Richard Carter's meta feed http://richardcarter.com A merged feed of posts from all of Richard Carter's blogs. en-gb Richard Carter Water-slide!! http://gruts.com/water-slide/ http://gruts.com/water-slide/ Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:40:48 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Short video of a reservoir overspill.

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Missing matter http://gruts.com/missing-matter/ http://gruts.com/missing-matter/ Mon, 09 Oct 2017 19:36:43 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) The missing links between galaxies have finally been found.

New Scientist: Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found

The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

It had slipped down the back of the sofa, apparently.

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Carolyn texts http://gruts.com/carolyn-texts-20171005/ http://gruts.com/carolyn-texts-20171005/ Fri, 06 Oct 2017 22:56:11 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Fancy going to a circus teacher on Thursday?

I don't suppose you fancy going to a circus teacher in our little dance studio on Thursday evening? Juggling, diablo, balance board, stilts, unicycle ..... I'll go with you! x

(I reluctantly declined.)

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Feedback sought: Potential covers for my book http://richardcarter.com/notebook/feedback-book-covers/ http://richardcarter.com/notebook/feedback-book-covers/ Mon, 02 Oct 2017 13:07:23 +0100 Richard Carter (Notebook – Richard Carter) I’ve been experimenting with some different cover designs for my book ‘On the Moor: Science, History and Nature on a Country Walk’, and would be interested in receiving any feedback you might have.

I’m currently working towards self-publishing my book On the Moor: Science, History and Nature on a Country Walk as both a traditional paperback and an ebook. Please make sure you’ve subscribed to my newsletter, if you’d like to know when the book comes out:

[contact-form-7]

I’ve been experimenting with some different cover designs for On the Moor. I’d be interested in hearing any feedback you might have. The advice from Amazon is to use big text on the cover, so it can still be read when reduced to a minuscule thumbnail image in their store.

I don’t consider any of these potential covers to be finished yet, but I’ll be very interested to hear what you think. In particular, which, if any, of these covers might tempt you to take a peek inside the book to find out more?

Sample cover 1
Cover 1
On the Moor sample cover 2
Cover 2
On the Moor sample cover 3
Cover 3
On the Moor sample cover 4
Cover 4
On the Moor sample cover 5
Cover 5

Please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments below, or you can email me, or post comments on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks.

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Vive l’empire! http://gruts.com/vive-lempire/ http://gruts.com/vive-lempire/ Sun, 01 Oct 2017 00:56:52 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Things are going to be so much better when we (finally) ditch the so-called ‘EU’ and start dealing with our former colonies. Things are going to be so much better when we (finally) ditch the so-called ‘EU’ and start dealing with our former colonies:

BBC: Commonwealth Games 2022: Birmingham only bidder for event
Birmingham was the only city to submit a bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games before Saturday's deadline, the Commonwealth Games Federation says. Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Victoria in Canada and a potential Australian entry had been thought to be possible bidders but none came forward.

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Cosmological conversation with my dad http://friendsofdarwin.com/cosmological-conversation/ http://friendsofdarwin.com/cosmological-conversation/ Wed, 27 Sep 2017 23:05:39 +0100 Richard Carter, FCD (friendsofdarwin.com) (Friends of Charles Darwin - combined feed (blog posts, articles, and reviews).) How far away is the sun? Dad: How far away is the sun?
Me: A little over eight light minutes.
Dad: I meant in miles.
Me: Well, light travels at about 186,282.397 miles per second, so the distance to the sun would be a little over 186,282.397 × 60 × 8 miles.
Dad: I don’t think I’ve ever told you this before, but… Piss off!

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Cosmological conversation with my dad http://gruts.com/cosmological-conversation/ http://gruts.com/cosmological-conversation/ Wed, 27 Sep 2017 22:59:42 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Re. the distance to the sun. Dad: How far away is the sun?
Me: A little over eight light minutes.
Dad: I meant in miles.
Me: Well, light travels at about 186,282.397 miles per second, so the distance to the sun would be a little over 186,282.397 × 60 × 8 miles.
Dad: I don’t think I’ve ever told you this before, but… Piss off!

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End of an era http://friendsofdarwin.com/end-of-an-era/ http://friendsofdarwin.com/end-of-an-era/ Wed, 27 Sep 2017 16:20:52 +0100 Richard Carter, FCD (friendsofdarwin.com) (Friends of Charles Darwin - combined feed (blog posts, articles, and reviews).) This morning, I went to the cash point for some money, only to be presented with a wad of brand new £10 notes featuring Jane Austen instead of Charles Darwin. It was bound to happen eventually.

This morning, I went to the cash point for some money, only to be presented with a wad of brand new £10 notes featuring Jane Austen instead of Charles Darwin. It’s the end of a magnificent era.

Austen tenners

Some Jane Austen tenners (and a Charles Darwin tenner) this morning.

Call it sour grapes, if you like, but I’m unimpressed by the new notes. I was always going to be. Replacing Darwin could be nothing but a huge step backwards, as far as I was concerned. But the new, plastic tenners are way too Austentatious for my taste. I understand and support the calls for more women on bank notes, but couldn’t we have had the Brontë sisters instead? Three women for the price of one, who would also plug another outrageous gap of there being no people from the North of England on our bank notes.

Still, the Darwin tenner had an excellent run, and I’m pleased to report I still have several pristine notes tucked safely away inside one of the many Darwin biographies on my study bookshelves.

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Book review: ‘The Panda’s Thumb’ by Stephen Jay Gould http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/gould-pandas/ http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/gould-pandas/ Sun, 24 Sep 2017 16:00:33 +0100 Richard Carter, FCD (friendsofdarwin.com) (Friends of Charles Darwin - combined feed (blog posts, articles, and reviews).) More Reflections in Natural History.

More Reflections in Natural History.

The Panda’s ThumbThe second of Stephen Jay Gould’s long-running series of popular science essay collections that first appeared in his monthly column in Natural History magazine, The Panda’s Thumb covers topics including:

  • how imperfections in organisms’ demonstrate their evolutionary history;
  • Charles Darwin and his theories;
  • human evolution;
  • science and politics;
  • the rate at which evolution occurs;
  • early life;
  • how Nature’s ‘rejects’ were anything but;
  • how animals’ life-spans (and other attributes) are affected by their size.

As with all of Gould’s essay collections, this is a fantastic book.

Highly recommended.

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Book review: ‘Ever Since Darwin’ by Stephen Jay Gould http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/gould-ever/ http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/gould-ever/ Sun, 24 Sep 2017 15:58:50 +0100 Richard Carter, FCD (friendsofdarwin.com) (Friends of Charles Darwin - combined feed (blog posts, articles, and reviews).) Reflections in Natural History.

Reflections in Natural History.

Ever Since DarwinThe first of Stephen Jay Gould’s long-running series of popular science essay collections that first appeared in his monthly column in Natural History magazine, Ever Since Darwin covers topics including:

  • Charles Darwin;
  • human evolution;
  • evolutionary oddities;
  • recurring patterns in evolutionary history;
  • theories of the earth;
  • how organisms’ (and other structures’) shapes change with size;
  • the social and political impact of scientific theories.

As with all of Gould’s essay collections, this is a fantastic book.

Highly recommended.

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Book review: ‘Humanism’ by Stephen Law http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/law-humanism/ http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/law-humanism/ Sun, 24 Sep 2017 15:49:41 +0100 Richard Carter, FCD (friendsofdarwin.com) (Friends of Charles Darwin - combined feed (blog posts, articles, and reviews).) A very short introduction.

A very short introduction.

Humanism: a very short introductionHaving gradually begun to calm down after a couple of days’ impotent rage at the result of the EU Referendum, I turned to this short book on humanism in an attempt to restore some of my faith in humanity. I was seeking reassurance that people, as individuals, still mostly try to do the right thing, given the information available to them. That, as human beings, we really should all try to be on the same side. And that, cynicism aside, we are still capable in embracing big ideas while, it is to be hoped, rejecting unsubstantiated nonsense.

I’ve always avoided describing myself as a humanist. Partly because the word seems to mean different things to different people; partly because I don’t like labels, and I’m not really a joiner; and partly because, if I’m honest, I’ve always found the word a bit cringeworthy (an entirely unreasonable reservation, I accept, but a reservation nevertheless).

The philosopher Stephen Law gets this short guide off to an excellent start with a brief introductory chapter entitled What is humanism? Here, while acknowledging that the word ‘humanism’ means different things to different people, he identifies seven minimum characteristics that most humanists would agree unites them philosophically. In subsequent chapters, Law goes on to describe how these characteristics influence humanist views on morality, secularism, education, and the meaning of life. All of which, as you should expect, are explained very rationally.

Less interesting to me were the back-to-back chapters entitled Arguments for the existence of God, and An argument against the existence of God. While ‘atheist’ is one of the few labels I am happy to embrace, it seemed to me that these chapters deflected somewhat from the central topic of the book, and would have been better placed in an introduction to theism or atheism.

This minor criticism aside, I enjoyed this book very much indeed, and emerged from it considerably calmer, feeling better disposed to my fellow human beings, and reluctantly accepting that the label ‘humanist’ might, after all, apply to me.

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What I did on my holidays http://richardcarter.com/notebook/holiday-timelapse/ http://richardcarter.com/notebook/holiday-timelapse/ Mon, 18 Sep 2017 09:27:09 +0100 Richard Carter (Notebook – Richard Carter) An Anglesey timelapse video.

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What I did on my holidays http://gruts.com/holiday-timelapse/ http://gruts.com/holiday-timelapse/ Mon, 18 Sep 2017 09:18:43 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) A timelapse video.

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Hey, Brian! http://gruts.com/hey-brian/ http://gruts.com/hey-brian/ Wed, 23 Aug 2017 07:17:27 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Twitter hilarity.

FOR SALE. Postcard of Fred Dinenage. Would suit someone called Brian who needs some luck. pic.twitter.com/PPfi1JXCT7

— Marcus Payne (@nowtro) August 22, 2017

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Book review: ‘Improbable Destinies’ by Jonathan Losos http://richardcarter.com/reviews/improbable-destinies-jonathan-losos/ http://richardcarter.com/reviews/improbable-destinies-jonathan-losos/ Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:27:17 +0100 Richard Carter (Reviews – Richard Carter) How predictable is evolution? Improbable DestiniesThe late Stephen Jay Gould more than once observed that, were it possible to roll back time and re-run evolutionary history, we would most likely end up with very different results. Minor differences in circumstances can lead to very different evolutionary pathways.

Others, most notably Simon Conway Morris, hold that evolution is far more predictable than Gould would have had us believe. As evidence, they cite the interesting phenomenon of convergent evolution, where different species evolve strikingly similar features in similar circumstances. A classic example is the similar body shapes of dolphins, sharks, ichthyosaurs, and (at more of a stretch) penguins: these predators’ ‘designs’ enable them to move quickly under water. If mammals, fish, ichthyosaurs, and birds evolved such similar shapes for moving at speed in the same environment, the argument goes, evolution must, to some extent, be predictable.

Those who maintain that evolution is more predictable than we might suppose sometimes go so far as to claim that upright, bipedal, intelligent life was almost inevitable on Earth. Had it not been for that pesky asteroid, they say, the world would now, quite possibly, be being ruled by dinosaurian, rather than mammalian, humanoids. This despite the fact that, as far as we know, upright, bipedal, intelligent dinosaurs failed to evolve in the 180-million years that dinosaurs actually did rule the earth.

Jonathon Losos's interesting book sets out to explore both the phenomenon of convergent evolution, and the possibility of performing experiments to assess evolutionary predictions. In the first part of the book, he describes many examples of convergent evolution. In subsequent sections, he describes experiments in the wild, and in more controlled environments, to determine whether the accuracy of various evolutionary predictions can be tested.

Although convergent evolution is a genuinely fascinating phenomenon, it is considerably less remarkable when the species in question are closely related. When presented with similar environmental challenges, is it really at all surprising when closely related species evolve similar solutions? Evolution can only tinker with what is already there; how many fundamentally different tweaks can be made to closely related lizards, for example, to help them evade a new predator? In fairness to Losos, he makes this point more than once, but, to this non-expert at least, it seemed as if more might have been made of it. There is a world of a difference between two species of stickleback, to cite another example, evolving brighter colours in the absence of predators, and dinosaurs evolving into intelligent humanoids. Even if small-scale convergent evolution of closely related species is common, extrapolating to claim that the evolution of intelligent humanoids is almost inevitable is another thing entirely.

Sensibly, Losos doesn't spend too much time examining arguments about putative humanoid dinosaurs—although he does eventually make his own position clear. This book is primarily about the experiments: how scientists have begun to test evolutionary predictions, and to assess how particular examples of convergent evolution come about. Both of which strike me as far more interesting and useful than coming up with untestable hypotheses about where dinosaurs might have gone next.

An entertaining book on an interesting subject.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.

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Book review: ‘Improbable Destinies’ by Jonathan Losos http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/losos-improbable/ http://friendsofdarwin.com/reviews/losos-improbable/ Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:18:48 +0100 Richard Carter, FCD (friendsofdarwin.com) (Friends of Charles Darwin - combined feed (blog posts, articles, and reviews).) How predictable is evolution?

How predictable is evolution?

Improbable DestiniesThe late Stephen Jay Gould more than once observed that, were it possible to roll back time and re-run evolutionary history, we would most likely end up with very different results. Minor differences in circumstances can lead to very different evolutionary pathways.

Others, most notably Simon Conway Morris, hold that evolution is far more predictable than Gould would have had us believe. As evidence, they cite the interesting phenomenon of convergent evolution, where different species evolve strikingly similar features in similar circumstances. A classic example is the similar body shapes of dolphins, sharks, ichthyosaurs, and (at more of a stretch) penguins: these predators’ ‘designs’ enable them to move quickly under water. If mammals, fish, ichthyosaurs, and birds evolved such similar shapes for moving at speed in the same environment, the argument goes, evolution must, to some extent, be predictable.

Those who maintain that evolution is more predictable than we might suppose sometimes go so far as to claim that upright, bipedal, intelligent life was almost inevitable on Earth. Had it not been for that pesky asteroid, they say, the world would now, quite possibly, be being ruled by dinosaurian, rather than mammalian, humanoids. This despite the fact that, as far as we know, upright, bipedal, intelligent dinosaurs failed to evolve in the 180-million years that dinosaurs actually did rule the earth.

Jonathon Losos's interesting book sets out to explore both the phenomenon of convergent evolution, and the possibility of performing experiments to assess evolutionary predictions. In the first part of the book, he describes many examples of convergent evolution. In subsequent sections, he describes experiments in the wild, and in more controlled environments, to determine whether the accuracy of various evolutionary predictions can be tested.

Although convergent evolution is a genuinely fascinating phenomenon, it is considerably less remarkable when the species in question are closely related. When presented with similar environmental challenges, is it really at all surprising when closely related species evolve similar solutions? Evolution can only tinker with what is already there; how many fundamentally different tweaks can be made to closely related lizards, for example, to help them evade a new predator? In fairness to Losos, he makes this point more than once, but, to this non-expert at least, it seemed as if more might have been made of it. There is a world of a difference between two species of stickleback, to cite another example, evolving brighter colours in the absence of predators, and dinosaurs evolving into intelligent humanoids. Even if small-scale convergent evolution of closely related species is common, extrapolating to claim that the evolution of intelligent humanoids is almost inevitable is another thing entirely.

Sensibly, Losos doesn't spend too much time examining arguments about putative humanoid dinosaurs—although he does eventually make his own position clear. This book is primarily about the experiments: how scientists have begun to test evolutionary predictions, and to assess how particular examples of convergent evolution come about. Both of which strike me as far more interesting and useful than coming up with untestable hypotheses about where dinosaurs might have gone next.

An entertaining book on an interesting subject.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.

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Pineapples and porcupines… http://gruts.com/prickly-pair/ http://gruts.com/prickly-pair/ Fri, 18 Aug 2017 07:24:13 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) A prickly pair. Both prickly. Both begin with the letter ‘P’.

Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

(Don't get me started on bloody pufferfish.)

Pufferfish

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Reaching out http://gruts.com/reaching-out/ http://gruts.com/reaching-out/ Sat, 12 Aug 2017 00:17:11 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) I'll tell you what's mildly irritating: people who say ‘reached out to’ when they mean ‘contacted’. I'll tell you what's mildly irritating: people who say ‘reached out to’ when they mean ‘contacted’.

Just listen to yourselves!

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Newsletter No. 8: But is it Art? http://richardcarter.com/newsletter/but-is-it-art/ http://richardcarter.com/newsletter/but-is-it-art/ Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:58:26 +0100 Richard Carter (Newsletter – Richard Carter) iPads · s-town · babylonian astronomy · Patti Smith · James Kelman · star-stuff · golden age of photography · conveying life's wonders · horses · bees · organ donations Rich Text

11 AUGUST 2017

Hello.

I recently replaced my beloved but technologically ancient iPad with a brand-spanking-new iPad Pro. It’s a wonderful piece of kit. I draft most of my writing on the iPad, including this newsletter.

Thanks to the electronic Apple Pencil that accompanies the iPad, I’m rediscovering the horror that is my handwriting, and the joys of doodling.

Moor grass doodle

Some stuff I thought worth sharing:

Nine shall be the number I shall recommend, and the number of the recommending shall be nine:

  1. I finally got round to listening to the phenomenally successful S-Town Podcast. It’s a seven-episode documentary about an Alabama town and a colourful character named John. Highly recommended.

  2. Science historian Mathieu Ossendrijver has translated five cuneiform tablets which show that Babylonian astronomers used geometry to track Jupiter.

  3. The wonderful Patti Smith reminisces about her buddy Sam Shepherd.

  4. James Kelman on his approach to writing, and how writer’s block is ‘an economic luxury’.

  5. The late, great Carl Sagan famously explained how we are all made of ‘star-stuff’. Now, computer modellers have calculated that around half our bodies’ atoms formed outside our galaxy. We’ve come a long way.

  6. The thought-provoking video What does photographer Pedro Meyer think?, in which the veteran Mexican photographer explains that we are living in a golden age of photography. (If you don’t have time to watch the full 16 minute video, you might like to start at around the 9-minute mark.)

  7. George Monbiot on why we need new words to convey life’s wonders. I was in two minds about this one, agreeing with many, but not all, of his examples.

  8. My friend GrrlScientist on how almost all modern horses are descended from a few oriental stallions. Long-form science blogging at its finest.

  9. This fantastic video of 21 days of bee development condensed into one minute.

Shameless plug

I recently wrote about my grandma’s organ donation. (Don’t worry, no surgery was involved.)


Five bonus points to those of you who spotted the Monty Python reference earlier.

Is it art?

Richard
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Grandma’s organ donation http://richardcarter.com/grandmas-organ-donation/ http://richardcarter.com/grandmas-organ-donation/ Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:49:29 +0100 Richard Carter (richardcarter.com) On the mysterious arrival, and equally mysterious disappearance, of a Wurlitzer organ.
On the mysterious arrival, and equally mysterious disappearance, of a Wurlitzer organ.


Article source: http://richardcarter.com/grandmas-organ-donation/

Some time in the late 1970s, a Wurlitzer organ appeared out of nowhere in the corner of our dining room. It was a big wooden affair with a folding lid, two keyboards one above the other, and a whole bunch of switches, dials and pedals.

You could tell it was a Wurlitzer organ because it had the word WURLITZER emblazoned across it in garish gold letters. Off to the right, more discreet lettering bore the legend Crane & Sons Ltd., Liverpool & London.

It turned out my grandma’s sister had recently decided to replace her electric organ. Never one to miss out on a bargain, grandma had bought the old organ for my sister and me. The first my sister and I (and, I recently learnt, our parents) knew about grandma’s generous gift was the day it landed in our dining room.

When you turned on the power, the organ made an alarming thump followed by a more subdued humming noise. It took several minutes to warm up. While you waited, you got to flip the switches and turn the dials into the required configuration. There was a large collection of black switches labelled with the names of musical instruments: violins, cellos, glockenspiel, guitar, horns, and so on. The most notable thing about these switches was, no matter which combination you selected, the sound emanating from the organ remained essentially unchanged. It seemed to me Wurlitzer could have saved themselves, and us, a whole lot of bother if they had simply had a single switch labelled electric organ. There were also switches to alter the bass and treble settings, which did at least seem to make some appreciable difference to the din, as did one labelled Sustain. But our favourite switches were the three labelled Vibrato, the options being On, Fast and Full. We always flipped all three, which made the notes more wobbly.

In case you haven’t already worked it out, I should perhaps make it clear that, with the exception of grandma’s electric-organ-playing sister and their long-dead half-brother (of whom, more shortly), I come from an entirely unmusical family. Don’t get me wrong: we all enjoy listening to music, but actually playing the stuff is another matter entirely. To this day, I remain in awe of anyone who can string a bunch of notes together. It’s voodoo, as far as I’m concerned.

The organ came with a matching stool whose seat lifted to reveal a compartment for storing sheet music. Inside we found a thick book of ‘popular tunes’. Presumably, these were tunes popular with the sort of people who enjoyed a good sing-along around the family Wurlitzer: Danny Boy, We’ll Gather Lilacs, Abide With Me, and a host of other songs my sister and I had never heard of. There was also a photocopy of the music for the song Why Does a Red Cow Give White Milk When it Always Eats Green Grass? Although we didn’t know the tune, my sister and I had at least heard of this one, as it had been written by grandma’s half-brother, the first-world-war pilot, variety entertainer, and pantomime dame Hal Miller.

Rather than arranging for costly music lessons, Dad, whose own musical curriculum vitae began and ended with an appearance in H.M.S. Pinafore at secondary school, decided to wait until either my sister or I began to demonstrate any sort of natural aptitude for, or even vague interest in, playing the organ. To ease our path to musical greatness, he hit upon the idea of labelling the Wurlitzer’s keys. He spent an entire wet afternoon carefully applying Letraset dry-transfer letters to both rows of white keys. The black lettering wouldn’t show up on the black keys, so those were left unlabelled.

All that remained was for my sister and me to consult the popular song book, choose a song we actually knew the tune to, read out the letters above the words of the song, and bang the keys with the same letters on the Wurlitzer. Just about the only song we did recognise was Silent Night. I can still recite the letters to this day:

GAGE / GAGE / DDB / CCG / AA CBA GAGE / AA CBA GAGE / DDF! DBC E / C G E G FD C

Getting on for four decades later, Silent Night still comprises my entire musical repertoire.

Where was Mum in all this? Silently fuming. After a while, not so silently. From the day it arrived unannounced to take over the dining room, Mum began to drop subtle hints about how awfully big the Wurlitzer was. Within weeks, she was referring to it as ‘that damn thing’ and was refusing to dust it. In later years, she took to kicking it as she hoovered nearby.

The circumstances of the Wurlitzer’s eventual disappearance were as mysterious as those of its arrival. In 1986, I returned home from university to find the organ gone. Its alcove in the corner of the dining room had been reclaimed by its former occupant: Mum’s precious, well-dusted Ercol sideboard.

The Wurlitzer was never mentioned in polite conversation again.

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Now we are 4,000 http://friendsofdarwin.com/now-we-are-4000/ http://friendsofdarwin.com/now-we-are-4000/ Tue, 08 Aug 2017 13:47:24 +0100 Richard Carter, FCD (friendsofdarwin.com) (Friends of Charles Darwin - combined feed (blog posts, articles, and reviews).) The Friends of Charles Darwin have their 4,000th member. I'm pleased to announce that the Friends of Charles Darwin have their 4,000th member: John Davison of Wessex, England.

Welcome!

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The Pop-star Biscuit Game http://gruts.com/pop-star-biscuit-game/ http://gruts.com/pop-star-biscuit-game/ Mon, 07 Aug 2017 21:42:55 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) In which I invent a game about pop-stars who sound like biscuits. A somewhat misreported (to make me look even more awesome) conversation with Jen in the car this morning:

R: I’ve just thought of a new game. It’s called the Pop-star Biscuit Game. We take it in turns to name pop-stars who sound like biscuits. For example, Lionel Rich Tea. Your turn…
J: …Limp Bizkit.
R: No, that’s cheating. You can’t have ‘biscuit’ as part of the name. My turn… Jammy Dodger Miller.
J:
R: Godley and Custard Cream.
J:
R: Chocolate Bourbono.
J:
R: Oreo Speedwagon.
J:
R: I was Googling brands of biscuits before we came out. Can you tell?
J: KitKat Stevens.
R: KitKats are wafers, not biscuits.
J:
R: Run Garibaldi MC.
J:
R: I win!

The secret to winning the Pop-star Biscuit Game is planning. Planning and misreporting.

Over to you…

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This has got to be Photoshopped, surely… http://gruts.com/puffingate/ http://gruts.com/puffingate/ Tue, 25 Jul 2017 07:13:45 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Farage bums puffin to death shock!

Right-wingers never learn, do they? NEVER HOLD UP A PIECE OF PAPER ON THE INTERNET pic.twitter.com/zXAn0iWHFo

— DocHackenbush (@DocHackenbush) July 21, 2017

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On the trot http://gruts.com/vegetarian-v-dysentery/ http://gruts.com/vegetarian-v-dysentery/ Sun, 02 Jul 2017 23:21:39 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Vegetarian diet twice as effective for weight-loss, new research shows.

Sydney Morning Herald: Vegetarian diet twice as effective for weight-loss, new research shows

Low-calorie diets are notoriously difficult to maintain in the long-term. But they may be unnecessary. Switching to a vegetarian diet can be twice as effective for weight-loss as counting calories, according to new research.

So is catching dysentery.

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Theron lies the difference http://gruts.com/theron-lies-the-difference/ http://gruts.com/theron-lies-the-difference/ Sat, 01 Jul 2017 16:56:19 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) BBC: Celebrity names you’re probably saying wrong As Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot can do anything - apart from getting people to pronounce her name correctly. Turns out I’ve been mispronouncing Charlize Theron’s name for years. I wondered why she never …

BBC: Celebrity names you’re probably saying wrong

As Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot can do anything - apart from getting people to pronounce her name correctly.

Turns out I’ve been mispronouncing Charlize Theron’s name for years.

I wondered why she never returned my calls.

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Newsletter No. 7: Hacked and hurt by time http://richardcarter.com/newsletter/hacked-and-hurt/ http://richardcarter.com/newsletter/hacked-and-hurt/ Fri, 30 Jun 2017 12:48:15 +0100 Richard Carter (Newsletter – Richard Carter) John Tyndall · Galápagos cormorants · why English is so odd · Thoreau & Darwin · anthropological discoveries · mass-extinction hyperbole · WG Sebald · yellow rattle · Inigo Thomas · Mars exploration Rich Text

30 JUNE 2017

Hello.

Although I appreciate I should be getting On the Moor out there first, I’ve recently been ruminating on the theme of my next book. True to style, I have a number of vague, interweaving ideas in mind. Nothing concrete yet, but, believe me, I’m working in it.

During my ruminations, I came across a wonderful quote from the nineteenth-century scientist, mountaineer, and friend of Charles Darwin, John Tyndall. Tyndall features in two chapters of On the Moor. The quote I found, which was inspired by a view looking down on the Matterhorn, links the themes of thermodynamics, evolution, and erosion, all of which also feature in On the Moor:

As long as the temperature of our planet differs from that of space so long will the forms upon her surface undergo mutation, and as soon as equilibrium has been established we shall have, not peace, but death. Life is the product and accompaniment of change, and the self-same power that tears the flanks of the hills to pieces is the mainspring of the animal and vegetable worlds. Still, there is something chilling, if not humiliating, in the contemplation of the irresistible and remorseless character of those infinitesimal forces whose summation through the ages pulls down even the Matterhorn. Hacked and hurt by time, the aspect of the mountain from its higher crags saddened me. Hitherto the impression it had made was that of savage strength, but here we had inexorable decay.
—John Tyndall. ‘Old Alpine Jottings’ in New Fragments (1892).

I’m pretty sure I would have liked Tyndall, had I ever met him.

Some stuff I thought worth sharing:

This time, I have a veritable ennead of recommendations:

  1. How an Icon of Evolution Lost Its Flight
    Scientists have discovered some of the genetic changes behind the useless wings of Galápagos cormorants.

  2. English is not normal
    A fascinating article about how and why English is so odd.

  3. Thoreau’s debt to Darwin
    On his bicentenary, how Thoreau was reinvigorated by Darwin.

  4. Three new discoveries in a month rock our African origins
    An analysis of some important recent anthropological discoveries.

  5. Earth Is Not in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction
    Our species is wreaking terrible damage on our planet, but easy with the mass-extinction hyperbole.

  6. W. G. Sebald, Humorist
    How an eccentric sense of playfulness runs through W.G. Sebald’s four major books.

  7. Daylight robbery in the grasslands
    It was quite a surprise to turn to the Guardian’s Country Diary feature to find it had been written by someone I’ve known since I was 11. Jeremy Dagley on yellow rattle: a parasitic plant that grows in abundance in my farmer friend’s top meadow.

  8. This moving London Review of Books Diary piece by Inigo Thomas about the death of his father.

  9. This NASA video celebrating 20 years of continuous Mars exploration.

Shameless plug

You might like to check out my recent article entitled Orion’s belt-buckle about the star I ‘adopted’ in my early teens.


Borrowed dog update

Millie the borrowed dog is with us for a couple more weeks. She is doing well, despite the perverse enjoyment she seems to derive from walks in the rain.

Now remind me… Which one of us ABSOLUTELY INSISTED on going for a walk, and which one of us thought to bring an umbrella?

Feel free to contact me with any feedback. And please forward this newsletter to any friends you think might enjoy it, suggesting in the politest possible terms that they really ought to subscribe for themselves.

As you were.

Richard
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Surely this has got to be illegal… http://gruts.com/baby-sale/ http://gruts.com/baby-sale/ Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:47:45 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Baby sale shock! Baby sale!

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Stronger and stabler http://gruts.com/stronger-and-stabler/ http://gruts.com/stronger-and-stabler/ Mon, 26 Jun 2017 20:42:38 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) BBC: Conservatives agree pact with DUP to support May government An agreement has been reached which will see the Democratic Unionist Party back Theresa May’s minority government. The deal, which comes two weeks after the election resulted in a hung …

BBC: Conservatives agree pact with DUP to support May government

An agreement has been reached which will see the Democratic Unionist Party back Theresa May’s minority government.
The deal, which comes two weeks after the election resulted in a hung Parliament, will see the 10 DUP MPs back the Tories in key Commons votes.
There will be £1bn extra for Northern Ireland over the next two years.

One-billion pounds for 10 DUP votes. That's a mere £100-million per unspeakable DUP MP.

The Brussels Brexit negotiators must be shitting bricks.

Actually, I think Theresa May might have played a blinder here: when you haven't a leg to stand on, acting insane is probably your best strategy for getting people to fall for your bluffs: she might actually be that crazy.

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The SATSASTSM button http://gruts.com/satsastsm-button/ http://gruts.com/satsastsm-button/ Mon, 26 Jun 2017 09:47:40 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) I'm beginning to think we might be taking the ‘home cinema’ concept a bit too far. I think we can all agree, home entertainment has improved dramatically in recent years. Not only do we no longer have to wait at least five bloody years to be able to buy our own personal copies of the latest films, but we can now watch them on high-definition, wide-screen tellies. Indeed, those of us with more than two ears can enjoy these films in multi-speaker surround-sound. And there's even microwaveable popcorn. What's not to like? (Apart from microwaveable popcorn, I mean.)

But I'm beginning to think we might be taking this ‘home cinema’ concept a bit too far. Nowadays, presumably to add to the authentic cinematic experience, we are expected to sit through half an hour of advertisements and trailers before the main feature begins.

Which is why I have just invented the SATSASTSM button. It looks like this:

SATSASTSM

The SATSASTSM button—or, to give it its full name, the Skip All The Shite And Show The Sodding Movie button—is a special button on your remote control that, as the name implies, skips all the shite and shows you the sodding movie straight away. How brilliantly simple is that? I'm frankly amazed nobody has thought of this before.

There aren't actually any remote controls featuring a SATSASTSM button at the moment, but, for the benefit of all movie buffs out there, I hereby waive all rights to my invention and make it freely available to any and all manufacturers wishing to avail themselves of such an essential killer feature.

You can thank me later.

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Dogs’ sneezes http://gruts.com/dogs-sneezes/ http://gruts.com/dogs-sneezes/ Fri, 23 Jun 2017 22:57:47 +0100 Richard Carter (Gruts) Did you ever wonder why dogs sneeze when they’re excited? Did you ever wonder why dogs sneeze when they’re excited? They usually sneeze more than once. Dogs are a highly olfactory species: perhaps it has something to do with clearing their noses in readiness for whatever exciting thing they think is about to happen. A Pavlovian reflex of the nose. (Whoever knew Pavlovian reflexes also worked on dogs!)

I wonder if wolves do the same thing. It would seem strange if they didn’t. I find it hard to believe sneezing in excitement is something dogs have picked up since we domesticated them, so it stands to reason wolves should too. On the other paw, sneezing in the excitement of the chase would seem a major disadvantage for wolves: it would be bound to lose them the odd caribou or two.

Mysteries like dogs’ sneezes make life worth living.

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