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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