NeoSensory vest

This week I learned: rewiring our senses

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “How do I know the colour I call purple is actually the same colour someone else sees when they look at purple things”?

I’ve long been fascinated by the ways different animals – and different people – live in different sensory worlds. As it turns out, we already know that not everyone sees colour the same way – how do you explain the difference between red and green to someone who’s red-green colourblind? Is the dress blue or white? – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the different sensory worlds we can live in.

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Members of the band Aquasonic making music in tanks of water

This week I learned: making music

Particularly loyal followers of this blog may remember that I wrote in my first ever TWIL post about the Swedish orchestra that plays instruments made of ice.

At the time, that was the strangest way to make music I had come across. But this week, not one but two other musical groups will vie for the title of Most Unlikely Orchestra. Which one takes the cake (or possibly, in this case, the carrot)? Let me know your pick in the comments.

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Freshwater otter perches on a log

This week I learned: the Babylonian swindler and the juggling otters

Just a short one this week, because once again one of my topics of choice has ballooned out into an entire post of its own (tune in next week). For now: this week I learned about the oldest recorded dodgy businessman, and the baffling hobby of certain otters.

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Pair of World War II posters warning about gremlins

This week I learned: gremlins, smart walls, and the secret life of the Korowai

This week I learned about the surprisingly short history of gremlins, how new technology could give your walls eyes, and about what happened when an isolated Papuan tribe met Western society’s fascination with the “primitive”.

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18th Century portrait of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

This week I learned – the coital quandary of Louis XVI

This started out as an entertaining tidbit that arose from my recent tour of Versailles (“hee hee, royal sex ed”), which I was originally going to tack on to the end of my last TWIL post. But, as sometimes happens when I try to turn “this cool thing I heard” into “this well-researched and hopefully accurate information I’m willing to share publicly”, the real story turned out to be much more complicated – and, in this case, of much more personal interest – than I had expected.

So today I delve into the historical mystery of: why did it take Louis XVI and his queen Marie-Antoinette seven years to consummate their marriage?

N.B. the following, as well as several of the links included, discusses sex and may be considered NSFW.

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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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