Astronomy illustrated in the 1840s
The want of a series of Plates for the illustration of the Science of Astronomy, of accurate, yet popular character, calculated for effective display, and still within a moderate compass, has led to the production of the present Work. The design comprehends 104 coloured Scenes, representing the Astronomical Phenomena of the Universe. These have been carefully executed from original drawings, paintings, and observatory studies; aided, occasionally, by appropriate pictorial embellishment, but with strict adherence to fidelity of detail. […]
The illustrations form the miniature scenery of a public exhibition, such as is occasionally witnessed in lecture-rooms; the text presenting the substance, the order, and the actual delivery of what becomes, in the present instance, a FAMILY ASTRONOMICAL LECTURE. The prominent features of the present Work are, the novelty and simplicity of the plan, and the elegance of its execution. With its aid a family need not henceforth quit their own parlour, or drawing-room fireside, to enjoy the sublime ‘beauty of the heavens;’ but, within their domestic circle, may, without any previous acquirements in Astronomy, become their own instructors in a knowledge of its great and leading truths and phenomena.
The Lecture may be read aloud by a parent, teacher or any other member of a party, the Scenes being exhibited, at the same time, in the numercial succession corresponding to their order of description. It would be impossible to devise a more rational, or, to a well-regulated mind, a more cheerful mode of passing an evening; or of inculcating the Divine lesson, of looking ‘through Nature up to Nature’s God.’”
Charles F Blunt, Introduction to ‘The Beauty of the Heavens’
February 19, 1473. Nicolaus Copernicus was born on this date, 540 years ago. Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer and mathematician. He lived at a time when people believed Earth lay enclosed within crystal spheres at the center of the universe. Can you picture the leap of imagination required for him to conceive of a sun-centered universe? The publication of Copernicus’ book – De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) – just before his death in 1543, set the stage for all of modern astronomy. Today, people speak of his work as the Copernican Revolution.
I like the name: bottle garden.
Mr Latimer’s amazing bottle garden is not only phenomenal, it also has a rich heritage. The Wardian case, the precursor to today’s terrarium, was invented in 1829 by Dr. Nathaniel Ward. Originally created to provide a habitat for raising moths, the Wardian case soon became a worldwide phenomenon and one of the keys to bringing new plant species home from explorations in far off lands. Wardian cases, bottle gardens, and terrariums are very easy to create, and even easier to care for. Need some tips? We have those. And just a thought: They make a lovely alternative to flower bouquets for your plant-loving sweetie. ~AR
“To look at this flourishing mass of plant life you’d think David Latimer was a green-fingered genius. Truth be told, however, his bottle garden – now almost in its 53rd year – hasn’t taken up much of his time. In fact, on the last occasion he watered it Ted Heath was Prime Minister and Richard Nixon was in the White House.
For the last 40 years it has been completely sealed from the outside world. But the indoor variety of spiderworts (or Tradescantia, to give the plant species its scientific Latin name) within has thrived, filling its globular bottle home with healthy foliage.
Yesterday Mr Latimer, 80, said: ‘It’s 6ft from a window so gets a bit of sunlight. It grows towards the light so it gets turned round every so often so it grows evenly. ‘Otherwise, it’s the definition of low-maintenance. I’ve never pruned it, it just seems to have grown to the limits of the bottle.’
The bottle garden has created its own miniature ecosystem. Despite being cut off from the outside world, because it is still absorbing light it can photosynthesize the process by which plants convert sunlight into the energy they need to grow.”
So how does it work exactly?
“Bottle gardens work because their sealed space creates an entirely self-sufficient ecosystem in which plants can survive by using photosynthesis to recycle nutrients.
The only external input needed to keep the plant going is light, since this provides it with the energy it needs to create its own food and continue to grow.
Light shining on the leaves of the plant is absorbed by proteins containing chlorophylls (a green pigment).
Some of that light energy is stored in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that stores energy. The rest is used to remove electrons from the water being absorbed from the soil through the plant’s roots.
These electrons then become ‘free’ - and are used in chemical reactions that convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, releasing oxygen.
This photosynthesis process is the opposite of the cellular respiration that occurs in other organisms, including humans, where carbohydrates containing energy react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, water, and release chemical energy.
But the eco-system also uses cellular respiration to break down decaying material shed by the plant. In this part of the process, bacteria inside the soil of the bottle garden absorbs the plant’s waste oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide which the growing plant can reuse.
And, of course, at night, when there is no sunlight to drive photosynthesis, the plant will also use cellular respiration to keep itself alive by breaking down the stored nutrients.
Because the bottle garden is a closed environment, that means its water cycle is also a self-contained process.
The water in the bottle gets taken up by plants’ roots, is released into the air during transpiration, condenses down into the potting mixture, where the cycle begins again.”
Snakes, Albertus Seba (illustrations 1734-65)
CHINESE NEW YEAR 2013
Year of the Snake begins February 10, 2013
The snake is sometimes referred to as the “junior dragon” because of its dragon-like appearance and predatory nature. What the snake lacks in limbs, it makes up for in trickery, deception, and lethal mastery. Picking up scents with its forked tongue, the snake slithers its way toward its victim, masking itself with chemicals produced by musk glands, slyly and stylishly slithering its way toward mate or prey.
People born during the year of the snake are said to be sophisticated, calm, somewhat unemotional, and perhaps a little paranoid. However, they are also known to be determined, quick-thinking, sharply enthusiastic, and able to create their own destinies.
Orthoptera: an order of insects that includes katydids, grasshoppers, and crickets.
The “Island Vessel Vivarium” is a terrarium inside an aquarium. Designed by artist Alberto J. Almarza, show-cased at the Geek Arts / Green Innovators Festival in April 2010. Glass blower: Pittsburgh Glass Center.
“As a passionate nature lover, there is nothing more gratifying than observing this active and thriving little ecosystem as if seen through a magnifying glass.” ~Almarza
Living ingredients include moss, violets, a spider, and a centipede for the terrarium, and for the aquarium: Java moss, banana plant, barnacles, ghost shrimp, and zebra danios.
During the 1600’s, Tulipia ‘Semper Augustus’ was considered to be the “Holy Grail’ of tulip bulbs, and it almost brought ruin upon an entire country. (The red-and-white striped Tulip ‘Semper Augustus’ no longer exists.) The striping on this particular tulip bulb was caused by a virus spread by aphids. The virus produced flames and feathering on the petals (called “breaking”) and it created a sensation when it was released upon 17th Century Holland where the populace was all too eager to get rich on an anomaly without knowing its severe detriments. Bulbs carrying the virus lose their vigor quickly, making it almost impossible to propagate and the result is the demise of a genetic line. No one knew that, of course, when the tulip frenzy started…
Legend and Lore of the Tulip as recorded by Charles McKay in 1841: Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
17th Century Holland, 1636
The ‘Semper Augustus’ tulip was considered to be the most precious of all, and in 1636, only two such bulbs were known to exist (both of an inferior quality, due to the virus). One was in the hands of a dealer in Amsterdam, and the other was in the hands of a dealer in Harlaem. The desire for the ‘Semper Augustus’ tulip was so great that one speculator offered the fee-simple of 12 acres of surrounding property where the Harlaem tulip was located. In Amsterdam, another speculator purchased a single ‘Semper Augustus’ for 4600 florins (approx. $64,400…for a single bulb), plus a new carriage, two grey horses, and a complete harness.
The demand for rare tulips was so great in 1636 that their sale was established on the Stock Exchange of Amsterdam in several towns throughout the country. “Tulip-jobbers” speculated on the rise and fall of tulip stocks, making enormous profits for themselves, and it wasn’t long before people in all walks of life began to participate in the tulip stock trade: noblemen, farmers, chimney-sweeps and aristocrats who converted their homes and properties into cash so they could invest in the flower market.
The tulip frenzy was not to last, however. When the prudent portion of the population (namely, the noblemen and aristocrats) determined that the folly couldn’t last forever, they stopped purchasing bulbs and began to sell them off at discounted prices. Suddenly, confidence in the market was destroyed, and the streets were filled with defaulters in the tulip trade.
When the dust settled and the fury subsided, the courts ultimately refused to interfere in the mania-inspired debacle, stating that gambling debts were not debts of the law, and the population was left to sort itself out without judicial assistance.
It was many years before the country recovered from the economic shock resulting from the tulip-trading epidemic.
These are for British trees, but their North American equivalents look similar.
LOVE WINTER TWIGS! ID challenge extravaganza!
Rotterdam-based Sicilian artist Giuseppe Licari presents a network of tree roots hanging from the ceiling like unusual, organic chandeliers. His site-specific installation titled Humus features the extended prickly roots of trees affixed to the top of his exhibition space, transforming the room into a sort of underground lair. It’s as though visitors are getting an exclusive peek at the hidden world beneath a park or forest.
While roots are conventionally buried deep in the earth and towering trees are exposed as they rise high into the sky, Licari has taken an alternative approach to introducing nature into contemporary culture. The artist reveals a hint of nature in this otherwise modern setting by opting to display the tree roots like some sort of suspended furniture.
The installation welcomes visitors to walk amongst the hanging structures, rich with interpretation. The space itself is as much a part of Licari’s installation as the sculptural tree stumps and roots that audiences must navigate themselves around. Humus was Licari’s contribution to the group exhibition titled Secret Gardens, which sought to go back to our roots—an era that predated digital reliance.
Top: Sebastopol geese from Cottage Rose, a Sebastopol breeder.
Left: Snowflake the Sebastopol goose (who thinks she’s a sheep), at the Red Brick Road Farm, Icelandic sheep breeding, Illinois.
Right: The Sebastopol goose (also known as Frizzled Fowl) has pure white, curling feathers.
Sebastopol geese are descended from the European Gray-lag goose, and have been around for a couple hundred years. Their origination remains the subject of debate, even today, but the following account was published in the Illustrated London News, on September 8, 1860, and re-printed in The Poultry Book:
Amongst the geese there were two curious specimens from Sebastopol, exhibited by Mr. T.H.D. Bayly. These birds are somewhat smaller than those of this country at a mature size, but they are of the purest white and the most perfect form, whilst the more conspicuous portion of their plumage is of a curly nature, affording a very striking contrast to the feathers of the ordinary English goose. The feathers on the back are curved and frilled upwards; the secondary feathers of the wings are elongated and twisted, also the tail coverts. These geese were sent to Mr. Bayly by John Harvey, Esq., who had been cruising in the Black Sea. Their weight is 11 lbs. each. They are of precisely the same habits as our English geese.
The average female goose will produce between 25-30 eggs per year. They bond well and can be very social with their keepers. The long curling feathers prevent them from flying well, although they do maintain some flight ability. Clean swimming water, such as a small pool, should be provided to allow the geese to bathe and clean themselves. Sebastopol geese can be raised in colder climates if an adequate shelter from the cold is provided.