December 6, 2012

Advent Art History: The Naked Baby Jesus Advent Calendar, December 06

Virgin and Child from the Melun Diptych Jean Fouquet c.1453-4 This is the right panel from a private devotional work called the Melun Diptych, named after Melun Cathedral, where it used to be kept. It was painted in France, where they worked in a tradition...

Advent Philosophy: What’s so special about being human? Part 2

A couple of people, unsurprisingly, have taken issue with The Chinese Room. (Hooray! We are succeeding at Philosophy!) The question that we finished off with was – what’s the difference? If a computer can become so complex as to convince us that it really understands rather than...

Advent Biology: Buzz?

Courtesy of a conversation in the pub I had this evening, bees! To elaborate a little on that… Cultivating honeybees is a very long standing agricultural practice. It serves as much more than a source of honey: these insect pollinators are valuable to both the...

December 5, 2012

Advent Biology: Feathered visitors

Every species has its own particular place-its niche- within the complex web of interactions that make up an ecosystem. For some, life is even more complicated: to travel between two places, fit in and flourish in both is quite an achievement, and this is certainly...

Advent Chemistry: Acetone

This is acetone, one of my favourite solvents. Its systematic name is propanone and it’s the simplest possible ketone. A ketone is any compound with a carbon backbone and a CO group that isn’t on the end. Since when there are only one or two...

Advent Atmosphere: Carbonic Acid

Earth’s oceans did more for us than just sit there being wet. We started off the right temperature to have oceans in the first place, reaching enough pressure to make it rain before the planet was too hot for liquid water. And the oceans have...

Advent Roller Derby: Rules 101: 2.2.2

There are a lot of rules in roller derby. 60-odd pages of them, in fact. All the UK & Ireland roller derby bouts are played under the WFTDA ruleset, of which a new version has just been released. You can read them online here, if...

Advent Art History: Naked Baby Jesus, December 05

The Virgin and Child Before a Firescreen Robert Campin (The Master of Flemalle) c.1425-30 Back in Flanders today. Robert Campin worked at around the same time as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden. This image is one of the first of a new...

Advent Philosophy: What’s so special about being human? Part 1

Philosophers are very fond of comparing computers to brains. It’s debatable whether this is actually valid*, but it does lead to a lot of debate about what makes humanity human, whether artificial intelligences can ever achieve true consciousness in the same way humans can, and what...

December 4, 2012

Advent Roller Derby: Glossary

In my spare time, I help to run a website called Rollin’ News, which is dedicated to UK & Ireland roller derby. We’re a one-stop-shop for the sport on these fair isles, so it would seem remiss of me to not attempt Advent Knowledge on...