Friday, August 24, 2012


Junglefowl are the four living species of bird from the genus Gallus in the Gallinaceous bird order, which occur in India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Indonesia.

These are large birds, with colourful male plumage, but are nevertheless difficult to see in the dense vegetation they inhabit.

As with many birds in the pheasant family, the male takes no part in the incubation of the egg or rearing of the precocial young. These duties are performed by the drab and well-camouflaged female.
The junglefowl are seed-eaters, but insects are also taken, particularly by the young birds.

One of the species in this genus, the Red Junglefowl, is of historical importance as the likely ancestor of the domesticated chicken, although it has been suggested the Grey Junglefowl was also involved.

The Sri Lanka Junglefowl is the National Bird of Sri Lanka.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Platonic Solids

In Euclidean geometry, a Platonic solid is a regular, convex polyhedron. The faces are congruent, regular polygons, with the same number of faces meeting at each vertex.  There are five Platonic solids; their names are derived from their numbers of faces.

The aesthetic beauty and symmetry of the Platonic solids have made them a favorite subject of geometers for thousands of years. They are named for the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who theorized that the classical elements were constructed from the regular solids.

The Platonic solids have been known since antiquity. Ornamented models of them can be found among the carved stone balls created by the late neolithic people of Scotland at least 1000 years before Plato.

The ancient Greeks studied the Platonic solids extensively. Some sources (such as Proclus) credit Pythagoras with their discovery. Other evidence suggests he may have only been familiar with the tetrahedron, cube, and dodecahedron, and that the discovery of the octahedron and icosahedron belong to Theaetetus, a contemporary of Plato.

Euclid gave a complete mathematical description of the Platonic solids in the Elements, the last book (Book XIII) of which is devoted to their properties. Propositions 13–17 in Book XIII describe the construction of the tetrahedron, octahedron, cube, icosahedron, and dodecahedron in that order. For each solid Euclid finds the ratio of the diameter of the circumscribed sphere to the edge length. In Proposition 18 he argues that there are no further convex regular polyhedra. Much of the information in Book XIII is probably derived from the work of Theaetetus.

In the 16th century, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler attempted to find a relation between the five extraterrestrial planets known at that time and the five Platonic solids. In Mysterium Cosmographicum, published in 1596, Kepler laid out a model of the solar system in which the five solids were set inside one another and separated by a series of inscribed and circumscribed spheres. Kepler proposed that the distance relationships between the six planets known at that time could be understood in terms of the five Platonic solids, enclosed within a sphere that represented the orbit of Saturn. The six spheres each corresponded to one of the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). The solids were ordered with the innermost being the octahedron, followed by the icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, and finally the cube. In this way the structure of the solar system and the distance relationships between the planets was dictated by the Platonic solids. In the end, Kepler's original idea had to be abandoned, but out of his research came his three laws of orbital dynamics, the first of which was that the orbits of planets are ellipses rather than circles, changing the course of physics and astronomy. He also discovered the Kepler solids.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry (ephemeral) riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.

Modern English usage differentiates a wadi from another canyon or wash by the action and prevalence of water. Wadis, as drainage courses, are formed by water, but are distinguished from river valleys or gullies in that surface water is intermittent or ephemeral. Wadis, cut by stream in a desert environment, generally are dry year round except after a rain. The desert environment is characterized by a sudden but infrequent heavy rainfall often resulting in flash floods. Crossing wadis at certain times of the year can be dangerous because of unexpected flash floods. Such flash floods cause several deaths each year in North America and many Middle Eastern countries.

Wadis tend to be associated with centers of human population because sub-surface water is sometimes available in them. Nomadic and pastoral desert peoples will rely on seasonal vegetation found in wadis, even in regions as dry as the Sahara, as they travel in complex transhumance routes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Blowup, or Blow-Up, is a 1966 film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni about a photographer, played by David Hemmings, who believes he may have witnessed a murder and unwittingly taken photographs of the killing. It was Antonioni's first English-language film.

The film also stars Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, John Castle, Jane Birkin, Tsai Chin and Gillian Hills as well as sixties model Veruschka. The screenplay was written by Antonioni and Tonino Guerra, with English dialogue by British playwright Edward Bond. The film was produced by Carlo Ponti, who had contracted Antonioni to make three English-language films for MGM (the others were Zabriskie Point and The Passenger).

The plot was inspired by Julio Cortázar's short story, "Las babas del diablo" or "The Devil's Drool" (1959), translated also as Blow-Up, and by the life of Swinging London photographer David Bailey. The film was scored by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, although the music is diegetic, as Hancock noted: "It's only there when someone turns on the radio or puts on a record." Nominated for several awards at the Cannes Film Festival, Blowup won the Grand Prix.

The American release of the film with its explicit content (by contemporary standards) by a major Hollywood studio was in direct defiance of the Production Code. Its subsequent outstanding critical and box office success proved to be one of the final events that led the code to be finally abandoned in 1968 in favor of the MPAA film rating system.

Friday, August 10, 2012


A cockatrice is a legendary creature, essentially a two-legged dragon with a rooster's head. "An ornament in the drama and poetry of the Elizabethans", Laurence Breiner described it. It featured prominently in English thought and myth for centuries.
The cockatrice was first described in its current form in the late twelfth century. The Oxford English Dictionary gives a derivation from Old French cocatris, from medieval Latin calcatrix, a translation of the Greek ichneumon, meaning tracker.
According to Alexander Neckam's De naturis rerum (ca 1180), the cockatrice was supposed to be born from an egg laid by a cock and incubated by a toad; a snake might be substituted in re-tellings.
It is thought that a Cock egg would birth a cockatrice, and could be prevented by tossing the yolkless egg over the family house, landing on the other side of the house, without allowing the egg to hit the house.

Its reputed magical abilities include turning people to stone or killing them by either looking at them—"the death-darting eye of Cockatrice"—touching them, or sometimes breathing on them.
It was repeated in the late-medieval bestiaries that the weasel is the only animal that is immune to the glance of a cockatrice. It was also thought that a cockatrice would die instantly upon hearing a rooster crow, and according to legend, having a cockatrice look itself in a mirror is one of the few sure-fire ways to kill it.
Like the head of Medusa, the cockatrice's powers of petrification were thought still active after death.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Christmas Frigatebird

The Christmas Frigatebird or Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) is a frigatebird endemic to the Christmas Islands in the Indian Ocean. Like other frigatebirds, this species does not walk or swim, but is a very aerial bird which obtains its food by picking up live prey items from beaches or the water surface, and the aerial piracy of other birds.
It is estimated that the population of this species will decline by 80 percent in the next 30 years due to predation of the young by the introduced yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes), which has devastated the wildlife of the island, and has also killed 10–20 million Christmas Island red crabs.
The adult male of this species is easily identified, since it is all black except for a white belly patch. Other plumages resemble those of the smaller Lesser Frigatebird, but have whiter bellies and longer white underwing spurs.
The binomial of this bird commemorates the British palaeontologist Charles William Andrews.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Ham is a cut of meat from the thigh of the hind leg of an animal, especially pigs. Nearly all hams sold today are fully cooked or cured.
Ham is uncooked preserved pork. It is cured (a preservation process) usually in large quantities of salt and sugar. Then the ham is hot smoked (hung over a hot, smokey fire but out of direct heat) to preserve it more. This process keeps the pink hue of the uncooked meat. Standard pork, like chops, are raw and unpreserved. When heat is applied to the meat a chemical reaction happens that turns the hemoglobin white. This also happens when an acid is applied to meats.
The pink color of ham develops in the curing process which involves salt and usually either nitrites or nitrates. The nitrate cure is used for product that will either be kept a long time or at room temperature like dry salami. Most hams are cured with nitrite and salt today.
The cure prevents the growth of unhealthy or deadly bacteria before enough moisture is withdrawn by the salt. This is particularly important if the product is to be smoked above 40F when these bacteria grow. The "danger zone" for uncured product is between 40F and 140F.
There is confusion in the words curing and brining. Brining is done with salt and usually sugar and only alters the product color a little. Curing is done with salt and nitrates.
Sodium nitrite is used for the curing of meat because it prevents bacterial growth and, in a reaction with the meat's myoglobin, gives the product a desirable dark red color. Because of the toxicity of nitrite (the lethal dose of nitrite for humans is about 22 mg per kg body weight), the maximum allowed nitrite concentration in meat products is 200 ppm. Under certain conditions, especially during cooking, nitrites in meat can react with degradation products of amino acids, forming nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens.