At seemingly random points across the composition (but not at all random in reality) the page is studded with tiny squares of gold leaf. These are the stars in the constellation depicted. The text, which runs to several pages, explains that the stars rotate ceaselessly between the celestial poles, and that these are guarded by the bears of Crete, who had protected Jupiter as a baby from his cannibalistic father, Saturn, in return for which they had been set in the sky to mark the poles. They are known as Helice of the seven stars and Cynosura, who has never deceived Phoenician sailors guided by her. Between them…runs a giant snake, like a river, with stars along its body…These are the constellations which we still know as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, with the Plough.


Tantalising writing by Christopher de Hamel about the Leiden Aratea, here. Image from Medieval Fragments.


Trowelblazers, an exhibition of women scientists, currently on show at the Geographical Society is such a great idea, and the idea that women can do anything is exactly what my school taught us. That it’s even an issue now, still baffles/angers me. I’m calling now for similar lights to be shone on women in finance, law, economics, anthropology, medicine, academia and politics.


If this has inspired you, then:

1. listen to this interview between the conductors Marin Alsop and Silvia Caduff (“women cannot conduct, but you must conduct”, Karajan declared when Caduff picked up the baton for the first time before him),


2. read this set of obituaries (the title comes from a matron who was heard saying “chin up girls, I’m proud of you all” to her nurses as they marched into the sea as Japanese prisoners of war, knowing they would be shot), and


3. pick up a copy of this survey of women diplomats


I want a Strandbeest

I’ve always been more at the arts and books end of the spectrum in my interests, but this tumblr feed (a spin-off from the excellent website The Kid Should See This) changes that.

The best microphone for getting grandparents to record their bedtime stories and memories, star-guiding kits, toys that teach kids to hack basic electronics, board games that are actually fun and quirky illustrated biographies of science pioneers all feature. I want pretty much everything.

My favourite idea probably has to be the wind-powered giant dinosaur that you can take for a walk along the beach. Admit it, wouldn’t you like to walk along talking to your Strandbeest? Any volunteers to buy me the beach too?

GRANTED THEO loek van der klis 16  kopie



Nobel prizes



The Nobel Prize museum in Stockholm has to be one of the most uplifting places I’ve ever been. From seeing early scientific discoveries where the inventors cheerfully made their own equipment in a garden shed, to finding out that the awards each year are individually designed by an illustrator who has been briefed on both the award and its recipient to make them as personal as possible it was uniformly positive.

Blog of the week

Disclaimer alert, I do know this blogger, but this is an unsolicited fan letter.

I can pay no higher tribute than to say that as someone who is so squeamish they can’t watch the mildest medical soap I am nonetheless completely gripped by this blog’s unflinching – and often funny – description of bodily failures and medical peculiarities.

The sooner Tom’s book on the advances in the treatment of heart disease comes out, the better. He’s got the knack of hunting down a good story and a sense of the ridiculous that would do a Georgette Heyer heroine proud. #nohigherpraise

Try this as a taster and tell me you didn’t laugh: