Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lust in the Dust

I may be in love! Just don’t tell Inky (as you know, he’s ridiculously easily upset …which can have catastrophic results for everyone else).

Whatever … thank jedi for the WorldWideWeb (yet another benefit that arachnids have given us, as Inky constantly reminds me)! Without it I would still be in ignorance of my soulmate, spiritual twin and fellow apassionato of all things dust. G. Carboni who, I must emphasis, I have not yet met in person… but it is only a matter of time and hunting him/her/it down, is a person who is wholly attuned to the quotidian beauty and infinite variety of micro-particulates.

Masquerading as a cheesy ‘science is FUN’ site, Carboni offers advice about how to collect dust as well as what to do with it once it’s in your possession. But, best of all, this doyen of dust has a terrific collection of particulate-porn – much of it gathered in the immediate environment.

All of this sub-micro splendour, however, simply provides the filigreed setting for what may be one of life’s enduring mysteries, possibly on a par with those of the Voynich Manuscript and how anyone of sane mind and goodwill could vote conservative. You will have spotted it immediately – as I did – yes, there in full 400X glory, Figure 8 is a scale from the wing of the butterfly that is the centrepiece and, arguably, emblem of Sir Hans Sloane’s Lepidoptera collection (currently housed by the NHM). The question is, “How did a fragment of this treasure end up on Carboni’s floor?"

Never one to resist a challenge (at least not if it won’t hurt and may involve food), I have taken it upon myself to solve this mystery. Luckily I think I can do this in parallel with my other duties (such as preparing new exhibits for MoD and tracking down the Skin Armour). So I’m off to the British Natural History Museum to find out what egregious breach of security allowed this minute sliver of history loose upon the world…

Would someone mind telling Inky where I am – and remind him to feed the diatoms?

PS Good scans of the Voynich Manuscript are hard to find. These are from the Yale Library and have been made more easily available as a flickr set by the public-spirited Daniel and Sarah Drucker, who are not only, respectively, studying the neural bases of similarity spaces and high-level vision, and psycholinguistics, but are also married and awesome. Really! They are! They are 3edges >


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