Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Apocalypse Then

'Though the dinosaurs might find it crass to say so, the late Cretaceous cataclysm that did them in was a planetary bad hair day compared to the mass extinction that occurred some 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period. The Permian event is probably the closest that life on Earth ever came to being completely extinguished. Around 95 percent of marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrates were wiped out -- a greater percentage of the Earth's species than the next two largest mass extinctions combined. The break in the fossil record at the Permian boundary is so severe that 19th-century geologists saw it as evidence of two completely separate creations of life...' More

Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun

'THE modern gentleman may prefer blondes. But new research has found that it was cavemen who were the first to be lured by flaxen locks. According to the study, north European women evolved blonde hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males...' More

Robin Trower live video

Hendrix-rooted British guitarist Robin Trower does an interesting version of his hit 'Day Of The Eagle' in this concert footage. Video, 27 min 56 sec

Free music of the day: Shiner

'Kansas City-based Shiner formed in the late '92 as Orchid when singer/guitar player Allen Epley and original bassist Shawn Sherrill started writing songs together in a Kansas City warehouse. Jeff Brown drummed for the band briefly before Tim Dow, late of local favorites Season to Risk, replaced him and the band became Shiner... While Shiner's forceful, metal-tinged post-hardcore had won them legions of fans and a fair amount of critical acclaim over the course of their career, The Egg saw the band really ratchet their craft up to the next level...' Link

Mars probe poised for 'hair-raising' orbit entry

'NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is preparing for a "hair-raising" entry into orbit around the Red Planet on 10 March, mission managers say. If successful, the spacecraft will spend seven months spiralling towards the planet until it skims just 300 kilometres from its surface – where it will study the planet's geology and climate in unprecedented detail...' More / ScienceDaily report

Man-made star shines in Southern Sky

'Scientists celebrate another major milestone at Cerro Paranal in Chile, home of ESO's Very Large Telescope array. Thanks to their dedicated efforts, they were able to create the first artificial star in the Southern Hemisphere, allowing astronomers to study the Universe in the finest detail. This artificial laser guide star makes it possible to apply adaptive optics systems, that counteract the blurring effect of the atmosphere, almost anywhere in the sky...' More

Monday, February 27, 2006

Da Vinci author in court over 'copying' claim

'Dan Brown, one of the highest paid authors in history, sat at the opposite end of a court bench today from two writers who claim he copied their work for his blockbuster novel, The Da Vinci Code. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are suing their own publishers, Random House, claiming the internationally successful novel lifts from their 1982 book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, itself a best seller...' More / Da Vinci Code film may be delayed

Eddie Van Halen's explosive ' Eruption' video

Eddie Van Halen lets his fingers race like the devil across the fretboard in this galvanising clip. Videoclip, 2 min 22 sec

India rising

'Messy, raucous, democratic India is growing fast, and now may partner up with the world's richest democracy — America...' More

Thin Lizzy doin' 'Boys Are Back In Town'

The late Phil Lynott is on fire in this tight and terrific 1978 live performance of 'Boys Are Back In Town'. Videoclip, 4 min 41 sec

An apocalyptic new book by a young novelist

'Kevin Brockmeier is a young American novelist who deserves to be better-known than he is. Forgoing noisy postmodern experimentation and restrained slice-of-life realism, Brockmeier writes fabulist short stories influenced by fairy tales and science fiction. In his work, to take one example, a man's marriage disintegrates as the sky sinks ever closer to the ground, and—to take another—we learn about Rumpelstiltskin's life after the fairy tale ends, having stomped so hard in anger that he split himself in two...' More

Videoclip of John Lennon performing 'Imagine'

John Lennon in a loose live performance of an organ-propelled 'Imagine' with Yoko Ono on percussion and a band that includes a saxophonist. Circa 1972. Videoclip, 3 min 19 sec

Retro-King's new Plexi 18 guitar amp

Retro-King Amps's new Plexi 18 custom-made hand wired amplifier is a class AB cathode biased amp and replica of the hard to find 1966 Marshall 18-watt lead combo amplifier, but in a head version with two channels (4 inputs) with a tremolo unit operating on channel two... More

Writing's all about stealing from others?

'If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what is plagiarism? The least sincere form? A genuine crime? Or merely the work of someone with less-than-complete mastery of quotation marks who is in too great a hurry to come up with words and ideas of his own?... The reason writers are such slow readers is that we are ceaselessly searching for things we can steal and then pass off as our own: a natty bit of syntax, a seamless transition, a metaphor that jumps to its target like an arrow shot from an aluminum crossbow...' More

Are there aliens already on Earth?

'Are there aliens living on Earth? Not the humanoid kind, with big eyes or glowing fingertips. But unfamiliar types of microscopic life, that doesn't use DNA. Geology professor Peter Ward thinks its possible. His new book, 'Life as We Do Not Know It', explains why...' More

Thinking 'bout sex

'For the past 50 years, it's been assumed that differences in male and female brains are generated by the doses of sex hormones they get before birth and throughout life. Now scientists have fingered a gene on the Y chromosome that they say directly molds the brain and behavior independent of the action of hormones...' More

Tweaking the Real World

'Would you notice if the room around you gradually shrank to a quarter of its size? Perhaps not, according to a virtual reality experiment that suggests that we ignore what we see if it clashes with our assumptions about the everyday world...' More

US comedy star Don Knotts dies at 81

'US actor Don Knotts, who won five Emmys for playing a bumbling deputy sheriff in comedy The Andy Griffith Show, has died in a Los Angeles hospital aged 81. Knotts won over millions of fans as Deputy Barney Fife in the hugely popular 1960s series. He also played landlord Ralph Furley in 1980s sitcom Three's Company...' More

How fish thrive in icy waters

'Very thin but hardy, unblemished skin and slow developing gills appear to be keys to survival for newly hatched Antarctic notothenioids, a group of fish whose adults thrive in icy waters because of antifreeze proteins (AFPs) in their blood...' More

Secrets of the deep clue to ancient global warming

'Global warming events 420 million years ago, comparable to those currently beginning to affect our planet, may have caused catastrophic environmental changes in an ancient ocean, threatening the life that existed in it...' More

Free music of the day: Stephen Malkmus & Jicks

'Stephen Malkmus was the primary vocalist for a little band called Pavement, whose literate, offbeat style of meandering lo-fi pop made them pretty much the most important underground rock group of the '90s. In mid 2000, after five studio albums, Pavement's decade-long career sputtered to a close, the band going into permanent hiatus as its members moved on to other projects (the most notable besides Malkmus's being guitarist Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg's Preston School Of Industry). So Malkmus took his trademark sardonic drawl off to Portland to make his first solo record...' Link

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Internet's messy state

'The Net's basic flaws cost firms billions, impede innovation, and threaten national security. It's time for a clean-slate approach, says MIT's David D. Clark...' More

Janis Joplin on the Ed Sullivan Show, 1969

Janis Joplin and band doing a spirited version of 'Maybe' on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969. Don't miss the singer's squirmy exit after a shy handshake with the host at the end. Videoclip, 3 min 17 sec / The Janis Joplin Song Index

What might the climate be like in 2053?

'Early results from climateprediction.net suggest that the climate could be a lot more sensitive to greenhouse gases and could warm a lot more than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has previously suggested. These and future results will form part of the UK's contribution to the fourth report of the IPCC due in 2007...' More

100 things you probably don't know

'17. Bosses at Madame Tussauds spent £10,000 separating the models of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston when they separated. It was the first time the museum had two people's waxworks joined together.'

'37. Cyclist Lance Armstrong's heart is almost a third larger than the average man's.'

'45. C3PO and R2D2 do not speak to each other off-camera because the actors don't get on.'

'94. Bill Gates does not have an iPod.'


Free music of the day: Bent Leg Fatima

'With one foot planted in their musical heritage and the other kicking the ass of futurity, the sound that is Bent Leg Fatima is near inexplicable. On their self-titled debut album released by File 13 Records, Bent Leg takes from both the psychedelic pop of Syd Barrett and the ragtime blues of Captain Beefheart and then the technique and grace of Gastr del Sol...' Link

Scientist looks at Olympic ice in a frozen light

'f you're watching the Winter Olympics, you know that snow and ice are an integral part of the sports. But did you know that snow and ice need to be different for each sport? NASA scientist Peter Wasilewski's studies of ice using polarized light create beautiful colored pictures of the snow and ice, and enable people to see if the snow and ice is "right" for each type of sport...' More

Water gave life on Earth a guiding hand

'THE mystery of why nature favours the left-handed - at least when it comes to amino acids - may have a simple answer. It could all be down to an obscure property of water...' More

Saturday, February 25, 2006

New Milky Way map shows myriad unseen objects

'Nearly 400 years after Galileo determined the wispy Milky Way actually comprises myriad individual stars, scientists using NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer have done the same for the "X-ray Milky Way." The origin of this X-ray counterpart to the Milky Way, known to scientists as the galactic X-ray background, has been a long-standing mystery...' More

Three new lemur species identified

'Researchers have identified three new species of lemurs, the small, big-eyed primates native to the island of Madagascar. In a study published today in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, a team of researchers from Madagascar and Europe identified new species of lemurs based on differences in a specific gene sequence... These findings have important implications, as a better knowledge of lemur species characteristics will provide the basis for better conservation programmes for these endangered animals...' More

The speech that shook the world

'When Nikita Khrushchev took the podium on the final day of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the speech he gave was so surprising and unexpected that some members of the audience actually fainted... Why was the speech so shocking? Because it came at the end of decades of totalitarian terror during which millions of people died, in a country where the misuse of power had gone virtually unquestioned and unchecked...' More

Anthony Burgess's prophetic masterpiece

'One cannot condemn a novel of 150 pages for failing to answer some of the most difficult and puzzling questions of human existence, but one can praise it for raising them in a peculiarly profound manner and forcing us to think about them. To have combined this with acute social prophecy (to say nothing of entertainment) is genius...' More

Video on the Eric Clapton Crossroads Gibson 335

'Eric Clapton originally purchased the now famous Gibson ES 335 guitar in 1964 and used it throughout his illustrious career for the ensuing 40 years. The Clapton 335 has gone on to become one of most famous guitars in rock music history, and was purchased by Guitar Center at a charity auction in June of 2004 for a record price of US$847,500. Guitar Center subsequently loaned the original instrument to Gibson Custom so that it could be meticulously measured and recreated by Gibson's expert luthiers in preparation for the limited edition Crossroads model.' Clip, 55 min 23 sec

Videoclip of Hendrix at 1970 Isle of Wight festival

Jimi Hendrix frying the fretboard in a blistering rendition of 'Machine Gun' at the Isle of Wight festival, 1970, with Billy Cox (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums). Clip, 4 min 6 sec

Free music of the day: J Mascis + The Fog

'Without question, J Mascis was one of the most influential rock musicians of the '90s. Kurt Cobain begged him to be Nirvana's drummer long before Dave Grohl ever came on the scene, but J was busy masterminding Dinosaur Jr. at the time, and has remained the king of the rock guitar ever since... J has regrouped these days as J Mascis and The Fog. He recruited equally legendary noise-pop old schoolers Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices) to lend a hand creating More Light, the 2000 debut album from J Mascis + The Fog...' Download link

Figure skating... the world's least graceful sport?

'The figure-skating wipe-out has become so commonplace you could easily mistake it for a required element. During last week's men's finals, four of the top six competitors hit the ice during their free programme... The fearless modern skater hurls herself through the air, hoping she'll get lucky with a perfect landing. She's the opposite of graceful — she battles gravity at every turn...' More

Friday, February 24, 2006

New satin finish singlecut line from PRS

'PRS Guitar's new Satin finish instruments include the Singlecut, Singlecut Trem and Singlecut Standard. The thin nitro cellulose finish has been successfully introduced with the PRS Standard 20th anniversary models in 2005. The Singlecut Satin has the thicker Mahogany body with a maple top, two humbucking pickups, four knob configuration and comes with a stop tail. Eight translucent colors compliment regular, 10-top and Artist grade versions...' More

Allan Holdsworth 'Funnels' video

Richard Dawkins on Channel 4

Here's a clip from the UK Channel 4 programme 'The Root of All Evil?', a two-part exploration of religious faith hosted and narrated by Richard Dawkins, the eminent Oxford ethologist and author who is one of the world's most outspoken proponents of the theory of evolution: Videoclip

The parched planet

'Our demand for water has turned us into vampires, draining the world of its lifeblood... What can we do to prevent mass global drought and starvation?' More / Water-saving tips

Free music of the day: The Grassy Knoll

'The Grassy Knoll is a sophisticated project fronted by bass-player/organizer Bob Green that blends the energetic elements of rock, hip hop, and free jazz with a haunting ethereal darkness. "A Beaten Dog Beneath The Hail" combines funky, well-produced hip hop tempo breaks with slow diving guitar plunges and live brass to excellent effect. This is music that breaks all the rules...' Link

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A man amuck

'J.P. Donleavy's 'The Ginger Man,' long banned as blasphemous pornography, is 50 years old, but its antic, brawling hero is as irresistible as ever...' More

Free music of the day: Lenola

'Lenola has been a rock fixture in Philadelphia for the last half-decade, and as soon as you get a load of their bizarre drunken guitar psychedelia, you'll see why. Their damaged pop and possibly poisonous ear candy will leave windblown and wasted, not quite sure what's happened to you, but pretty sure you liked it. So often it begins so innocently, too, maybe just some sunny guitar strum, a bouncy rhythm, and a sweet high voice, but before you know it, here comes a twisted, fuzzed-out guitar solo, here comes some warped, messy synthesizer blare, here come some weird, creepy effects, and then, oh boy, here comes a tower of feedback, better duck!...' Link