Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 19th, 2021

200 years of cement tiles

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The colors (and designs) are striking.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2021 at 6:59 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Technology

Summer squash sensation

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This was what was left after I took out my serving — enough for a couple more meals at least.

“Sensation” is hyperbole for the sake of alliteration, but it was indeed quite good.

I used my Stargazer 12″ skillet, for which I have an aftermarket glass lid that fits well (and also fits my Field Company No. 10).

Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the skillet bottom, then add:

• 1/2 very large red onion, chopped
• multiple grindings of kala namak

Cook over medium heat (5 on my induction burner), stirring frequently, until onion softens and turns transparent. Add:

• 7 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (this was some of red Russian garlic) and allowed to rest
• 1 large turmeric root, finely chopped
• about 1.5″ ginger root, finely chopped

Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, then add:

• 3 patty pan squash, diced
• 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
• 6 good-sized domestic white mushrooms, sliced thick
• about 1.5 tablespoons black pepper (for the turmeric)
• about 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
• about 2 tablespoons dried basil

Cover, reduce heat (to 3 on the burner), and cook, stirring fairly frequently, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the vegetables have somewhat collapsed, about 10-20 minutes.

I put about

• 1/4 cup cooked intact whole-grain rye

in a bowl, topped it with a couple of scoops of the vegetables, and squeezed over it

•  half a lemon

and had that as a quick meal/snack.

Very tasty. I think I would have added 1/4 cup pecans with the onions, but I already ate all the pecans — as the video in the previous post shows, pecans are extremely nutritious among nuts.


Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2021 at 6:01 pm

Pine Mouth Syndrome: Prolonged Bitter Taste from Certain Pine Nuts

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I seldom buy pine nuts these days because they are so dear. Mostly I eat walnuts (and also, in the nut/seed category, pepitas — and I suppose tahini would count since it is nothing but ground sesame seeds), but after seeing the opening chart on pecans and reading a bit more, I did buy a bag of pecans from the bulk food section (which, happily, were on sale at 15% off).

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2021 at 5:59 pm

Led by the Nose: Artisanal perfumes

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To make his perfumes, Spain’s Alberto “Berti” Fernández wildcrafts the raw materials whenever possible. In this case, Berti is helping with the annual lavender harvest at Dos Padres Vineyard, situated an hour outside of Barcelona in Torrellas de Foix. Photo by U.B. Morgan, courtesy of Alberto Fernández.

Barbara Tannenbaum has an interesting article in Craftsmanship magazine that begins:

Every August, Alberto Fernández travels to Northern Spain where his family owns some land in the mountainous region of Omaña. The land lies inside a United Nations-designated biosphere reserve whose natural flora include unusual plants that spill over to the open fields and roads leading into town.

Fernández forages the property for lavender, rosemary, tree barks, moss, and other leafy material to distill or grind into tinctures. Using beeswax from his family’s apiary, he creates a concentrated extract that perfumers call “an absolute.” In the village, he searches out wild-growing irises, culling pieces of large, fleshy roots called rhizomes. Once the roots have dried for at least three years, he grinds the material into fine powder. The result, tinctured in alcohol, “yields up a soft, violet scent,” Fernández says. “It’s a luxurious smell.”

I learned these details during a recent summer trip as Fernández and I sat cross-legged between rows of lavender at a small vineyard just outside of Barcelona. There, in the Catalonian wine country, my wife and I were tourists with fortunate timing. Mutual friends had just sent us a summons to help trim and gather the fragrant purple blossoms in this lavender field before they withered in the Spanish sun.

To describe the subtleties that are possible in handcrafted perfume, Fernández reached into his backpack and retrieved a small vial labeled “Vernalia.” This scent, he said, was meant to capture that brief, seasonal moment when winter morphs into spring. Applying it, I smelled malty, wet vegetation beneath sweet springtime blooms. Most compelling, there was that unmistakable whiff of warming soil after spring’s first rain—a scent, I later learned, called petrichor.

Fernández was actually born and raised in London; he moved to Barcelona almost a decade ago, after graduating with a degree in Natural Sciences from the U.K’s Kingston University and a stint working in the sales department of Penhaligon’s, a venerable British perfume house established in 1870. Although he keeps a day job, working as a K-12 teaching assistant, making perfume the way it used to be done has become his passion.

To make his perfumes, Fernández often uses a process called enfleurage, a common technique of Victorian-era perfumers. For Vernalia, for example, he starts with fresh hyacinth and narcissus blooms purchased in a Barcelona flower mart. Because the scent of these delicate petals doesn’t survive modern methods of heat-based extraction, Fernández pours scent-free coconut oil into a small wooden chassis or glass container. (Any fat-based liquid that becomes solid at room temperature works.) He then presses the petals face down in the fat and lets it sit for 24 hours, or until the oil becomes saturated with fragrance.

“The amount of time depends on the flower and how intense a smell you want,” he says. “Take jasmine. The flower contains a natural chemical, indole. Press the flowers for one day, I find the smell very fresh and clean. Leave it two days or longer and the indole starts to emerge. That smells like moth balls to some. To me, it’s like animal skins and taxidermy. So you have to keep checking the mix.”

After returning from Spain, I was so taken by what I’d seen that I started looking into how perfumes are being made these days, and sold, in the U.S. To my surprise, I discovered a wide, incredibly varied world, where prices and reputations have little bearing on quality, and where myths and misconceptions abound.


Every three-ounce glass bottle of perfume is a distant relative of a fragrant blend once found in a town’s apothecary store, a spice bazaar, the royal court of distant kings, or the secret offices of ancient priesthoods. Today more than 1600 perfumes are introduced every year, the majority developed by a much more industrialized system that, by 2022, expects worldwide sales of nearly $48 billion.

A small percentage of these perfumes will be crafted by niche or artisan makers like Fernández, who are finding guidance—in different ways—from the skills of ancient masters. That’s because, to many, the commercial fragrance industry has begun to smell, well, a little stale.

Before the internet gave birth to online sales, and myriad platforms for them, the perfume counter of any big city department store was the dominant gateway to the scent industry. While it’s still the easiest place to find designer brands, “many have lost their way, creatively,” says Antonia Kohl, owner of Tigerlily Perfumery. Tigerlily is a boutique, independent fragrance shop in San Francisco, and a second home to the Bay Area’s cadre of pioneers in the “indie” perfume movement.

To understand how these storied products have gotten so diluted, I asked Kohl to help me navigate several perfume counters in one of the city’s major shopping centers, and to shed light on the work done by perfume’s largely unseen network of specialists—fragrance houses, chemists, professional “noses,” juice manufacturers, bottlers, and distributors that sit behind public-facing brands. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2021 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Art, Business, Daily life

1985 high-dive record: 172 feet

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Today the record is 192 feet, but even 172 feet is a little too much for most, I would guess.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2021 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Daily life

A non-Standard model of cosmology: An adjustment to the laws of gravitation

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David Merritt, a former professor of physics at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and author of Dynamics and Evolution of Galactic Nuclei (2013) and A Philosophical Approach to MOND (2020), writes in Aeon:

he standard theory of cosmology is called the Lambda cold dark matter (ΛCDM) model. As that name suggests, the theory postulates the existence of dark matter – a mysterious substance that (according to the theorists) comprises the bulk of the matter in the Universe. It is widely embraced. Every cosmologist working today was educated in the Standard Model tradition, and virtually all of them take the existence of dark matter for granted. In the words of the Nobel Prize winner P J E Peebles: ‘The evidence for the dark matter of the hot Big Bang cosmology is about as good as it gets in natural science.’

There is one problem, however. For four decades and counting, scientists have failed to detect the dark matter particles in terrestrial laboratories. You might think this would have generated some doubts about the standard cosmological model, but all indications are to the contrary. According to the 2014 edition of the prestigious Review of Particle Physics: ‘The concordance model [of cosmology] is now well established, and there seems little room left for any dramatic revision of this paradigm.’ Still, shouldn’t the lack of experimental confirmation at least give us pause?

In fact, there are competing cosmological theories, and not all of them contain dark matter. The most successful competitor is called modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND). Observations that are explained under the Standard Model by invoking dark matter are explained under MOND by postulating a modification to the theory of gravity. If scientists had confirmed the existence of the dark particles, there would be little motivation to explore such theories as MOND. But given the absence of any detections, the existence of a viable alternative theory that lacks dark matter invites us to ask: does dark matter really exist?

Philosophers of science are fascinated by such situations, and it is easy to see why. The traditional way of assessing the truth or falsity of a theory is by testing its predictions. If a prediction is confirmed, we tend to believe the theory; if it is refuted, we tend not to believe it. And so, if two theories are equally capable of explaining the observations, there would seem to be no way to decide between them.

What is a poor scientist to do? How is she to decide? It turns out that the philosophers have some suggestions. They point out that scientific theories can achieve correspondence with the facts in two very different ways. The ‘bad’ way is via post-hoc accommodation: the theory is adjusted, or augmented, to bring it in line with each new piece of data as it becomes available. The ‘good’ way is via prior prediction: the theory correctly predicts facts in advance of their discovery, without – and this is crucial – any adjustments to the original theory.

It is probably safe to say that no theory gets everything exactly right on the first try. But philosophers are nearly unanimous in arguing that successful, prior prediction of a fact assigns a greater warrant for belief in the predicting theory than post-hoc accommodation of that fact. For instance, the philosopher of science Peter Lipton wrote:

When data need to be accommodated … the scientist knows the answer she must get, and she does whatever it takes to get it … In the case of prediction, by contrast, there is no motive for fudging, since the scientist does not know the right answer in advance … As a result, if the prediction turns out to have been correct, it provides stronger reason to believe the theory that generated it.

Some philosophers go so far as to argue that the only data that can lend any support to a theory are data that were predicted in advance of experimental confirmation; in the words of the philosopher Imre Lakatos, ‘the only relevant evidence is the evidence anticipated by a theory’. Since only one (at most) of these two cosmological theories can be correct, you might expect that only one of them (at most) manages to achieve correspondence with the facts in the preferred way. That expectation turns out to be exactly correct. And (spoiler alert!) it is not the Standard Model that is the favoured theory according to the philosophers’ criterion. It’s MOND.

Dark matter was a response to an anomaly that arose, in the late 1970s, from observations of spiral galaxies such as our Milky Way. The speed at which stars and gas clouds orbit about the centre of a galaxy should be predictable given the observed distribution of matter in the galaxy. The assumption here is that the gravitational force from the observed matter (stars, gas) is responsible for maintaining the stars in their circular orbits, just as the Sun’s gravity maintains the planets in their orbits. But this prediction was decisively contradicted by the observations. It was found that, sufficiently far from the centre of every spiral galaxy, orbital speeds are always higher than predicted. This anomaly needed to be accounted for.

Cosmologists had a solution. They postulated that every galaxy is embedded in a ‘dark matter halo’, a roughly spherical cloud composed of some substance that generates just the right amount of extra gravity needed to explain the high orbital speeds. Since we do not observe this matter directly, it must consist of some kind of elementary particle that does not interact with electromagnetic radiation (that includes light, but also radio waves, gamma rays etc). No particle was known at the time to have the requisite properties, nor have particle physicists yet found evidence in their laboratory experiments for such a particle, in spite of looking very hard since the early 1980s. The cosmologists had their solution to the rotation-curve anomaly, but they lacked the hard data to back it up.

In 1983, an alternative explanation for the rotation-curve anomaly was proposed by Mordehai Milgrom, a physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Milgrom noticed that the anomalous data had two striking regularities that were not accounted for by the dark matter hypothesis. First: orbital speeds are not simply larger than predicted. In every galaxy, the orbital speed rises as one moves away from the centre and then remains at a high value as far out as observations permit. Astronomers call this property ‘asymptotic flatness of the rotation curve’. Second: the anomalously high orbital speeds invariably appear in regions of space where accelerations due to gravity drop below a certain characteristic, and very small, value. That is: one can predict, in any galaxy, exactly where the motions will begin to deviate from Newtonian dynamics.

This characteristic acceleration value, which Milgrom dubbed a0, is much lower than the acceleration due to the Sun’s gravity anywhere in our solar system. So, by measuring orbital speeds in the outskirts of spiral galaxies, astronomers were testing gravitational theory in a way that had never been done before. Milgrom knew that there were many instances in the history of science where the need for a new theory became apparent only when an existing theory was tested in a new way. And so he took seriously the possibility that the theory of gravity might simply be wrong.

In three papers published in 1983, Milgrom proposed a simple modification to Isaac Newton’s laws that relate gravitational force to acceleration. (Albert Einstein’s theory reduces to Newton’s simpler theory in the regime of galaxies.) He showed that his modification correctly predicts the asymptotic flatness of orbital rotation curves.

Milgrom was careful to acknowledge that he had designed his hypothesis in order to produce that known result. But his theory also predicted that the effective gravitational force was computable given the observed distribution of normal matter alone – not just in the case of ultra-low accelerations, but everywhere. And when astronomers tested this bold prediction, they found that it was correct. Milgrom’s hypothesis correctly predicts the rotation curve of every galaxy that has been tested in this way. And it does so without postulating the presence of dark matter.

Note the stark difference between the way in which the two theories explain the anomalous rotation-curve data. The standard cosmological model executes an ad-hoc manoeuvre: it simply postulates the existence of whatever amount and distribution of dark matter are required to reconcile the observed stellar motions with Newton’s laws. Whereas Milgrom’s hypothesis correctly predicts orbital speeds given the observed distribution of normal matter alone. No Standard Model theorist has ever come up with an algorithm that is capable of doing anything as impressive as that.

Many philosophers would argue that this predictive success of Milgrom’s theory gives us a warrant for believing that his theory – as opposed to the Standard Model – is correct. But the story does not end there. Milgrom’s theory makes a number of other novel predictions that have been confirmed by observational astronomers. Doing justice to all of these would take a book (and, in fact, I’ve recently written such a book), but I will mention one example here. Milgrom’s theory predicts that a galaxy’s total mass in normal (non-dark) matter, which astrophysicists like to call the ‘baryonic mass’, is proportional to the fourth power of the rotation speed measured far from the galaxy’s centre. This novel prediction also turned out to be correct. (For obscure historical reasons, Milgrom’s predicted relation is nowadays called the ‘baryonic Tully-Fisher relation’, or BTFR.)

Astrophysics is rife with correlations between observed quantities, but exact relations such as the BTFR are unheard of: they are the sort of thing one associates with a high-level theory (think: the ideal gas law of statistical thermodynamics), not with a messy discipline like astrophysics.

What would a Standard Model cosmologist predict for a relation such as the BTFR? The simple answer is: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2021 at 11:06 am

Posted in Books, Philosophy, Science

Decision algorithm from John Barth

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This post from some years back came to mind. The rule is pointless if you already know which alternative is most appealing, but if you’re study it’s a handy tool — like flipping a coin, only the rule works even if there are more than two alternatives.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2021 at 10:17 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Favorite brush week — and more praise for Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel

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This week I picked out some of my favorite brushes — desert-island brushes, if you will — I begin with one of the best: the Omega Pro 48 (10048). This morning I tried to put my finger on what makes the brush so pleasing, and I suppose one thing is the price — around US$17 — but that’s almost irrelevant. What raises this brush to the status of a favorite is in part the feel on the face, a special sort of pressure — firmness combined with flexibility from the combination of the length of the loft and the resilience of the (long) bristles — and in part its affinity for lather: the brush easily loaded, the lather easily produced, and the lather capacity of the generously sized knot.

Of course, being boar, the knot must be soaked before use: wet it well under the hot-water tap, stand the brush on its base, and then after your shower the brush is ready for work. Mystic Water Cuppa Joe is, of course, a coffee-fragranced soap, and a very fine soap it is — a tallow-based formula — and the fragrance determined the aftershave I picked.

This morning I used my vintage French Eros slant, which (like love) is a delight but (also like love) can be prickly and injurious — but having prepped with Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave, I had no qualms. (Too bad there’s no similar potion to protect one against the dangers of love.) I also was conscious of angle and definitely watched the pressure I used, gliding lightly through the stubble.

Three passes — with, across, against — left my face smooth, and once again I balmified the splash of Spring-Heeled Jack by adding two small squirts of Hydrating Gel. This makes the aftershave better for my skin, no doubt — ameliorating the antagonistic effects of alcohol — but more important to me is that it makes the aftershave more enjoyable and the aftereffect, once drydown is done, even better. Some balms have an oily feel (because they contain oil, so the feel is natural), but the feel of a splash + hydrating gel is quite difference — it’s light, and it dries quickly. And Spring-Heeled Jack’s java fragrance is wonderful after the drydown, and long-lasting as well.

Altogether a great start to the week.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2021 at 10:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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