March 3, 2017

Miscellany #59: Old McDonald's, the color red, snuggie-clad goats, two monks and more

Old McDonald's closes its 12th century medieval branch in Shrewsbury, England.

In a building  hundreds of years old, with parts dating back to the 1100s, customers have enjoyed Big Macs in medieval settings for 34 years.  'This decision has not been taken lightly but unfortunately the building is not suitable to meet our future plans."

 Better Old-Mcdonald'sjpg

Snuggie-clad goats found wandering Idaho neighborhood


"Have you lost your goats? Or your Snuggies? If so, we found them near Lake Lowell and Midland Blvd.," police said.  Officers managed to track down the owners within about three hours to reunite them with their sensibly dressed goats.

The Bug That Had the World Seeing Red

Once there was a color so valuable that emperors and conquistadors coveted it, and so did kings and cardinals. Artists went wild over it. Pirates ransacked ships for it. Poets from Donne to Dickinson sang its praises. Scientists vied with each other to probe its mysteries. Desperate men even risked their lives to obtain it. This highly prized commodity was the secret to the color of desire—a tiny dried insect that produced the perfect red.

Thousands of years ago, however, Mesoamericans discovered that pinching an insect found on prickly pear cacti yielded a blood-red stain on fingers and fabric. The tiny creature—a parasitic scale insect known as cochineal—was transformed into a precious commodity... The carminic acid in female cochineals could be used to create a dazzling spectrum of reds, from soft rose to gleaming scarlet to deepest burgundy. Though it took as many as 70,000 dried insects to make a pound of dye, they surpassed all other alternatives in potency and versatility.
When the Spanish conquistadors landed in Mexico, they were struck by the stunning scarlets of the New World. The exotic source of the dye became a sensation back in Europe, where it was deemed the “perfect red.” The Spanish would go on to ship tons of the dried insects back to the Old World and beyond. Their monopoly on the color’s source made it one of their most valuable exports from Mexico, second only to silver.

 Portrait Of Agostina Pallavicini. Getty Museum

Portrait of Agostina Pallavicini. Getty Museum.

This 'perfect red' was preferred to the more common and easily available red ochre, the oldest known naturally occurring pigment in the world, found in the creation of cave art, used in early religious ceremonies, and on ancient pottery.  All of it attributable to Dying Stars and Physics   Portrait of Agostina Pallavicini. Getty Museum.

Red ochre contains hydrated ferric — or iron oxide, a compound of oxygen and iron — which also makes up that orange/red rust you’ll see on some iron and steel fixtures. Because iron and oxygen are both abundant elements found in Earth’s crust and atmosphere, red ochre can be found in large amounts all over the world, which has allowed for the easy creation and low cost of red paint more than any other color.
The reason that certain heavy elements such as iron are found on Earth can be attributed to the supernovae responsible for the formation of the solar system our fair planet finds itself a part of.  In its infancy, the iron found in the Earth’s crust didn’t react to atmospheric gasses because free oxygen simply wasn’t around to oxidize it into a rusty state.
As plant life emerged, however, oxygen became naturally released into the air, causing the high levels of iron to rust, eventually forming iron oxide. This process resulted in an abundance of the material, which led to the formation of some of the earliest paints recorded — one that remains an affordable option, and can be seen peppered throughout countrysides from coast to coast to this day.


The Monk Who Saves Manuscripts From ISIS

Rescuing the world’s most precious antiquities from destruction is a painstaking project—and a Benedictine monk may seem like an unlikely person to lead the charge. But Father Columba Stewart is determined. Soft-spoken, dressed in flowing black robes, this 59-year-old American has spent the past 13 years roaming from the Balkans to the Middle East in an effort to save Christian and Islamic manuscripts threatened by wars, theft, weather—and, lately, the Islamic State.

Old Cement Factory Turned Into Home May Look Great From Outside, But The Interior Is Even Better

Architect Ricardo Bofill found this cement factory in 1973 and quickly realized its possibilities. It took him nearly 45 years to transform it into his home, but the end result looks breathtaking both from the outside and from the inside.


The Accountant Who Changed The World

Luca Pacioli was a monk, magician and lover of numbers who discovered double-entry bookkeeping.  In 1494, he wrote a huge math encyclopedia and included an instructional section on double-entry bookkeeping. Thanks to the newly invented printing press, his book was mass produced and became a big hit.

 Portrait Of Luca Pacioli
Portrait of Luca Pacioli Attributed to Jacopo de' Barbari

About the painting. Perhaps no other work so epitomizes the deep Renaissance connection between art and mathematics.  Pacioli (a Franciscan friar, shown in his robes) stands at a table filled with geometrical tools (slate, chalk, compass, dodecahedron model, etc.), illustrating a theorem from Euclid, while examining a beautiful glass rhombicuboctahedron half-filled with water. Every aspect of the picture has been composed meaningfully, and art historians have analyzed it at length, yet the figure at right remains a mystery.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at March 3, 2017 1:29 PM | Permalink