Monday, May 8, 2017

The Weekly Web

Image courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History

My round-up of the best of my online ramblings over the past week begins with the Shamans of SiberiaThe American Museum of Natural History in New York City has a comprehensive program of events and activities that run throughout the year. I have visited the museum twice and hope to visit again during my trip to New York over the coming summer. I signed up for their email newsletters several years ago, and each issue always makes me wish I lived much closer to the museum than my current address some ten thousand miles away. 

The latest newsletter had several links to items of interest, and I thought this would be a good time to mention an ongoing program called Shelf Life, which presents a series of short videos highlighting the Natural History museum’s ongoing conservation programs. In Shamans of Siberia in 360, we get to look at an expedition to Siberia that took place from 1897 to 1902.
The Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897–1902) was conceived and directed by Franz Boas, the founder of American anthropology. The expedition aimed to investigate the links between the people and cultures of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America and the eastern Coast of Siberia. Boas was also concerned about documenting cultures that he and many other anthropologists feared would soon be lost to colonialism and acculturation.
The video below is one of the new style of documents that presents footage in 360 degrees. Make sure you enlarge the video to full screen, and then use your cursor to manipulate the film to see everything around the camera.

The ‘Protector’ and ‘Fitzjames’ (in the background), c.1885 at Largs Bay. State Library of South Australia

South Australia’s “hell afloat”
InDaily is an online publication out of Adelaide, Australia—my home town. The site has been publishing a regular series, Time and Place, which focusses specifically on important South Australian events and achievements. The entry: South Australia’s “hell afloat”, provided information about an aspect of the state’s early history I knew nothing about, and I suspect that few others did—or still do.
Between 1880 and 1891 the hulk Fitzjames, colloquially known as ‘hell afloat’, served as a Reformatory for over 100 boys aged from eight to 16 years of age. The first 35 of these were transferred from the Boys’ Reformatory at Magill on 5 March 1880. Some had been sentenced for having committed serious crimes, while others had been found guilty of petty theft, or deemed uncontrollable or neglected.
More Time and Place stories here…

Sumida River, Tokyo.

36 Hours in East Tokyo
One of the most daunting cities for foreign visitors, Tokyo is a manic, hyperactive assault on the senses. But steady your focus and you’ll notice that a distinct strand of traditional elements also weaves through the Japanese capital. Even without leaving Eastern Tokyo, here defined as the area east of the Imperial Palace, a visitor can experience the enormous breadth of what this mesmerizing metropolis has to offer. From boutiques blooming in abandoned spaces to new ramen shops taking root amid glittering high-rises, Eastern Tokyo promises — now more than ever — to leave even experienced travelers wide-eyed with wonder.

National Portrait Gallery, London
50 Free Things to Do in London, England
Actually, this Guardian newspaper series dating from 2012, originally ran to 200 free things to do in London. I have included links to Parts 3 & 4 of the series, but Part 2 seems to have disappeared. Even the Guardian website does not seem to know where it is. Be aware that some of the details provided in the articles may have changed in the five years since first publication.

Part 2: I will update this post when (and if) I find part two of this series

Photo by Dan Winters / Courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Interstellar Travel — Don’t Hold Your Breath
This story by Burkhard Bilger (The Martian Chroniclers), published in the New Yorker in April, 2013, is a ‘long read’, but is worth the time taken to read in full. Mars of course, is the next planet humans have long set their eyes and hearts on to send a manned mission to. The fascination with the red planet is the belief that some form of life (however basic and primitive), exists on some primal level. 
The search for life on Mars is now in its sixth decade. Forty spacecraft have been sent there, and not one has found a single fossil or living thing. The closer we look, the more hostile the planet seems: parched and frozen in every season, its atmosphere inert and murderously thin, its surface scoured by solar winds. By the time Earth took its first breath three billion years ago, geologists now believe, Mars had been suffocating for a billion years. The air had thinned and rivers evaporated; dust storms swept up and ice caps seized what was left of the water. The Great Desiccation Event, as it’s sometimes called, is even more of a mystery than the Great Oxygenation on Earth. We know only this: one planet lived and the other died. One turned green, the other red.
If humans ever do make it to Mars, and survive long enough to reproduce and populate that planet, it will be long after I have moved on to whatever other dimension awaits—if any. Personally, I can’t see the point of exporting the full gamut of human foibles and failings to another planet—unless the first hundred crews are manned by politicians, and that is never going to happen. If we can’t get this world sorted out, what makes anyone think we can do so on a planet as harsh and barren as Mars? But that’s just the cynic in me talking. I’d love to read your comments on this topic. In the meantime, you can read the full article here…

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