Thursday, October 23, 2014

Laughing Gas wasn't just a phenomena of Grateful Dead shows--in the 19th century it was plaything of the upper middle class

By Jack Brummet, Lifestyles of the rich and famous Ed.



In the summer of 1799, laughing gas, a/k/a nitrous oxide, became a huge fad among the dapper classes. Humphry Davy—who would later become President of the Royal Society—embarked upon a series of self experiments with the gas. Davy had been involved in the arts earlier, and was a respected poet, and also painted. Soon, the nitrous oxide trials began on a circle of doctors and patients, chemists, playwrights, surgeons and poets. They experimented on themselves and each other.

Davy would later become addicted to laughing gas. But he wasn't just a complete stoner. . he was also the scientist who discovered and isolated potassium and sodium.
Davy's self experiments as reported in The Public Domain Review

"In the centre of the laboratory, Davy had set up a chemical reaction: nitrate of ammoniac bubbled in a heated retort, and the escaping gas was being collected in a hydraulic bellows before seeping through water into a reservoir tank from which the sealed box was filled. After an hour and a quarter, by which time he estimated that his system was fully saturated, Davy stepped out of the box and proceeded to inhale a further twenty quarts of the gas from a series of oiled green silk bags. 

"While seated in the box breathing deeply, Davy had felt the effects that had become familiar from his many previous experiments since he had first inhaled the gas earlier that year. The first signature was its curiously benign sweet taste, followed by a gentle pressure in the head as he continued to inhale. Within thirty seconds the sensation of soft, probing pressure had extended to his chest, and the tips of his fingers and toes. This was accompanied by a vibrant burst of pleasure, and a gradual change in the world around him. Objects became brighter and clearer, and the space in the cramped box seemed to expand and take on unfamiliar dimensions. 



"Now, under the influence of the largest dose of nitrous oxide anyone had ever taken, these effects were intensified to levels he could not have imagined. His hearing became fantastically acute, allowing him to distinguish every sound in the room and seemingly from far beyond: a vast and distant hum, perhaps the vibration of the universe itself.   In his field of vision, the objects around him were teasing themselves apart into shining packets of light and energy. He was rising effortlessly into new worlds whose existence he had never suspected. Somehow, the whole experience was irresistibly funny: he had ‘a great disposition to laugh’, as all his senses competed to exercise their new-found freedom to its limit. 

"Now the gas took Davy to a dimension he had not previously visited. Objects became dazzling in their intensity, sounds were amplified into a cacophony that echoed through infinite space, the thrillings in his limbs seemed to effervesce and overflow; and then, suddenly, he ‘lost all connection with external things’, and entered a self-enveloping realm of the senses. Words, images and ideas jumbled together ‘in such a manner, as to produce perceptions totally novel’: he was no longer in the laboratory, but ‘in a world of newly connected and modified ideas’, where he could theorise without limits and make new discoveries at will. 



"After an eternity he was brought back to earth by the sensation of Dr. Kinglake removing the breathing-tube from his mouth; the outside world seeped back into his ‘semi-delirious trance’ and, as the energy returned to his limbs, he began to pace around the room. Yet a part of him was still present in the dimension of mind that had swallowed him whole, and he struggled for the words to capture it. He ‘stalked majestically’ towards Kinglake ‘with the most intense and prophetic manner’, and attempted to shape the insight that had possessed him. ‘Nothing exists but thoughts!’, he blurted. ‘The world is composed of impressions, ideas, pleasures and pains!’ -


"In the early summer of 1799 the nitrous oxide trials began in earnest. In the evenings, after the Pneumatic Institution had closed, the nitrate of ammoniac reaction would begin to bubble in its upstairs drawing room as Davy and Beddoes’ circle – doctors and patients, chemists, playwrights, surgeons and poets – experimented on themselves and each other. Davy was master of ceremonies and also, by his own account, inhaling the gas himself three or four times a day. The laboratory became a philosophical theatre in which the boundaries between experimenter and subject, spectator and performer were blurred to fascinating effect, and the experiment took on a life of its own."

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Arecibo Image (decoded)

By Jack Brummet, alien lore ed.

Like the famous gold record on board the Voyager, the Arecibo message is yet another attempt to contact our cousins Out There.  The Arecibo Image is a short binary message the U.S. beamed into outer space. When decoded, it creates an image like something from a 1980's videogame.



Dr. Frank Drake, of Cornell University, wrote the message, with help from Carl Sagan, and others. The encoded message has seven parts. 

It will take 25,000 years for the message to reach its target of of stars (and, presumably, an additional 25,000 years for the return trip for any reply). Interestingly, the stars the message is aimed at will no longer be there when it arrives. According to a Cornell News press release of Nov. 12, 1999, the real purpose of the message was not to make contact, but to demonstrate the capabilities of newly installed equipment.

Here is a key explaining the various parts of the image.

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Oscar Pistorius's new roommate

From a Redditor:

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poem: Dodgeball

By Jack Brummet


We play dodgeball,

But can’t see the ball.


We bob and weave
Through unseen hazards and shoals


And almost always feel less safe

Than we actually are.
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visit page

ASCII Art: Abe Lincoln, Mona Lisa, Mickey Mouse, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Brummet





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Monday, October 20, 2014

Lopsided barter: a $160,000 diamond for a gram of marijuana

Illustration by Jack Brummet, story from The Smoking Gun


Walter Morrison, 20, a United Parcel Service baggage handler at the Phoenix's airport, was hoping to find envelopes of cash and planned to steal random parcels, but then he stumbled upon ca package containing a diamond (later found to be worth about $160,000). Police recovered the diamond and charged him in September.  Morrison said he traded the diamond to a friend for a gram of marijuana (worth $20, retail). [The Smoking Gun, 9-26-2014]
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The Seahawks 13th Man is Losing Ground

By Jack Brummet

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Painting: Zag

By Jack Brummet


click to enlarge
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Alien Lore No. 266 - UFO over the moon?

By Jack Brummet, Alien Lore Ed.



Crow Tripplehorn, a moon observer who shoots high definition videos through an 8-inch telescope -- captured intriguing footage this month of a UFO flying above the moon's surface. 



On Tripplehorn's YouTube page, he pledges to "never run deceptive or misleading clips on this channel. I strive to shoot the highest quality UFO and anomaly footage possible with the equipment at my disposal." 


Well, we all know the veracity of UFOlogists, but this guy actually sounds fairly sane. The intriguing thing about the video, according to Tripplehorn, is that the object shows enough variation in the navigation that it could not be a satellite.
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Drawing: Faces No. 922 - Cousins

By Jack Brummet

[Pen and ink and Sharpie on 2'x2' Muslin, digitized & shopped]

click to enlarge
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Andy Warhol Shopping

By Jack Brummet, American Art Ed.


Andy Warhol, shopping at Gristede's, 1965. Notice at least four of his iconic objects in the cart. This must have been a publicity shoot?  Photographer is apparently Bob Adelman.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Seattle mechanaphile has had sex with 700 cars

By Mona Goldwater, Social Mores Ed.




A story in The Mirror provides details of Edward Smith's love life as a mechanaphile:

"A man who has had sex with over 700 cars has revealed how he had his first physical experience of car love with a Volkswagen Beetle.
"Edward Smith, 63, told Phillip Schofield and Amanda Holden on This Morning how he was “tempted one night to step outside” to make love to the neighbour’s car as a young teen, having first become attracted to cars in 1965.



". . .Edward is sexually attracted to machines – and as well as having sex with cars, has also had a relationship with a helicopter and planes, claiming they are all better than women. 
“I began an interest in the beauty of cars when I was turning just 15 years of age,” revealed Edward, from Washington in the US.  Go here to read the entire article in The Mirror and see the brief video clip (SFW more or less).
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