Pulse, the Linnean Society’s newsletter 34, June 2017, has an article entitled Lampblack and Lead, by E. Rollinson.
(H. Bradbury, 1843, 1859)
It tells how G. Cardano gave instructions back in 1550: ‘A fresh leaf is rubbed with verdigris and carbon; soaked in the right amount of colour it is printed on one of two large sheets of paper, so that an almost life-like image remains.’ (De Subtitilitate, Book XIII). Earlier, a physician named Conrad von Butzbach, in his 1425 Codex Auratus, coated paper with oil and used soot from a candle flame to make an impression of a plant specimen.
The Nobel poet Derek Walcott died last month. He wrote about the Caribbean, its harsh legacy of colonialism. In particular, they considered his island of St. Lucia, its opulent vegetation, the white beaches and its tangled multicultural heritages.
His 1962 collection “In a Green Night” included the poem “Islands”:
As climate seeks its style, to write
Verse crisp as sand, clear as sunlight,
Cold as the curled wave, ordinary
As a tumbler of island water.
In 1990, he told The Economist: “The sea is always present. It’s always visible. All the roads lead to it. I consider the sound of the sea to be part of my body. And if you say in patois, ‘The boats are coming back,’ the beat of that line, its metrical space, has to do with the sound and rhythm of the sea itself.”
Walcott was also an accomplished watercolorist and illustrated many of his books:.
His 2004 work, “The Prodigal”, had a distinctly elegiac undercurrent and offered a glimpse of the author’s restless travels to Italy, Colombia, France and Mexico.
“Prodigal, what were your wanderings about?”
“The smoke of homecoming, the smoke of departure.”
“There can be virtues in deprivation.”
“For every poet, it is always morning in the world. History is a forgotten, insomniac night. History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.”
Petrichor is the earthy fragrance produced when rain falls on soil or stone after a long period of warm, dry weather. It comes from the Greek “petra” meaning stone, and “ichor”, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.
Petrichor was named by Australian researchers in 1964, who described it as a combination of plant oils and the chemical compound geosmin which are released from the soil when it rains. Geosmin is a bicyclic alcohol with the formula C12H22O, a derivative of decalin.
It was also romanticised by Shakespeare in a sonnet:
Love comforteth like sunshine after rain,
But Lust’s effect is tempest after sun.
Love’s gentle spring doth always fresh remain;
Lust’s winter comes ere summer half be done.
Love surfeits not, Lust like a glutton dies;
Love is all truth, Lust full of forged lies.
In 2015, scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, used high-speed cameras to show how the smell of rain gets into the air. Raindrops trap tiny air bubbles as they hit the ground. The bubbles then shoot upwards through the raindrop and erupt into a fizz, producing extremely fine liquid droplets that stay suspended in the air as aerosols of scent.
The smell of rain is strongest when light rain falls on sandy or clay soils. The speed of the raindrops during heavy rain makes it harder to trap the air bubbles that produce petrichor. Some scientists believe that humans developed a liking for the smell of rain as our ancestors depended on rainy weather for survival.
The MIT high-speed cameras, below, show raindrops landing and the emergence of petrichor aerosols as tiny white flecks.
A statue of Frederick Engels has been transported from near Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Manchester –
– where it is to be part of a new arts building called Home.
In the 1880s, the Engels family moved to Primrose Hill in London where they shared a social life with their friend nearby, Karl Marx. Gavin McCrea’s recent novel speculates about their life-style.
Some other statues of Engels and Marx survive the political changes in Russia, more than 25 years ago. Both men had been strongly influenced by Newton and Darwin, understanding that motion and change are basic to all life processes.
Motion and change are clearly absent here, except with the red-coated admirer.