • Overcoating – notes are coated with a protective varnish.

Compared with paper banknotes, those made using BOPP are harder to tear, more resistant to folding, more resistant to soil and are waterproof.

Unreal Colour

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An American photographer, Peter Turner, has died aged 83. Pete created spectacular images, some for the covers of record albums. His saturated colours often altered reality and confused observers on his global assignments.

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‘Bloomsbury Scientists’

This is the 300th blog at scienceandartblog.com, a series of ideas that I began over three years ago. And I’m pleased that this one is to announce the publication today of the book that I’ve been writing through those same three years.

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Bloomsbury Scientists: science and art in the wake of Darwin is published by UCL Press and is available through their website as well as amazon.co.uk ,  blackwells.co.uk  , and bookshops. It is free as an e-book, £15.00 paperback and £30 hardback.

Here are portraits of some of the characters in my story. To confirm their identity you have to read the book.

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On September 7th Nature magazine said the book: ‘paints a group picture of biologist energised by Darwinism, including Ray Lankester and Marie Stopes, rubbing shoulders with cross-disciplinary intellects such as Roger Fry and H.G. Wells. Although marred by the intrusion of eugenics, this heady era saw the rise of fields from ecology to genetics.’

Transport de Ervas Aromaticas (TEA)

In 1662 Catherine of Braganza (daughter of Portugal’s King John IV) married King Charles II. Her dowry included money, spices, treasures and the lucrative ports of Tangiers and Bombay. From there, she began to drink the loose-leaf tea, known then as Transporte de Ervas Aromaticas, or T.E.A.

Upon marrying England’s King Charles II, Portugal’s Catherine of Braganza carried on sipping tea as part of her daily routine (Credit: Credit: DEA/G. DAGLI ORTI/Getty Images)

 (Credit: DEA/G. DAGLI ORTI/Getty Images)

 

When Catherine arrived in England, tea was being consumed there only as a medicine to invigorate the body and keep the spleen free of obstructions. But the young queen extended that habit and made it popular as a social beverage as well as a health tonic. The poet Edmund Waller wrote to her shortly after her arrival in London with a poem that linked the queen and Portugal with the fashionable status of tea in England.

“The best of Queens, and best of herbs, we owe
To that bold nation, which the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
Whose rich productions we so justly prize.”

Ladies flocked to be part of Catherine’s circle, quickly copying her tea-drinking habit (Credit: Credit: Culture Club/Getty Images)

Tea was very expensive because it came from China and it was taxed very heavily,

Because England had no direct trade with China, tea was an expensive commodity (Credit: Credit: Blake Kent/Design Pics/Getty Images)

 

and only the most rich members of society could afford it. So tea became associated with elite women’s sociability around the royal court.

When the leaves of tea plants are dried, flavonoid-type polyphenols remain. It is these that produce the characteristic colour and taste.

 

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The tea polyphenols have been reported in various research to exhibit antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have been touted as having a range of health benefits, but the scientific evidence for these is still a little vague in parts. Studies have shown that antioxidants can protect cells from damage as a result of free radicals – molecules with an unpaired electron – but the results of some longer term trials have been inconclusive as to their efficacy, particularly in cancer treatments.

Crying

 

In July 2017’s journal ACS Chemical Biology, M Golczak and J Silvaroli show what happens when you cut an onion.

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A so-called Lachrymatory Factor (LF) is formed by the release of two chemicals that are released by the cutting of cell walls. One is a sulfenic acid precursor. The other is an enzyme called alliinase which is normally contained within the cells’ vacuoles. Upon release the two react to form something like tear gas.

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garlic, an alliinase enzyme acts on the chemical alliin converting it into allicin. The process involves two stages: elimination of 2-propenesulfenic acid from the amino acid unit (with α-aminoacrylic acid as a byproduct), and then condensation of two of the sulfenic acid molecules.

Reaction scheme for the conversion: cysteine → alliin → allicin

There are a range of similar enzymes that can react with the cysteine-derived sulfoxides present in different species. In onions, an isomer of alliin, isoalliin, is converted to 1-propenesulfenic acid. A separate enzyme, the lachrymatory factor synthase or LFS, then converts this chemical to a potent LF.

But none of this mattered to Roy Orbison

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