Thursday, 2021 September 16, 19:58 — sciences

shining eyes

Could an animal have eyes like a reflecting telescope, rather than with a lens? The back of the eyeball is a paraboloid mirror, and the retina is a small body on its focal plane.

Because the retina must be small, such an eye would have poorer resolution than a vertebrate eye of similar size.

Are there any organic mirrors in the real world?

Perhaps I’ll inflict this idea on – in the form of a question, though I dislike Jeopardy for that gimmick.

Thursday, 2021 August 26, 19:02 — astronomy, mathematics

witness on Whidbey

I watched Behind the Curve (2018), a documentary about the Flat Earth movement. In the beginning, Mark Sargent says (I paraphrase), “I know the Earth is not flat because I can see Seattle from here [Whidbey Island].”

If I knew the distance from the Space Needle to Sargent’s house, the altitude of that house and the altitude of the lowest part of the Space Needle visible from there, I could put an upper bound on the curvature.

Saturday, 2021 August 14, 12:41 — prose

escapism within escapism

I recently read the Long Earth saga by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. The story begins in the near future when an eccentric engineer anonymously publishes plans for a “stepper box” which takes the user to a parallel world, adjacent in a chain of millions.

It soon emerges that a few humans have the talent of Stepping without a box. In one episode, two of these (including an ancestor of a main character) help the Underground Railroad, provoking in me a question they did not ask: Rather than sneaking the escapees to Canada, what if we leave them in a side-world? They’d have to learn to live Paleolithic-style (metallic iron cannot be transported), but that life evidently was not so bad.

Tuesday, 2021 July 13, 15:55 — Cascadia

you’re no fawn anymore

Three or four days in a row, I’ve stopped to let a doe (usually with fawn(s)) amble across the road. Wondering whether that’s because I now live closer to the edge of town. Of ~twenty residences in ~sixty years, this is the first not within an incorporated city.

I rarely see deer out in the county, though.

Saturday, 2021 April 10, 10:58 — history

second-generation royal dukes

Prince Charles succeeds his father as 2d Duke of Edinburgh. There are now three living British princes with the title “2d Duke of…”; how often have there been even two? ( . . more . . )

Tuesday, 2021 March 9, 23:03 — futures, medicine

dot product of Cupid’s arrows

The backstory of Methuselah’s Children, by Heinlein, involves a foundation to promote human longevity. One thing it does is study natural long-lifers by paying a bounty for marriages between people whose grandparents all lived 100 years or more.

Now here’s a stack of wacky ideas of mine. ( . . more . . )

Monday, 2021 March 8, 08:02 — cinema

Billy Budd

Last night I watched Peter Ustinov’s adaptation (1962) of Herman Melville’s story Billy Budd. In 1797, a young merchant seaman is drafted onto a warship, where his sweet nature is admired by all except Claggart, the cruel master-at-arms, who resents Budd’s inability to fear him (because Budd is too innocent to see evil in anyone). ( . . more . . )

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