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Chemical Heritage

This aluminum necklace was on display at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in 2010. A description of the exhibit is still available in a mostly image-free post about Atomic Age jewelry. Peruse additional wonders from the Chemistry and Fashion: Making Modernity exhibit.

No Moore Chemical Heritage

Sadly, CHF was absorbed by the Science History Institute in 2018. The collections can still be viewed in person, at the former location of the CHF Museum on 315 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can still read about the illustrious past of the Chemical Heritage Foundation here. I have (mostly) found new source links for the in line URLs below.

nterested in the legacy of Gordon E. Moore and his famous observation about the growth of technology? Read the original publication that introduced Moore’s Law, Understanding Moore’s Law: Four Decades of Innovation, that includes the original article written by Moore in 1966, and observations by Moore and others in 2006 when the book was published by (the now defunct) Chemical Heritage Foundation Press, to commemorate 40 years of Moore’s law. The Science History Institute kindly keeps an electronic version of the full text (PDF) available for online readers.

IgNoble to Nobel pipeline?

I first wrote this post in 2010. Andre Geim won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. (Geim is actually a chemist, not a physicist, thus the relevancy here, if one wishes to be fussy; I do.) In the span of ten years, Geim went from winning an IgNoble prize for levitating frogs with magnets to the Nobel Prize for introduction of an extraordinary carbonate, graphene.

During the 2000 IgNoble Prize ceremony, Harvard physics researcher and teacher Roy Glauber was present on the stage with Geim, as a long-time member of the IgNoble committee. Just a few years later, Glauber won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics! It is hardly enough to establish any sort of trend or correlation, but if this sort of overlap continues to occur, it might be something to look into.

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Ode to Joy

 I am very fond of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, (from the Ninth Symphony) both instrumental and choral versions. My father played it often on Deutsche Grammaphon Gesellschaft cassette tapes. I played some appalling adaptations that were probably a travesty of the original, arranged for solo beginner flutists (flautists?) too. 
I finally read a translation of the German chorus on YouTube a few years ago, and was stunned by the catholic, ecumenical words. (There was no mention of Jesus, which tends to put me off of a lot of traditional religious music. When Jesus is mentioned, it just reminds me how the music isn’t intended for me, if you know what I mean). As a result, I have grown even fonder of Ode to Joy, and often sing along. That is probably an even worse travesty…


A few days ago, there was a new question on Musical Practice & Performance StackExchange, about stage position of choral soloists, particularly for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (a lengthy work written for Roman Catholic Mass) which made me think of Ode to Joy last night. I don’t know the answer to the Music StackExchange question. Yet I found a pleasant entry on the subject from National Public Radio online, from nearly six years ago. The following is a summary of the key points, along with my own asides, of course. At the end there is an NPR recording of 50 seconds of Ode to Joy.

* Verbatim excerpts are quoted in green font with grey shaded background, the rest is mine.


Transcript ‘Missa Solemnis: A Divine Bit of Beethoven’, NPR (12 February 2006)  


Beethoven was nominally Catholic but did not attend church regularly.
God, however, interested Beethoven a lot. Beethoven read books about Eastern religions and revelations of the divine and of nature. He was particularly fond of, and often quoted to friends, this phrase of Emanuel Kant:The starry skies above and the moral law beneath. Beethoven also evoked the divine with three aphorisms which he said were from ancient Egypt. 
I was thinking that the first sounded somewhat like something Donald Rumsfield said. These were the sayings:

  1. I am that which is. 
  2. I am all that is, that was and that will be. 
  3. No mortal man has lifted my veil. He is solely found, himself, in all things owe their being to him alone. 

I can’t figure out the meaning of the third. It has lost something in transcription or translation, probably.
The most surprising thing in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is the last movement... That culminating section of the Roman Catholic Mass is a prayer for peace. The last words arearedona nobis pacem ... (give us peace) 
The God that Beethoven intimates in the Missa Solemnis is not strictly Roman Catholic nor even Christian. Rather, He is pantheistic and all-encompassing, yet not tangibly present in our physical world.

Divinity is beyond, in the stars. Humanity is here on Earth. 

NPR offers a brief recording from Missa Solemnis‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ from Agnus Dei, which I found rather nerve wracking and over-wrought. But the link is there, for those who may be interested.
Beethoven's mighty Missa Solemnis comes down to an unanswered prayer. Whether God has heard us, we don't know, but we do know that in the distance the drums of war are still beating.  Did Beethoven ever provide an answer to this unprecedented open ending? I believe he did. His answer is the Ninth Symphony. The famous choral finale of the Ninth Symphony is based on Schiller's Ode to Joy, written at a time of revolution.

Those words and Beethoven’s music, call for humankind to bow to the Creator regarding the heavenly, the celestial. 
For answers, turn to one another.

In the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven proclaims that as comrades, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, we can unite to celebrate Joy, the beautiful daughter of Elysium. And that the path to peace is bestowed not from above but from within us and among us in universal brotherhood here on Earth. Man, help yourself. 

That was Beethoven’s reply to the unanswered prayer of the Missa Solemnis

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Medical Arts

Clinical Cases and Images posted an article about Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary of Medical Terms (online edition) in 2008. It remains an excellent reference source, useful for medical terms and for general interest topics.

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The Tree of Life

This is a beautiful hand-woven silk carpet. Solveigh told me that it represents the Tree of Life.

Mrs. Solveigh Calderin is a nice Scandinavian woman I met on the Internet. She seems to know a lot about fine wool rugs and carpets. I found the image (above) on her website the other day.

This is NOT a sponsored endorsement! The Tree of Life is, well, it is symbolic of everything. While highlighting the good. It has been on my mind recently, as Rosh Hashanah was a few weeks (okay, months) ago.

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Beauty of the Sea

Via an article by G.W. Bowersock in the New York Review of Books.

Details of the exhibit are available directly from the Met, including a video about the discovery of the mosaic and a feature story, published by metmuseum dot org on 23 September 2010.

via romanhistorybooks.typepad.com

This is a spectacular Roman mosaic, now on exhibit for those within hailing distance of Manhattan and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love mosaic art, modern and ancient. The image above is one small part of a larger collection found in Lod, Israel in 1996. It was created in 300 A.D.

I’m certain that I’ve seen this mosaic in classics texts. While the discovery may not be recent, the traveling exhibit is. It will be open through 3 April 2011.

Footnote: Does the mosaic image seem crooked to you? Perhaps it is a figment of my imagination (or astigmatism). Could it be due to parallax effect when the image was clipped and/or cropped?

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The Hydraulis

The hydraulis or water organ is said to have been invented by Ctesibius in the 3rd century BC.

In Ctesibius’s version, water was used to regulate the flow of air through pipes to produce music from a keyboard, but as time went by the use of bellows became as popular as water. Both versions of the instrument died out in the West after the fall of the Western Empire, but survived in the East.

via romanhistorybooks.typepad.com

The hydraulis, or hydraulos (romanhistorybooks seems to use both spellings) is an appealing concept. It evokes thoughts of water with a sense of musicality. It reminds me of Archimedes’ Water Clock also. I wish there were a mosaic depicting that! But Archimedes hailed from Ancient Greece, probably predating the Roman mosaics such as this one by at least 400 years. I could find out definitively from a Google search in less than five minutes.

However, the answer, and further details about the Water Clock, with (modern) images, is ample subject matter for a full-blown post all of its own. I will try to remember to follow up on that.

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Hermes’ Tree

Found in Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages…via BLACK TO THE BLIND, “Who Would Know the Answers If Given?” Read More

This is a wonderful find! Hermes stands at the boundary between the sun and the crescent moon, psychopomp that he is. I would far rather have him escort me from this world to the next than that grumpy old ferryman Charon. Hermes (or Mercury, as the Romans knew him) is wearing his winged sandals and helmet, and holds his sigil. The caduceus is by his side. Is that also one of his symbols? It would be fitting, if he were the gatekeeper at the portal between life and death, the womb and birth.