GreenasSky A gambol in the goodies by Sloan Nota

Four Golden Hats


Bronze Age Golden Hat, detail

Bronze Age Golden Hat, detail. via Ancient Origins

Four Golden Hats. Bronze Age

Four Golden Hats. Bronze Age. via Realms of Gold: the Novel

Golden hats (or Gold hats) (German: Goldhüte, singular: Goldhut) are a very specific and rare type of archaeological artifact from Bronze Age Europe. So far, four such objects are known.  The objects are made of thin sheet gold and were attached externally to long conical and brimmed headdresses which were probably made of some organic material and served to stabilise the external gold leaf.    Wikipedia article, Golden hat

These are dubbed hats and ceremonial hats, but clearly not for ceremonies that entail vigorous nodding.  Our best knowledge is archaeological hearsay; those who knew are now dust.  The hats date from about when the Palace of Minos burnt down (1400 BC) and when the Upanishads were composed (800 BC).  Important civilizations existed by this time and humanity was well beyond cave-dwelling gristle-chewing primates.

The Golden Hats have an eerie resemblance to the millinery choices of both Gandalf the Grey and the Wicked Witch of the West. Wizards, witches, peaked hats. Those who knew are now dust but we may yet know the who and how of these golden cones.  Example: King Tutankhamun’s mummy was revealed to the modern world in 1922.  Reams of data were recorded. Since then humanity has created radiocarbon dating, the MRI, and has already had a misdiagnosis and a rediagnosis of the pharaoh’s back deformity. It’s probable that science will develop tools that probe artifacts in new ways, revealing now-hidden information.

As for peaked hats, are they a faint memory of long-past magical meanings?  That this could be fact is seductive to us in our faraway age.  A silken thread intact all the way back to our forbearers’ minds. Numinous. But did the Romans, the Greeks use any magic::peaked-hat equation?  Or 3rd Century AD Europeans?

One has to ask.


This blogpost is a follow-up to the last, Mother Nature’s Spheres which looked at the interesting fact that natural spheres often occur in groups.  This snagged my attention a year or so ago and now I have quite a collection of examples of Fields of Rounds on Pinterest.  Not only nature-made but created by humans, in ones and twos and fields of rounds.

Look at the image at the top of this post — notice how many ways rounds are used.  Round marks are easier to make than diamond or heart shapes.  Also they seem to speak more directly to our attention.  Brains of critters other than us are hardwired to recognize specific shapes, patterns, motions.  I wonder if humans have evolved a sensitivity to rounds [mandalas] and fields of rounds [Yayoi Kusama’s polkadots] — and if so what evolutionary advantage that would possibly bestow.  My guess is as good as a scarecrow’s.  Yet I ask you to join me in noticing how often our eyes fall on that motif in farmlands and galleries, in ornamentation and on living skins.

Roy Lichtenstein art, Barcelona.

El Cap de Barcelona, a 1992 sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein, who employed Ben-Day dots in his painting. via Wikipedia, Roy Lichstenstein Ben-Day dots.


spotted frog

Frog in the frog exhibit in Amazonia at the National Zoo.  Frog by crawdog on Flickr.




Categories design, history, technology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mother Nature’s Spheres

For simplicity: a sphere.  No angles to count or measure degrees of, no corners to snag a hem on, just center-point, radii, surface, volume.  Subtract one dimension and you have a circle — center, radius, circumference.  Both forms roll.  Polygons will roll erratically then come to rest on one side.  A true sphere could roll on an infinite plane for an eternity.

Fortunately we’ve evolved to live in a finite world filled with lumps and imperfections.  Approximately spherical is usually good enough for us and it’s Mother Nature’s way.  The following are examples of groups of spheres because it was the natural groupings that first caught my eye.

Fields of Rounds is the Pinterest board that I swept the groupings into.  You’ll see that I’ve added human images but that’s for another day.  Spheres and Circularity may interest you too.


marimo algae balls

A rare and beautiful type of algae called marimo grows in some lakes in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. Marimo forms soft green globes that sit in clusters on the lake bottom. via Slate

Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach in New Zealand. via Moeraki boulders

cave pearls

Cave Pearls in Backwater Aven. Photo: Shaun Puckering. 11th August 2011. via Cave pearls

natural ice balls

Ice balls at Lake Michigan via Natural ice balls



Volvox, a type of freshwater algae. via Volvox


Remember, if you’d like to argue that circles aren’t so simplex all you have to say is pi.


Categories Gaea, Pinterest, science, nature | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Human Tide Runs with Scissors

Runs with Scissors

Runs with Scissors. Special thanks to ISHERB for releasing the caveman art into the public domain, and thanks to Inductiveload for doing same with the scissors.

Let’s define our terms — scissors refers to a common cutting device that the ancient Egyptians purportedly used.  Runs with scissors is a modern expression meaning impetuous, rash.  (Build walking talking robots? Sure. Artificial life? We’re working on it. Clone a sheep? Resurrect a mammoth? Frack Oklahoma? Colonize Mars?)  The Human Tide is that great splash of settlement and migration that has reached most points on the globe.  There are still chinks but we’re not done.

We inherited stone tools and fire from our hominid ancestors so humans walked into the world going at a fair clip already. We added art, advanced language, music, ornament, bread, cloth, shoes. We domesticated other animals, we farmed, built cities, developed ceramics, metallurgy, folklore, laws, priests, commerce. Most metaphors of human advances have us climbing uphill, toiling up mountains, questing, winning. Heroes.

Switch that metaphor to human figures walking downhill — and gaining momentum.  The momentum’s the thing. Our nature is to think and try and invent and build and to keep on going — because what else are we going to do?  We’re human.

But we’d already picked up those scissors.  Steam engines, electricity, mass communications. Maybe the atomic bomb was our first running stride with scissors, but we’ve already got momentum, how can we stop?

That’s where we are now.  We accelerate at bullet speeds in every shard of science — how can we slow down?  It’s too interesting to slam on the brakes and stop. Stop? Brakes?

And there are lots of good arguments about commerce and greed and corruption too.  They’re secondary. We really can’t stop because we can’t stop.

Atomic energy has been the exception.  We saw it in action in Japan, we discovered radiation in the food chain, we talked. Talks lead to treaties.  It’s a start.

Our traditional categories of humans, beasts and plants have begun sprouting branches.  Robots, sentient robots, cyborgs (meat and mech), artificial life.  Humans with bionic enhancements will become as normal as heart patients with pacemakers. The disabled will walk away from their wheelchairs in exoskeletons and you won’t think twice about it. Jobs will be lost to mechanisms, as Big Brother flexes his muscles around the globe and Stephen Hawking thinks smart robots will grind us under their steel-mesh heels.

Do you discuss these things at dinner parties?  Have you thought about a plan of action?  Science has started messing with the human genome, playing chess with patches of DNA — it’s already been done in China.  They have excuses.  So it doesn’t really count, right?


A small but hopeful sign is that public opinion has convinced even Ringling Bros. Circus to free their elephants from a drudgery of performing tricks.  Public opinion.  You and me sitting down and asking new questions. Reasoning. Or our herd consensus could shift to, “Let’s not stampede. Let’s munch.” So humans, let’s start talking.  We’re all we’ve got.

Here’s a partial list of conversation starters, none of which is overused.  Try one with your friends, the guy next to you on the subway or if you win dinner with the President.

  • •  Are cyborgs (part meat part machine) human?  What if they started out human? What if they’re made in a lab but now have emotions, attachments?
  • •  How would you rank the rights of cyborgs  v. rights of robots with AI  v. rights of old-fashioned humans?
  • •  Can sentient robots be owned? But you paid to have it made!
  • •  Can robots inherit property? Vote? Be arrested?
  • •  What bionic enhancement would you take a risk to acquire?  Night vision – a diva’s singing voice – bone-crushing arms?
  • •  Will those people who can’t stop hating be adding these new kinds of beings to their blacklists?  (This is such a no-brainer that we can’t even  give you points for it.)
  • •  Should Science alter human embryos?  If you’d really really all your life wanted a blue-eyed child?  If tinkering could save a baby from a crippling disease?

Lastly, for the sake of frivolity, ponder the future of wearables. “Ladies and gentlemen will you please turn off your phones and luminous garments.”  /  “Table for two? Blinking or non-blinking?”

Categories geekery, science, nature, technology, the Future | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Children in Interesting Times

Milky Way's local supercluster.

Milky Way’s local supercluster.

I grew up in an educated household that did not believe in space aliens. Period.  What were we, idiots? Yet now you and I live in a time of serious and costly scientific searches for beings somewhere else in the universe. Of course we are, how anthropocentric we were back then! Vanity. Law of averages. Great big infinite universe. Bound to be other intelligences. Right?

So I was shaken by this recent science headline: 100,000 Galaxies, and No Obvious Signs of Life.  Silly, but I feel bereft. Like a vacuum has sucked fellow-feeling from the universe and we’re back to being the Only Ones.

Reminds me how often contemporary life requires paradigm shifts.  Deep down, the bedrock of what is keeps shifting. Remember when our bodies were us?  Now our personal cells are outnumbered ten to one by bacterial cells.  A Scientific American article can say, we are practically walking petri dishes. Funny, you don’t look like a petri dish.

And now I don’t only have a brain in my cranium I have another brain in my gut.  The ENS [enteric nervous system] was serving animals as a “brain” long before vertebrates swam along with their spinal chords and crania.  The ENS remains active in us today.

The Eden of biotic diversity of my youth has given way to a Great Extinction.  Polar bears, tigers, elephants — pillars of animal majesty — are on the rout. Pluto was a planet, now it’s just a rock.  Crouching under school desks  is no way to escape an atomic bomb.  People with darker-than-white skins are inferior (unless they surf).  A human outer ear can come out of a 3D printer.  And here comes Augmented Reality. A future insult may be Who’s writing your augmentation?


These are big changes for a psyche to absorb.  The givens get taken away.  Although no animal we know of processes reality in abstractions, other beasts have a sense of continuity, of what feels normal.  What would it do to a chimp if you kept changing its habitat — a cage with a stainless steel feeding bowl, then spacious open lands, then housed next to a noisy train terminal with its shrill pace. My guess is the chimp would go a little mad.  Be disturbed.  So I wonder what happens inside humans who adapt and adapt and adapt as what’s true keeps morphing out from under them.

I ask myself and I hear the supposed Chinese curse May your children live in interesting times.

Categories science, nature, technology | Leave a comment

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