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Brief Notices XI

A wide range of topics in this edition of Brief Notices, and nary a link between them.

First up is a fascinating piece about the rise of the Queen in chess. Cultural historian Marilyn Yalom (who has an intresting background herself) has written the book on the subject. She speculates that the emergence of the all-powerful chess piece occured either as a function of the medieval veneration for St. Mary, or as a response to the powerful real-life queens -- such as Isabella of Spain -- of the age.

shishkin9I haven't before heard of 19th century Russian realist painter, Ivan Shishkin. However, he has apparently become "popular" and his works can fetch $750,000 at auction. So, too, it seems can far cheaper works by other artists which have been modified and passed off as the work of Shiskin. A Russian dealer said: "Western auctioneers now have fakes in their catalogues all the time." Leading artists alleged to have been faked include Korovin, Gorbatov and Maliavin. "Russian art has suddenly become so valuable." This piece from the Guardian is an intriguing look into the world of rich collectors and unscrupulous forgers and dealers.

Talking about fakes, the St Petersburg Times has a good story about the town of Clearwater, Florida, which is rapidly becoming Scientology's version of Salt Lake City. Already more than 200 businesses of all kinds are operated in the town by Church members, and there are plans for huge condo developments and a doubling of business activity. Why not, I say.

Part of Scientology's teachings, I am sure, like every other religion concern themselves with the level of consciousness in the believer. Perhaps they will be interested in the cutting edge work of Nobel physiologist Gerald Edelman who has worked extensively on the question "What is consciousness?" According to Dr. Edelman:

"[T]he brain is “context bound.” It is not a logical system like a computer that processes only programmed information; it does not produce preordained outcomes like a clock. Rather it is a selectional system that, through pattern recognition, puts things together in always novel ways. It is this selectional repertoire in the brain that makes each individual unique, that accounts for the ability to create poetry and music, that accounts for all the differences that arise from the same biological apparatus—the body and the brain. There is no singular mapping to create the mind; there is, rather, an unforetold plurality of possibilities. In a logical system, novelty and unforeseen variation are often considered to be noise. In a selectional system such diversity actually provides the opportunity for favorable selection.
wormConsciousness of self is supposed to be one of the attributes of hiumanity. Therefore, it is unlikely that Osedax frankpressi, a species of worm, has it. However, in so many other respects it is literally a fabulous beast. Found 5,000 feet below the surface of the sea, living entirely on a diet of whale bones, these bizarre 2-inch worms, without eyes or mouth, are all female, or so it seemed. In fact, scientists have discovered that up to 100 vestigial males live within each female. This world of ours is simply incredible

August 6, 2004 in Brief Notices | Permalink


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