2023 January Eye-Candy, Oddities and Miscellany

My monthly email newsletter always used to feature a section I called “Eye-Candy, Oddities and Miscellany”. It was where I collected interesting stories that had great photos, images or were just a bit off the beaten track. Since moving to the blog format, I haven’t published any of these stories so there is now a massive collection. The following are in no particular order. Here goes:

What doe ecolocation, new techniques for shock absorption and Velcro all have in common? These are among Five human technologies inspired by nature, as profiled in this article in The Conversation.

Fossil flower of Symplocos kowalewskii (Symplocaceae) from Baltic amber – to date, by far the largest floral inclusion discovered from any amber. Credit: Carola Radke, MfN (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin)

Largest flower preserved in amber from over 33 million years ago: New images of the largest-known fossilized flower to be preserved in amber—which at 28 millimeters across is nearly three times the size of other preserved flowers—are published in the journal Scientific Reports. The preserved flower, encased in amber from the Baltic forests of northern Europe, dates from almost 40 million years ago and is thought to be from an ancient flowering evergreen plant originally called Stewartia kowalewskii. Eva-Maria Sadowski and Christa-Charlotte Hofmann reanalyzed the exceptionally large fossilized flower, which was originally described and named in 1872. The flower is dated to the Late Eocene, from between 38 million to 33.9 million years ago.

Chemin Errazu of cemetery Père Lachaise. Photo by Peter Poradisch on Wikipedia.

One of our most enduring memories from a long-ago holiday my husband and I enjoyed in Paris was visiting Père Lachasse Cemetery. This huge expanse of greenery is home to such luminaries as Rossini, Colette, Gertrude Stein, Honoré de Balzac, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison. A section is devoted to eery and moving monuments to those who perished during the holocaust. Constant Méheut writes in the New York Times how the cemetery is now home to a plethora of wildlife, including foxes and tawny owls. “Nature’s taking back its rights,” said Mr. Gallot, the cemetery’s curator, responsible for overseeing grounds maintenance and allocating burial plots, as he continued his trek among tombstones engulfed by vines and weeds. The greening of the necropolis stems from a decade-old plan to phase out pesticides and turn the cemetery into one of Paris’s green lungs, as the dense capital is redesigning its urban landscape to make it more climate-friendly in the face of rising temperatures.

Gayil Nalls, founder, director and editor of World Sensorium/Conservancy (WS/C), writes about the magic of Monet’s Garden in Giverny and how it inspired his work. The article includes enough mouth-watering images to have me planning a trip there!

Photo by RLast

WS/C also shares Five Japanese Haiku Poems with some rather gorgeous accompanying photos. This one seems appropriate for a snowy day in wintery Ottawa:

Come out! Come out with me!

‘Tis worth a tumble in the snow

The wondrous sight to see.

I Ramarri (Syracusa, Italy, 2012), terraced houses overlooking an agrarian landscape framed by the sea. Project by AION (Aleksandra Jaeschke and Andrea Di Stefano). Image courtesy of Aleksandra Jaeschke.

In Emergency Break Glass

The 2022 Wheelwright Prize Lecture: Aleksandra Jaeschke reflects on her journey through a world covered with glass and sealed in plastic. In the course of this journey of 3 years, 150 days spent on the roads of eight countries scattered across three continents, Jaeschke reflects on the nature of greenhouses, how they impact the communities and environments where they are located and the implications for humanity’s future. Her lecture is 93 minutes of profound and moving meditations on the nature of human’s ability to control our environments and what we lose from this control. Thanks to Rebecca McMakin for pointing us to this fascinating talk.

A man at CES tries out OVR Technology’s ION 3, which emits smells when a user interacts with items a VR environment. Image reproduced from article in TechExplore.

Each year, the CES tech megashow in Las Vegas highlights the latest and greatest in the tech world. This year’s show included a bit of Green tech. However, as NeoPlants co-founder Patrick Torbey points out, the gathering held annually just after the new year should not be thought of as “only about machine technology and electronics.” “It’s also about natural technology that we can leverage using these really cool engineering techniques,” Torbey told AFP. NeoPlants, a Paris-based startup, was showing off a bioengineered plant capable of purifying indoor air of toxic pollutants “by doing the work of 30 regular houseplants,” according to its website. (See also: Meet The Entrepreneurs Who Designed Pollution-Killing Plants).

In related news, the metaverse is growing a sense of smell. Some entrepreneurs at the annual CES gadget fest were eager to combine real and virtual worlds to help people stop and smell the roses. The company OVR Technology has created an accessory for VR headsets that treats users around a faux campfire to whiffs of smoke and toasting marshmallows.

A mixture of black peppercorns from the Malabar Coast, white Muntok peppercorns from Bangka, China, green peppercorns from Brazil, and pink peppercorns (berries of the Baies rose plant, Schinus terebinthifolius) from Réunion (France). Image by Ragesoss

In The Guardian, Anna Sulan Masing reports on how pepper changed the world. Her exploration of this essential spice is a voyage into colonialism and her personal family history – a fascinating read that will having you looking differently at the pepper mill on the dining room table.

Image by Pixabay on Pexels.

Meanwhile, concern over waste in agriculture has led the EU to fund research into other uses for olives. This short video illustrates how science is unlocking value from other parts of this plant, while also reducing waste. (See also: Olives, the source of “liquid gold,” offer more riches to unlock)

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