Reception of the Grand Condé at Versailles following his victory at Seneffe. Condé advances towards Louis XIV in a respectful manner with laurel wreaths on his path, while captured enemy flags are displayed on both sides of the stairs.

This week I learned – Kings Louis XIV-XV special edition

I know I normally make these about three different interesting things, but this week I visited Versailles, France, and learned enough things about the eccentricities of Kings Louis XIV-XVI (a.k.a. the last three kings before the French revolution) and their nearest and dearest to fill pages of blog. Here are two stories of Louis XIV and one of Louis XV (or rather, of his most prominent lover) that especially caught my fancy. As for Louis XVI, my favourite story about him has turned intriguing enough to receive its own post next week…

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Glass sea urchin at the Natural History Museum, London

This week I learned – Natural History Museum edition

Recently I was lucky enough to get a look around the Natural History Museum in London. This glorious building houses a vast collection of artefacts representing the fascinating (if deeply colonialist) history of the British exploration and developing knowledge of the natural world.

Presented with such a wealth of historical and ecological information, the challenge wasn’t learning new things, but narrowing down my choices on what to write about. Here are three that stood out: a feat of comparative anatomy, sea life recreated in glass, and the secret of the opal’s colours.

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Agar art - 'Finding Pneumo' by Linh Ngo

This week I learned: agar art, Japan’s senior citizens behind bars, and the strength of spider silk

This week I learned how to make art with microbes, why so many older Japanese women prefer to be in prison, and about the amazing possibilities of golden orb-weaver silk.

A note for any arachnophobe readers – the last of these pieces contains no imagery (unless you follow the links), but plenty of spider-related text, so I leave it to you to assess your level of OK-ness with that. I’ve placed it last so that you can still read the rest of the post if you want to.

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The Boiling River of the Amazon

This week I learned: Boiling River, bottleless water, and endangered Chewbacca

This week I learned about a boiling river, bottleless water you can hold in your hand, and the lengths George Lucas went to to keep Chewbacca from getting shot.

A quick note before I get into the fun stuff: because life is getting busier for me, from next week I will be reducing my output to one post a week, on Thursdays. I’ll still be creating TWIL posts, because they’re both a lot of fun and a great way to get the creative juices flowing, but they will be posted on alternating weeks, with more serious posts in between.

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Woman sittin on an island under a tree that is a brain

This week I learned: life with locked-in syndrome, voodoo wasps, and sleeping in someone else’s car

This week I learned about how people feel about having almost no control over their bodies, about mind-controlling wasps, and about what happened when one woman let a homeless person use her car as a bed.

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Record made out of an X-ray of two hands

This week I learned: bone music, Elmer McCurdy’s posthumous career, the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia

About the amazing world of secret bone music, the outlaw who became Skeletor, and yet more interestingly-shaped rocks with surprising ancient history.

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Blanket Octopus swimming

This week I learned: blanket octopus, history of the Wilhelm scream, highway safety for Colorado wildlife

About a superhero cephalopod; animals crossing; and the man behind the Wilhelm scream.

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Violin made of ice

This week I learned: battlefield ant triage, unrequited gannet love, ice music

About ants providing medical care for one another after battle; the strange, beautiful tragedy of Nigel the gannet; and an orchestra made of ice.

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