29TH APRIL 2022
I intended to begin this newsletter with some brief comments on a recent article about nature writing. But by the time I passed the 1,200-word mark, I thought my Sidelines blog might be a more appropriate place to share some thoughts on Nature writing’s ill-defined, thriving ecosystem.
Talking of word-counts, having reached 84,000 words in my Darwin book, I realised it was time to break my golden rule and re-read what I’d written so far. As I explained in another sideline piece, I’d reached the point where I could no longer see the wood from the trees, and felt the need to put my existing chapters into some sort of order. I saw this as an encouraging sign that I’m beginning to enter the endgame of my first draft. (The other good news was my completed chapters were better than I remembered.)
…I’ve just realised both the sideline pieces I linked to above contain the word cringeworthy. I hope this doesn’t speak volumes.
Some stuff I thought worth sharing:
- Feynman’s Ode to the Wonder of Life
A literally wonder-full animated prose poem adaptation of the words of Nobel science laureate Richard Feynman, read by Amanda Palmer, animated by Kelli Anderson, with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma providing backing music. Fantastic. More details on the Marginalian website, from where I took this link.
- Vikings shipped walrus ivory from Greenland to Kyiv, ancient skulls show
The Vikings set up impressive trade-routes. New DNA evidence strongly suggests they traded walrus ivory hunted in Greenland or the Canadian Arctic as far as modern Ukraine. 🇺🇦
- How can ancient dental plaque help reveal the rise and spread of dairy pastoralism on the Eurasian steppes?
I attended a course in scientific techniques in archaeology in the mid-1980s. As with the walrus ivory story above, I’m continually amazed how far such techniques have advanced. Thanks to analysis of his dental plaque, we can tell an Early Bronze Age man whose remains were excavated in the Caucasus had a diet heavy on dairy produce.
- Doomed ship of gold’s ghostly picture gallery is plucked from the seabed
Maritime archaeologists have recovered hauntingly personal daguerreotype photographs from a famous 1857 shipwreck off the coast of South Carolina.
- Nasa’s Perseverance rover sees solar eclipse on Mars
Science for the win! An astonishing brief video, captured by one of our species’ robots on Mars, of the moon Phobos passing in front of the sun. (The pedant in me feels compelled to point out this was technically a transit, not an eclipse.)
Thanks as always for allowing me to email you directly: with oligarchs in control of Facebook and now Twitter, I would far rather cut out the billionaire middlemen.
I continue to make minor tweaks to the format of this newsletter in an attempt to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. If you have any suggestions for improvements, or if you know of any similar newsletters I might learn a few lessons from, please get in touch—either by replying to this newsletter or via my contact form.
Keep safe, and I’ll see you next time.