The violent story of Columbus’ forgotten colony – History –

His first settlement, La Isabela, has been ignored by history — but its short existence reshaped our world



Architect of the Capitol
Architect of the Capitol

This article is excerpted from the new book, “1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created,” from Knopf.

Although it had just finished raining, the air was hot and close. Nobody else was in sight; the only sound other than those from insects and gulls was the staticky low crashing of Caribbean waves. Around me on the sparsely covered red soil was a scatter of rectangles laid out by lines of stones: the outlines of now-vanished buildings, revealed by archaeologists. Cement pathways, steaming faintly from the rain, ran between them. One of the buildings had more imposing walls than the others. The researchers had covered it with a new roof, the only structure they had chosen to protect from the rain. Standing like a sentry by its entrance was a hand-lettered sign: Casa Almirante, Admiral’s House. It marked the first American residence of Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, the man whom generations of schoolchildren have learned to call the discoverer of the New World.

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Abbie Smith on vaccines, your immune system and viruses | Code for Life

Here’s a talk for non-scientists about your immune system, viruses and vaccines by Abbie Smith, a graduate student from the University of Oklahoma who writes the ERV blog. (ERV = endogenous retrovirus) She also spends a little time talking about HIV, which she studies. She’s an enthusiastic and natural speaker. (Being a Freethought meeting these are a few of passing references to creationists but just gloss over that it it’s not your thing.)

Besides that it’s a nice effort to explain a fair complex subject, I’m offering this talk in small part because of  measles cases in New Zealand.

via Abbie Smith on vaccines, your immune system and viruses | Code for Life.


Darkest exoplanet spotted by astronomers

A dark alien world, blacker than coal, has been spotted by astronomers.

TrES-2b is literally darker, on average, than coal
TrES-2b is literally darker, on average, than coal


The Jupiter-sized planet is orbiting its star at a distance of just five million km, and is likely to be at a temperature of some 1200C.

The planet may be too hot to support reflective clouds like those we see in our own Solar System, but even that would not explain why it is so dark.

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Radioactive Orchestra: Making Music from Nuclear Isotopes

Original Article:  By Maria Popova:   Radioactive Orchestra: Making Music from Nuclear Isotopes | Brain Pickings.

Getting excited about excited states, or what Marie Curie has to do with experimental music.

In 2011, the need to understand radioactivity glared at us with more urgency than ever, in the face of the Fukushima disaster and continued debates about nuclear energy. In May, we took a more playful and artistic look at the issue with Lisa Redniss’sRadioactive, the beautiful cyanotype-illustrated story of Marie Curie’s life and legacy, and today we turn to another cross-disciplinary illuminator: The Radioactive Orchestra — a project aiming to explain radioactivity through music by inviting you to compose tunes with 3,175 of the most interesting radioactive isotopes in an effort to glean new understanding of what radiation really is.

It works like this: Melodies are created by simulating the decay of an atomic nucleus from an excited nuclear state down to its ground state. A single gamma photon is released for every step of the energy loss and, by representing the energy of the photon as the pitch of a note, the photon plays a note each time this happens. For an added touch of synesthesia, this is also visualized by a colorful ray coming out of the atomic nucleus. Because every isotope has a unique set of possible excited states and decay patterns, it also has a unique sonic fingerprint.

It’s really exciting to do a project where we can listen to radiation. There has never really been a way to sense the radiation around us. You can neither see it nor hear it.”

The project comes from Swedish nuclear safety organization KSU and DJ Axel Boman, and is a fine addition to this running list of experimental music projects. (Besides, if you can play the HIV virus and the number pi, why shouldn’t you play an isotope or two?)

So go ahead, give it a whirl.

Obama Motorcade Fined In London, US Embassy Now Owes $8 Million In Fines

President Obama took his motorcade through the Central part of London recently and now London Mayor Boris Johnson wants him to pay fines totaling £120 ($195) after the President failed to pay a £10 ($16) congestion levy.



The congestion levy was put in place as a “congestion charge” on Central London drivers from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm as a way to stop congestion which hinders all drivers and poses a risk to pedestrians in the area.

The U.S. isn’t the only embassy to have fines levied against them for driving on the cities streets, all together $81.5 million in congestion fees have been placed against leaders from all over the world.

The Obama administration however has fought paying the fines, citing the 1960 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which prohibits imposing any taxes on foreign embassies. The Obama administration claims that the “levy” is nothing more than a tax and therefore they shouldn’t have to pay the fines.

via Obama Motorcade Fined In London, US Embassy Now Owes $8 Million In Fines.

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