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Metamorphosis and Mud Killing

The Science News, the Weekly Newsmagazine of Science is a great synopsis of “what’s happening now” throughout the scientific community, a weekly reader of the science world. Included on this week’s front page online is a lovely article concerning the ingenious mathematical fiber artists at the Joint Mathematics Meeting this year.

This week I found to must have books:

I want, deeply want, this book Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis, by Kim Todd, published by Harcourt, 2007.

I’ve never heard of Maria Sibylia Merian, a woman who, with her daughter, traveled to South America to study caterpillars more than 100 years before Charles Darwin began to change scientific thinking with his visit to the Galapagos.

At the time that Maria sashayed from Europe unaccompanied by her husband, shocking enough in that fact, the mainstream scientists believed in “spontaneous generation” while Maria, who had been painting and engraving and writing about butterflies and caterpillars was studying metamorphosis. The plates are black and white but they should be exquisite renderings of the metamorphing insects and their companion plants.

Another book in the scientific vein that will come to live with me is The Old Way, A Story of the First People by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. This female writer was 9 years old in 1950 when her family went to live with the Kalahari san, “Bushmen”. She witnessed this hunter-gatherer culture whose lifestyle had not changed from the primative beginnings of human ecology and writes about her difficulties in understanding their ways. I am anxious to read how the introduction of modern culture’s apartheid, capitalism and religion has affected this ancient culture.


And in further scientific news today the government on the island of Java has approved a plan to drop concert concrete balls on chains down a volcano in an attempt to slow the flow of mud that has been erupting since last May. The plan will be to start slowly but increase to 50 1.5 meter chains a day.

The BBC Online reports:

Dr Bagus Nurhandoko, who helped develop the scheme, told Nature magazine: “It will make the mud tired. We’re killing the mud softly.”

You can read this amazing scheme here


About Mary Beth

I am fascinated by changing patterns and colored threads. I sew garments and am teaching myself to machine knit. Since selling the building that housed my workrooms, The Stitchery, I'm searching for a place to set up the knitting machines again. There must be room here somewhere!

3 responses »

  1. … drop concert balls on chains down a volcano….
    Mary Beth, you cracked me up and made my day! I really had to read the article, because first I never heard of concert balls and then I coulnd’t understand how that is holding up the mud flows…
    well….all is to be revealed…. 🙂

  2. MB, once you finish the book on the bushmen, let me know. I can refer you to other such books about various other cultures as well as the Bushmen … during the anthropologist degree days, I had a long reading list!

  3. Karina! Oops, major typo, thanks for finding it. I’ll fix. I’ve reread that article many times just to try to picture the proceedings 🙂


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