Search This Blog


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Curtiosity about Coprophilia

I decided not to illustrate this one.  It comes from the spares pile, because I am 950,000 words into the Big New Project, of which more will be said a bit later in the year.

If any person whatever is detected in throwing any Filth into the Stream of Fresh Water, cleaning fish, erecting Pig-styes near it or taking Water but at the Tanks, on conviction before a Magistrate their houses will be taken down and forfeit £5 for each Offence to the Orphan Fund.
Sydney Gazette, 18th December 1803, page 1.

The present dry season of the year being indicative of an approaching long drought, which will be much felt throughout the town of Sydney, we presume it would be advisable, as much for the sake of decency as   cleanliness, to pay a little if not due regard to the General Orders in existence relative to the preservation from all filth and impurity of that valuable and serviceable reservoir—the Tanks. With much pain we have lately observed individuals washing themselves in this stream of water, particularly in that part that runs central from King-street, because that spot is almost secluded from every eye, that of curiosity excepted. In former times the punishment tor this offence, it may be recollected, was summarily severe; and, as it is likely the Government and General Orders, bearing date the 10th September, 1810, and 11th August, 1811, are not known by some of the present inhabitants of the Colony, we embrace this opportunity of once more giving them publicity, trusting it may be productive of a prevention of such filthy and prohibited practices in future:

"No necessaries, slaughter-houses, tanneries, dying houses, breweries, or distilleries shall be erected on or near the Tanks, or the stream or springs flowing thereinto; and all such nuisances as have been so erected shall be immediately pulled down, on pain of prosecution under the Nuisance Act. No person shall throw dirt, rubbish, ashes, dirty water, or any filth into the Tanks, or into the streams, springs, or streamlets flowing thereinto. No articles whatsoever shall be washed in the Tanks, streams, springs, or streamlets. No pigs, goats, sheep, horned cattle, or horses shall be permitted to drink therein, or otherwise render the waters foul, on pain of forfeiture of such animals.
No person shall throw or lay down any filth or dirt in the streets, foot-paths, or drains, on pain of prosecution. And all constables and other peace officers are required to give information to the Magistrates, from time to time, of any person or persons acting in disobedience to the above orders." 
Sydney Gazette, 28 October 1820, page 3.
Chicago was not so much thriving upon established commerce as upon the industries which prepared for the arrival of others. . . . Streetcar lines had been extended far out into the open country in anticipation of rapid growth.  The city had laid miles of streets and sewers through regions where, perhaps, one solitary house stood out alone — a pioneer of the populous ways to be.
— Theodore Dreiser (1871 - 1945), Sister Carrie, 1900.

It is impossible in this connection to avoid deploring the sewage system which is so generally prevalent in towns and cities, for by this means practically the whole of the nitrogen from the food of the human population is irrecoverably wasted.
— Sir William Tilden (1842 - 1926), Chemical Discovery and Invention in the Twentieth Century, London, 1916, p. 395.

A filter consists of a bed of sand which is usually about 30 in. thick.  The action of the sand in removing bacteria, finely divided clay, and colloidal matter smaller than the openings between the sand grains is explained in several ways.
— Ernest W. Steel, Water Supply and Sewerage, McGraw-Hill, 1947.

It is better to sniff the French dung for a while than to eat China's all our lives
— Ho Chi Minh (1890 - 1969), inviting the French back into Indochina, 1945.

A problem with vultures and high tension lines
. . . the resulting viscous, electrically conducting jet can trigger sparkover by reducing the air gap.  Fascinating side-issues of hydrodynamic stability are involved.  Ordinarily such a jet would break up because of sausage-mode pinch instabilities caused by surface tension.  When the jet is very close to the insulator, this normal capillary break-up is accelerated by electrostatic forces.  Under some conditions, however, the reverse may be true, since such jets can be stabilized by longitudinal current-flow, produced perhaps by corona at the ends of the jet.

To simulate the phenomenon, engineers at the Bonneville Power Administration in the United States, after consultation with avian experts, designed a mechanical cloaca consisting of a pressure chamber with an adjustable-diameter orifice.  A balloon within the chamber contained raw scrambled eggs (for correct viscosity) doped with salt (for correct electrical conductivity).  The doping level was determined from measurements on rehydrated cage scrapings from a local zoo.  A solenoid operated needle broke the balloon on command, discharging the contents.

In full-scale tests conducted at 500 kV, the mechanical cloaca operated perfectly, resulting in spectacular electrical fireworks.  As a result of this study, spikes were installed on cross-arms to discourage roosting.  Animal rights activists will be pleased that no living birds were injured, and that a hazard to wild birds was reduced.
— David C. Jolly, 'Bird dropping research continues apace', Nature 319: 625-6, 20 February, 1986.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Some thoughts on educational research

I found a reply that apparently never went to an email list. It was written some years ago, but it remains valid today.  The matter under consideration was an item of research that concluded that "who" your parents are, as in being better educated, high socio-economic status etc etc was more important than what they "do" with their children in their formative years and so "proved" that success is dependent on those factors.

One of my good friends (her name is Barbara, which will identify her to a few) commented:
I am ... very sceptical about a lot of  "research" because, as we know,  much of it is undertaken by parties with vested interests in the results and these can be skewed to reflect those interests and sell their product.
I agreed with this, but from an expert viewpoint. My reply began by saying that my science teacher wife and I had been entertaining a rather delightful US environmental activist, writer and illustrator who had been staying with us for a few days, so I had not been reading my email, but oddly enough, reading to children was a topic of conversation that arose several times as we clambered around Sydney's many Aboriginal engravings sites.

We agreed that reading was a key, because we shared that sort of mind-set.  We even debated, not the truth of what we saw as self-evident, but how reading to small persons could be encouraged more, because we took its central role as a given. This is what tends to happen when educators meet: they agree on what is good, or potentially good, and look at ways to foster it.

I must say that I agreed strongly with Barbara about educational research -- and in the 1980s, I had more than my fill of contact with educational researchers seeking access to certain classes of data that were under my management in the NSW Department of Education. If they wanted our data, or access to our schools, they had to get past me.

This is Peter the ADHD, who is almost indistinguishable from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi who always had to run and find out: I care passionately about Aboriginal engravings, I care about wee beasties, rocks and stuff — and I am a dab hand at educational research, among other things. I also know a fraud when I see one, and I saw a few.

I will be blunt: I moved on to other and more engaging things when I found that most educational research is the codification of the bleeding obvious, and some journals are amazingly able to be worse than others. At one point when I was no longer with the NSW Dept of Education, I acted as the external member of a panel to select somebody who needed expertise in research methodology.

After hearing the applicants I argued for one bright young person getting the position, because I had asked about the Journal of Educational Research, probably the most popular "journal" in the Directorate where he was working and where I had once worked.

Most of the other applicants, when I asked them about their preferred sources for information, immediately named the  Journal of Educational Research, praising it for its lucidity and relevance.  The bright young person was different.

He had mentioned other journals, but not the JER, and when I asked him about it, he declared that he wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.  This was in contrast to the other suckers, who had all declared, unprompted, that it the best thing since sliced bread.

The BYP's answer accorded with my judgments of JER, based (among other bizarre things) on a learned piece that demonstrated that children took longer to read longer passages (the author did have the grace {or tail-covering skills} to admit that this result was unsurprising!)  The others on the selection panel saw other values in him, and he got the job by unanimous consent.

Surely the key thing with the alleged research on determining factors is that many of the variables are correlated. I used to be one of those austere number-crunching types who would engage in statistical jiggery-pokery to partial out confounding effects of inter-correlations, but that is probably even rarer now than it was then.  You have to do that, and do it the right way around.

I suspect that the better-educated and higher status etc etc parents are also the ones who take it for granted that they should read to their children.  Maybe some of them are too busy earning Nigel and Nigella's school fees, but others are right in the thick of it.

In the same way, some parents take it as a given that they will sit and watch television with their children -- and I suspect that this style of TV watching would not be counted as different from unsupervised watching by most "researchers".

"All science is either physics or stamp collecting" said Lord Rutherford, a little unkindly. Well, some educational research is stamp-collecting, and some of it barely makes it to the level of a sincere form of philately.  Please remember that, next time you see a report that research has shown that something is good while all competing forms are incontrovertibly bad.

Remember: research in education nearly always states the bleeding obvious — or at least that which was the bleeding obvious for the "researcher" when the "research" took place. There are, I have to concede, rare exceptions, but these are vanishingly rare.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A question of copyright

In 1980, I was given the task of investigating a giant scam that was being played out against the New South Wales Government. I was middle management, and the take would have been $200,000, which was a lot of money back then, ~12.5 times my annual salary.  It was a fraud, as I showed, but I had so much fun tracking it down, that it showed through in my report, which one of my colleagues dubbed The Acid Drops.  In fact, my dissection and skewering was so savage that, even though it was all true, it was placed under seal, never to be released, though six months ago, I released it anyhow, under the 30-year rule.

Well, Black Mac Rides Again!

This blog entry is about how somebody (1) failed to observe due courtesy and legal requirements in using copyright material, without permission (or (2) attribution), and then when I tracked her down, (3) failed to offer an acceptable admission of guilt and an unqualified apology. Those are three errors that I ma, by this public exposure, ensuring that she and her museum will think twice about making again.

The offensiveness was compounded by the fact that the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum, the organisation in whose name she published my work, had claimed copyright in my work. It was not helped by the museum failing to admit this was totally unacceptable.  Here is the proof:

Plagiarism is unethical and immoral.  I work very hard to make taking the credit for my work a bad choice. That is the case, even when the taking is more a matter of incompetence, which is how I regard the way the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum took over my work and craft, without permission — and has since failed to offer a proper apology or payment.

Their excuse is that they would void their insurance cover by admitting any liability.  I rather suspect that they voided the cover when they admitted they had insurance, but I have told them repeatedly that if they undertake to provide the written apology I require, I will undertake not to sue them. I am busy, I have better things to do than sue people who behave like idiots, but I need to outline what they have done.

This is mainly about what it is like to have your work plagiarised, how plagiarists, whether clumsy amateurs or slick thieves, can be caught out, and some robust methods of making them regret their actions.

First, a bit of background on my policy of sharing:

I am a volunteer myself, and I contribute to a newsletter for that organisation, but what I submit for them is original, based on my own work and in my own words. My work is intellectually honest.

I am very kind to museums, as the example on the right will show. It is from the "Making Tracks" installation at the Michigan State University Museum, and two weeks ago, I had acknowledgement of my efforts to find a good copy of this pic for them. Look at the bottom left to see my name.

In the past two months, I have provided Gallipoli images to meet a request from a commemorative committee, images of Hakea fruits opening to help somebody resurrecting an old pamphlet and several magazine articles, all for free. I like to help people and show all courtesy to those who are courteous enough to me.

This week, I took time from a heavy writing schedule and prosecuting this battle, to prepare two quizzes on Valentine's Day to share on school librarians' lists in Australia and the US.  I like to be helpful and to be seen as an ornament to my profession.

Note: I am not a librarian, I am a social climber so I like hanging out with them. My profession these days is writing useful educational stuff. I educate young people, librarians, teachers and museums whose staff do the wrong thing. People only have to ask, and I will help out.

While I lay traps for plagiarists, I found the problem file while I was writing a pro bono article for a school librarians' journal on the risks you take as a writer. In passing, I had referred in that article to how Harry the Camel shot his master, John Horrocks, and I wondered if an explanation was needed.  I used my friend Google, and found a well laid-out and clearly well-researched piece.

Reassured that the matter was adequately covered, I was about to move on, when something about the style caught my eye. I looked again and it dawned on me that it was familiar — in fact, those were my words!
 And on the home page, I saw this: 

My text, copyright to them?  Not on my watch! Mind you, it was a bit changed from what I had published in 2007. Maybe the lady just thought she was a better writer, but I know enough about frauds (see here and here) and hoaxes to have my doubts.

I am sure that if she had known my past history of rogue-catching, she would have acted differently, because I hunt them down.

I am fairly sure she wandered into the minefield, completely, blissfully unaware, ignorant of the law of copyright, but as Latin speakers say, Ignorantia juris non excusat, while others say the same thing when they observe that "ignorance of the law is no excuse". Friends have urged me to sue them, but that would probably break them, and I only want them to sit up and pay attention.

(This is why it was very silly of them to tell me they were insured.  As you will see, it's an open-and-shut case, and I believe their insurance company would move to settle, ASAP, to avoid ballooning costs.   I would prefer to get the museum's Trust in the witless box and see them cross-examined, but it will never happen.  I'm a nice person, but I have my off days.)

Time, then, for a bit of background on my policy of NOT sharing:

I have three main problems with people who misappropriate my work:

Type 1. The people who send me an airy email like this one that I will précis:
"I am writing a book about Australian humour, and I found one of your Crooked Mick stories on the internet. I won't be able to pay you, but as you put it on the web for free, I'm sure you won't mind if I use it."

There was no please, no offer of credit, and it got a negative from me.  I told the writer that I am a professional writer, my fee was $300 plus GST, paid up-front, and if I caught him using it without paying, I would seek to have the edition pulped, and I cc'ed it to his publishers (who have in the past been my publishers). He was just an idiot.

 * * * * *

Type 2. The people who take one of my carefully crafted and meticulously planned web pages, and put it on their site as their own work. These people are out-and-out thieves.  And idiots.

I have a number of school-oriented web pages that have drawn more than half a million hits, several that are over the million mark and one that is somewhere past 4 million.  All are freely available as educational tools.  I share stuff.

The last one gets stolen, every so often, by high school teachers in the US. People are granted explicit permission to store the page locally for their own use, and I even offer a PDF version that they can print off to give the text to their students in compact form. I do not allow people to post copies on the web, because they can point to my page instead.

Still, some of them do grab my page, cut out the paragraphs that mention me, and when they do they get burned. So how do they get caught?  Simple: there are watermarks on my work and I will explain those later.

I don't waste time asking them to take it down, I take them down instead.  I find their school, then I get the email addresses of eight or ten senior staff in the school, plus a couple of senior people somewhere further up in the system, and I send them all the URLs for the offending page and my page, asking that they order the thief to take the page down and go in for re-training.  I make it clear that I have the skills and the will to make a lot of fuss, but will settle for a touch of honesty.

 * * * * *

Type 3. The present case. My prose was used without my permission by a no doubt well-meaning but foolish amateur. She was foolish because:

* She thought she could get away with it;

* She picked the wrong target (me); and

* When caught, she tried to babble her way out of it, rather than just admitting her guilt.

She claims now (through her trust president) that she found my text online and thought it was acceptable to use it.  I had assumed she had copied it from my book, Australia's Pioneers, Heroes & Fools, but I accept that it is quite possible she found it in an email I sent on January 28, 2006, to the Oz Teachers email list.  That email drew on the manuscript of the book, which I was then writing, and I was sharing ideas for new curricular content that was a bit more interesting than the same-old, same-old. I encouraged my professional colleagues to use stuff like that, but I gave nobody permission to seize my words and run off with them.

She was remarkably slow to come up with the alternative source, and while I was waiting, I created the graphic below.

The image shows two sets of text, with the common material high-lighted. There are 196 words in my text. All but 12 of those words appear in the second block. That's about 94%, which cannot be a coincidence — and the pattern continues throughout the 1500-odd words of "their" article.

One reason I suspect now that she used the email is that I revise quite a lot, and I can see several places where  her text is closer to the email. I can't be bothered looking in detail: the simple fact remains that it was my text, my work, her museum that claimed the copyright, and there is a lack of regret.

The people at the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum, however, seem to think that if they can proved the words were filched from my email, they are safe.  They aren't.  My words, wherever they appear, with or without that c in a circle thing or any claim to copyright, are still mine.

This is my way of fixing that lack of regret.  I gave the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum plenty of time to get their house in order, but they failed to do so. So be it upon their own heads.

So was it plagiarism?  I challenge readers: would you believe that what the museum published could have been independently written by anybody else?  Not a chance!  Those were my words in almost all of the second passage. Same words, same order.  As a friend at the Australian Society of Authors commented when I posted the comparison on Facebook, "game, set and match!".

As I have said, I am very generous about sharing ideas and material, provided people ask my permission and give me an appropriate acknowledgement.  These people at the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum had never contacted me, even though I have a large public profile and an unusual name which makes me easy to track down — and if they are to be believed, the source was an email I sent, so they would have had my email address.

I came across the unauthorised use of my work by chance, and was rather annoyed to find that the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum site had no contact email on their web site.  Then I found an address for their shop and emailed them to ask for a contact email to deal with the problem.  I noted further that, while containing my copyright material, the home page had a blanket copyright claim: in short, they were claiming copyright in my work!

The response came from their secretary, Margaret Phillips, who replied:
Remember this? They weren't unaware, just brain-dead.

Notice that I redacted her name when I prepared this image. Up until just before I posted this, I had hoped to name nobody at the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum, and not even to name the museum itself.  That, however, was conditional upon them showing due contrition, across the museum, but I'll get to that later.  Suffice it to say that Margaret Phillips was responsible for my copyright text being disseminated, without permission, without credit, and under the blanket copyright claim of the museum.

I gave her details of the piece, and suggested that as they clearly had a rogue in their midst, they should check the other items under the resources tab, very carefully. I thought a couple of others looked suspicious, and one could have been mine.  I made it clear that I required prompt action, and that any failure to deal honestly with me would lead to the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum being held up to the public gaze.

I got this grudging admission:
Note that (1) she could not even spell my name; (2) I would never call a rank amateur like this an historian (I win prizes for writing history, but I would never claim that title); and (3) impugn means to attack or assail. Accusing somebody of launching an attack when they are defending their intellectual property is a bit like the old style copper, who said "the defendant head-butted my boots, yer Honour".

She also missed the point that the greatest offence was not to ask for permission. In their responses, the museum people have consistently dodged that issue.

Now look at the last paragraph above, where she says she has often told the story of Horrocks. If that is so, then why did she need to use my text, so precisely?  And where did she get the idea that this was about references? And where did she find the hide to say that she "wrote" it ("I sometimes write a historical article...") ? I will come back to what students will find of interest later.

She then offered an apology, surrounded by lame excuses.

In other words, she had buried the evidence, and hoped I would go away. As I said, she picked the wrong target. As an educator, I felt the need to educate both her, but more importantly, the rest of the museum staff and volunteers. I want them to be more careful next time!

So I told her my two requirements, though I (and only I) knew that only the first was non-negotiable:

1. That she arrange for a letter admitting guilt, and apologising for the misappropriation of my work, to be signed by the entire museum trust, to be sent to me; and

2. That she compensate me for the time I had wasted, tracking her down and making her comply. At that point, I said, the bill was $500 and rising.

My intention, after giving her a financial scare, was to let her off the payment, but the apology was, and is, an absolute requirement. There was to be no hiding.

I told her that if she failed to do these two things, I would post this blog, and as you can see by this appearing, she and her museum failed to deliver on the one key requirement.  She and they had the chance to act professionally, but they did not.  Instead, I got her bland personal semi-apology, hedged around by vague denials and "can't recalls".

I believe I only got the admission that she had "written" it because I had made it clear that metadata in the PDF file indicated that somebody with her first name had created it.  Once you are caught, it's time to be honest.

... what students may find of interest ...
I think I can tell her what students will think, because these days, young people are taught to respect intellectual property.  As I warned her, I have now shared this widely, recommending that it be used in school units on plagiarism, where the low tricks pulled at the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum will be considered.

In spite of having the comparison image (I mean the image above), she won't admit the truth. Nor has the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum's Trust commented in any way, shape or form, even though the Trust president, has been cc'ed on my later emails.

Their only response was to take the whole of the resources section down briefly and remove my piece. That is, of course, something I advised them to do, because there were several other dodgy pieces there, and I think it confirms that they knew what would happen if they didn't.  Yet while they found time to vet the rest and put the other pieces back up, they could not find the time to answer me.

I would happily have granted the museum permission to use my text, had they asked, but she took it without permission, and having been caught red-handed, the "author" tried to fob me off with disingenuous flim-flam.

The position now

After repeated questioning, I finally extracted from Arthur Jeeves, the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum trust president, an admission of the source (but no admission of guilt). It was, he said, something she had found in the archives of the old Oz Teachers list.  As soon as I had that admission, I went to my personal email archive, and found the text she had used, posted by me for my fellow professionals to read. Now if she truly found the text there, she would have had my email address, so why did she fail to ask permission?

I told her, and the president of the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum's trust that I would settle for a written apology, signed by all members of the Trust, admitting and regretting the plagiarism.  My terms were quite clear: satisfy my requirements, or be exposed.  It seems that they have chosen public exposure.

My last warning 
Some 40 hours before the deadline I had set, 3 pm on February 5, I realised they had not asked for my mailing address, and were unlikely to deliver the written and signed apology in time.  I noted that Jeeves had cc'ed his response to an Adelaide solicitor, without mentioning his status.

So in case they were planning some sort of clever-clogs legal trickery, I pointed out that any harm would be on their heads, because they had failed to meet my simple, low-cost and entirely reasonable requirement.

This is what I said:

Here is the position:

* There is no rule of "finders keepers" on the internet.

* If the source was a teachers' email list as you claim (and it could be so), Ms Phillips had my email address.

* She failed to ask for permission to use my text.

* Worse than that, she wrote this to me in an email:
"The article was something I put together for our small number of members as an interesting historically tale. I didn't think to reference it at the time, because our newsletters are just, that a newsletter. I sometimes write a historical article, as an interest piece."

She did NOT "put together" the article, she misappropriated it, lock, stock and barrel.  She did not WRITE anything, she lifted it. Also, she, and you, seem to have assumed this was about "referencing", presumably meaning attribution, but that was secondary.   The first step is always to ask permission.

There is a saying to the effect that "it's easier to apologise afterwards than to ask permission".  In this case, asking was easy, but she didn't, and nobody has offered anything I would call an apology.  Waffle set about with self-justification simply doesn't cut the mustard as an apology.

Your position is, to put it bluntly, unwinnable.  You either admit to the breach of my copyright and moral rights, without reservation, without qualification, with due contrition, in appropriate language — and undertake to educate your staff better — or I educate you. When I am done, you will need to be more careful to do the right thing, both in asking permission, and also in apologising promptly and well when you are caught.  I can say this with some confidence, because any Google search will reveal that you have been caught before, and warned about the rights authors have, so the next writer you poach from will be able to wheel you straight into court. Apologising appropriately is much easier for you.

I thought, Mr Jeeves, that once you entered into the matter, along with your solicitor friend, there might be some common sense.  While it will be tight, it's not too late for you to save matters, but you will need to use a courier, and you will need to confirm your intentions by requesting my full and correct street address: what appears on the internet is intended to mislead.

I will be doing some consultancy work tomorrow morning.  It's another pro bono job (as I mentioned, I am generous with my time and skills to those who ask), but I will be back at my desk and online, just after noon, Sydney time.

I am a genuine admirer of museums in general and Charles Sturt in particular, and it will irk me to  have to treat your museum harshly, but I really cannot let you get away with a grudging, sulky, muttered sorry.  If you can't do better than that, I owe it to other writers to make sure that you are really sorry.

There was no answer, and there was no apology. Now I out them, not out of revenge, but to make an example of them — as my mate at the Australian Society of Authors said on the phone, pour encourager les autres.  My purpose in asking for the letter and the payment was to make them consider their actions (though as I said, I had no plan to collect the cash).  I knew it would give them a fright, but they needed a harsh lesson.

I also made it clear that the publication of this blog was the only other civilised alternative open to me, because I had no wish to bankrupt them.  People in the game who have looked at this have said "Go on, sue them, you'll make a mint, and they'll have to pick up your costs!"

I like museums, I don't want to send one bust.  I really believed that they would toe the line.  They didn't, so they are now publicly shamed, but now I want to offer some guidance to other victims of other poachers, on the fine art of catching scavengers.

1. Watermark your pages.

This is what I do with my heavy-traffic web pages: I have a nonsense phrase that appears nowhere else on the web, and that is tucked away on the high traffic pages, either in small print and the same colour as the background, or in the metadata or both. Numpties who pinch stuff aren't very bright, and so they miss the watermark, and get caught.

By the way, there is a watermark at the very end of this blog entry: see if you can find it.

That trick didn't work here, because the text was copied from a book (or maybe an email), and I just chanced on it. Well, that happens, when writers revisit old areas of interest.

2. Use the available computing/ net tools.
There are quite a few, so I will just describe what I used this time.

Here is a really good one that I knew but hadn't thought to use until Murray Storm, a former student reminded me of it: looking at the metadata in a PDF. When you are hunting down people like this, you need to keep copies, so you can run checks when they try to bury the evidence. I just opened my copy of the pirated file, clicked on View — Properties, and got this image, seen on the right.  Thanks, Murray!

So we know that the creator was "Margaret", and when the PDF was created.

Another way to get this is to open the PDF file in Notepad, when you get a long jumble that includes this: I have highlighted the salient bits.

8 0 obj
<</Length 3700/Subtype/XML/Type/Metadata>>stream
<?xpacket begin="" id="W5M0MpCehiHzreSzNTczkc9d"?>
<x:xmpmeta xmlns:x="adobe:ns:meta/" x:xmptk="Adobe XMP Core 5.2-c001 63.139439, 2010/09/27-13:37:26        ">
   <rdf:RDF xmlns:rdf="">
      <rdf:Description rdf:about=""
               <rdf:li>Margaret</rdf:li>            </rdf:Seq>
               <rdf:li xml:lang="x-default">Microsoft Word - John Horrocks.doc</rdf:li>            </rdf:Alt>
      <rdf:Description rdf:about=""
         <xmp:CreateDate>2012-07-26T12:03:09</xmp:CreateDate>         <xmp:CreatorTool>Microsoft Word - John Horrocks.doc</xmp:CreatorTool>         <xmp:ModifyDate>2012-07-26T21:33:45+09:30</xmp:ModifyDate>         <xmp:MetadataDate>2012-07-26T21:33:45+09:30</xmp:MetadataDate>
      <rdf:Description rdf:about=""
         <pdf:Producer>novaPDF Lite Desktop Ver 5.4 Build 253 (Windows XP  x32)</pdf:Producer>      </rdf:Description>
      <rdf:Description rdf:about=""
I think using View — Properties is easier!

* * * * *

Next up, always take screen shots. In Windows systems, the Ctrl-PrtScn key combination places a screen image on the clipboard: open any graphics program, start a new screen-sized image and paste in the image with Ctrl-V. Then save the whole view before you trim it as necessary.

This is your only defence against people who may try to say "We didn't say that," and change what is visible.

Save the PDFs, save the web pages, save anything that might be evidence.

3. Use any available email address to get in.

In the past, I have often broken through the secrecy barriers that hide the email addresses of Big Cheeses.  Once, I was being lied to by Virgin after they cancelled a flight I had booked and claimed they had refunded the money when they hadn't, and I could not get past Virgin's call centre.  I got the name of the CEO, found some email addresses for PR people, deduced their method of creating email addresses, and sent him a rather corrosive email, which I cc'ed to the PR people, so he knew his underlings knew he was being put on the spot.

He replied "You didn't have to be so bloody rude, and the money is on its way".

I replied "Yes, I bloody did. You weren't coughing up — until I turned up the heat."

I have recently used a version of that to penetrate a large bank's hierarchy.  I got my money there as well.

The museum website provided no email link, except on their shop page, so I sent an email there and got a reply from the secretary, Margaret Phillips, who pretended to know nothing until I told her I had the metadata evidence.  Then she played innocent, but it was too late.

At about this time, a friend got to Whois before I did, and found me the name of the site owner and his email address, so I included him in the next email I sent to the secretary as a CC, and he VERY promptly fired back, saying he was merely a contractor and was NOT responsible.  He seems to have removed his email address from the domain registration now.  Can't think why!

He also cc'ed the Trust President, Arthur Jeeves, so I could now include  him as a CC in the subsequent emails.  I think Jeeves is a decent man, but out of his depth on this matter: he certainly has an honorable track record.  Given that he involved a solicitor, he should have been better advised.

A few cunning checks have failed to reveal the names or contact details for any other Trust members, but those two have been sent my emails and the first graphic in this entry. That should have been enough.


The annoying thing with this whole issue is that as I have said, I am very generous with my intellectual property, in the name of informing the wider public, and that appears to be their aim as well. The museum in question claims to be an amateur one, and if they had asked me for permission, I would have said "go for it, but give me a credit if you can, please", and that would have been that.

Instead, some clown decided to take my work without permission,taking the credit for my research

Charles Sturt was a Good Bloke, in my eyes, an honest man, a decent man, and a museum celebrating him is one I would treat as a worthy cause. Now it has become necessary to seize the whole gang of them by the scruff of the neck, and rub their noses in the mess they made. Not out of malice, you understand, but to make sure they try just a little bit harder next time.

Somebody got kudos for writing such a carefully researched piece.  Now that person is exposed as what they are: I will leave you to name it.  Well, that was somebody else's choice, not mine.

Post script
I have spent far longer on this analysis and discussion than I did on chasing the people who took my work.  That's OK: as I said several times, I do a lot of pro bono work, and delivering ethics training to the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum is time well spent. They definitely needed it.

Next admiral, please, M. Voltaire!

Incidentally, if people don't know the story of Harry the camel, I suggest they jump to this link to get the context.

The background, the story of Horrocks and Harry, is here.


I have had somebody try to post a silly comment, accusing me of bullying the clowns at the museum.  Standing up for your rights is often called bullying by the bullies who are trying to take those rights away.  I assume the poster is a puppet for the Charles Sturt Memorial Museum, because "Mark Mc" joined blogger this month, has no profile and no posts. (He says abusively that he isn't, which makes me even more certain that he is.)  

The basic rule here is that anonymous commentators with no track record have no privileges, and somebody using a pseudonym is effectively anonymous. Such a person does not get to scribble all over my work.

Why don't the museum people just admit that they took my work without permission, and failed to admit their offence?
Charles Sturt Memorial Museum

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Camels are Coming

This is a story that I have told in two books in the past eight years: once for adults in Australia's Pioneers, Heroes & Fools,and then again for younger readers in Australian Backyard Explorer.

Because this is background to an exposé on blatant plagiarism, let me point out that the first book was short-listed for an award, the second book won several awards. The plagiarist will get her only award, The Gong, in a day or so.

The issue at hand: how Harry the Camel shot John Horrocks.

Much of the text below is drawn from one or the other of those works.  I have the permission of the copyright owner (me) to reproduce it here. (For people who were wondering, it wasn't hard to get in touch with me: I was so furious, I was beside myself, so I just turned around. Others will find it almost as easy to get in touch: I spell my name an odd way.)

Anyhow,  revenons à nos moutons — or camels, any way. Here's a verse penned by my mate and alter ego, Duncan Bain:

The camel has a hare-lip,
And a back that is bimodal
And it has a nasty temper
Because it cannot yodel.
It should not be confused with
The one-hump dromedary
Whose Australian distribution
Is from Broome to Bomaderry

With that mnemonic to aid us, we should be able to recall that the camel in Australia is Camelus dromedarius, the dromedary. Only about twenty of the two-humped Bactrian camels of the colder deserts were ever brought to Australia, and the present stock of about half a million are all dromedaries. Now the dromedaries are accounted a feral pest, but in the 19th century, they served Australian exploration remarkably well. Ernest Giles, one of the best of the desert explorers in Australia, wrote:
"My first and second expeditions were conducted entirely with horses; in all my after journeys I had the services of camels, those wonderful ships of the desert, without whose aid the travels and adventures which are subsequently recorded could not possibly have been achieved, nor should I now be alive, as Byron says, to write so poor a tale, this lowly lay of mine."

— Ernest Giles, Australia Twice Traversed.

Giles made his five journeys in the period 1872 to 1876, and it is worth keeping 1876 in mind for a moment. In 1922, Bessie Threadgill, Tinline Scholar at the University of Adelaide, wrote a fine history of land exploration in South Australia in the period 1856 to 1880. Like most professional historians, she wrote mainly from written sources, but she must have had access either to some of the old explorers, or to those who had known them.

That being so, her asides and chapter endings are a good indication of the realities of mapping a parched landscape. At the end of chapter VI, she writes "In 1870 camels for Australian exploration were exotics, worth travelling many miles to see, and not always recognized when seen. In 1876, they were more indispensable than damper, bully beef or blackfellow."

Perhaps we can allow that non-PC term to stand for now. It was normal usage in her time and at least it reveals an important truth about explorers that we will come back to later. For now, the key issue is that camels counted for more even than experienced guides or basic food, because camels could travel long distances without water, and carry tremendous loads, but Threadgill seems to have brushed past the earliest and rather ill-fated instances of camel exploration in Australia.

The first camels reached Australia in 1840, but of the nine that were sent out from the Canary Islands, only one, a camel named Harry, was still alive in 1846, by which time he was in the possession of John Ainsworth Horrocks, an Englishman who had come to seek his fortune in Australia as a squatter, somebody who moved out into the wilderness, took the best land, and hoped to keep it when civilisation and land allocation caught up.

John Horrocks, his brother Eustace, and their faithful butler, John Green, reached South Australia in March 1839. They were accompanied by other family servants, four merino rams and some sheepdogs, stores and equipment, and they landed at Holdfast Bay on John's 21st birthday.

The boys came of a wealthy cotton-mill-owning family — their grandfather was an influential Member of Parliament, and had installed the first all-metal power looms, and made a fortune out of muslin. So without too much trouble, their father had paid for them to acquire 1000 acres of land in the new colony of South Australia, but the land surveys were in a mess and Edward John Eyre had reported excellent land near the Hutt River (where the town of Clare stands today), so John Horrocks and Green went, looked, and decided to take a chance. Horrocks remained behind, sheltering in a hollow tree while Green went and fetched his brother, stores and stock, and servants.

They established Hope Farm and a village called Penwortham, after the ancestral home in Lancashire, and by 1842, there were 24 people, 3200 sheep, 26 cattle and four horses there, but no camels as yet. Soon, Horrocks began ranging further afield, seeking yet greener pastures.

Writing in 1914, a historian quotes an unnamed source who described Horrocks as "a young man of splendid physique". Tall, handsome in a dashing Byronic manner, Horrocks named his favourite greyhound Gulnare after a slave-girl in Byron's The Corsair, and he also endowed a plain that he passed with the same name, thus commemorating his hound's faithful efforts in that vicinity in catching and killing emus for him to eat in 1841.

He kept an open house, feeding all those who called in for a supper, lodging and breakfast, and acquiring staff from odd sources. One of them, an indigent sculptor called Theakston, he acquired from a debtors' prison, but Horrocks remained slightly aloof, eating at a barrel specially set up for him each night with a clean cloth and a silver fork and spoon.

This was the man who set off in late July of 1846, with Theakston as his second-in-command, a cook called Garlick, and a 'black boy' (that usually means an Aborigine) named Jimmy Moorhouse. They were accompanied by the soon-to-be-famous artist and lithographer, S. T. Gill, who came along at no salary, to record the expedition, in the hope of being able to sell some of his works on his return. There was also a camel driver named Kilroy, and, of course, a camel, in this case named Harry, the only survivor of nine camels imported from Tenerife by Henry Phillips. Horrocks paid Phillips six cows, to the value of 90 pounds. It was not a good bargain, for Harry was not the best-natured of animals.

While John Horrocks modelled himself on Lord Byron in some respects, he was a deeply religious man, and perhaps Harry heard his master citing Isaiah 40:6 and took it too literally, but whatever the reason, Harry bit people and other animals. He also bit holes in four sacks and engaged in other annoying practices, but mainly he bit people and animals. No sooner had the expedition set out than Harry bit the cook on the head, badly enough to need dressing and sticking plaster. In his journal, Horrocks notes that the camel " . . . had in the morning taken one of the goats in his mouth across the loins, and would have broken his back if Jimmy had not speedily run to its rescue."

The goats themselves were something of a problem. The explorers had taken goats as a source of meat in preference to sheep, because goats would be harder to steal, as Horrocks explains in his journal: " . . . as they give tongue immediately they are caught, so the natives could not take any beast without being heard." All the same, on the night of July 31, the goats fled the camp, apparently having scented a wild dog, and had to be gathered in from a mile away, but once the adventurers learned to tether the leading goat, the flock stayed with the camp.

They had other tricks to play, though. For starters, all but one of them went lame, and they leapt on the tent, ripping it in places, but there must have been more that was left unmentioned, because Horrocks records killing a goat, " . . . the one that has given us so much trouble, and which Jimmy was delighted to see slaughtered, having in his hatred to the animal promised Garlick, the tent-keeper, a pint of ale if he would kill it next."
Horrocks is seen here carrying the gun with which he was shot, and a stick for beating Harry.

But to return to our camels, the party pushed on into dry country, leaving their horses behind, but accompanied by the surly camel, carrying 356 pounds weight. Horrocks, Kilroy and Gill were on foot near a Lake that Horrocks had named Lake Gill (it is now Lake Dutton) when misfortune struck. The account that follows was dictated by Horrocks:

". . . Bernard Kilroy, who was walking ahead of the party, stopped, saying he saw a beautiful bird, which he recommended me to shoot to add to the collection.

"My gun was loaded with slugs in one barrel and ball in the other, I stopped the camel to get at the shot belt, which I could not get without his laying down.

"Whilst Mr. Gill was unfastening it I was screwing the ramrod into the wadding over the slugs close alongside of the camel. At this moment the camel gave a lurch to one side, and caught his pack in the cock of my gun, which discharged the barrel I was unloading, the contents of which first took off the middle fingers of my  right hand between the second and third joints, and entered my left cheek by my lower jaw, knocking out a row of teeth from my upper jaw."

They were, he goes on to say, 65 miles from the depot where the horses were, and they had just five gallons of water remaining. Kilroy headed back to Theakston and the horses, leaving Gill to mind the invalid. Gill did that and more: he took down dictation from the wounded man, and even created pictures of the area, with himself seen lying on the ground outside the invalid's tent, while a slightly sheepish Harry is to be seen in the background. He also wrote his account of the events:
"The right-hand barrel, with the ramrod in it, went off, taking the middle finger of Mr,. H.'s right hand and lodged the charge in his left cheek. He instantly fell back bleeding copiously. We succeeded in staunching the blood with our handkerchiefs, and after cutting off a part of the finger which hung slightly on, managed to dress it with such stuff as we had brought in case of spear wounds, treating the face in the same way; we laid him down, and fixed the tent; after getting him in, Kilroy started back to the Depot the same evening, leaving me in charge of Mr. H. until relief arrived. Soon after Kilroy left, Mr. H. rallied sufficiently to speak, and convinced me that his brain was not affected. We had, of course, a wretched night of it."
Gill painted himself waiting outside the tent, Horrocks inside, Harry behind.
Kilroy arrived back after four days, with Theakston and two horses. Loading Horrocks on a horse and placing a tarpaulin over his legs to keep him on, they set off, Theakston riding the other horse and Gill and Kilroy taking turns to drive the camel. A week later, they got Horrocks back to Penwortham, where Green dressed his wounds, but gangrene had set in, and Horrocks died, even after an operation on the gangrenous finger — by then, the infection had spread too far.

It was agreed by all that Harry the camel must die for his part in the death of his master (Horrocks had recommended that it be done, but only in order that the good name of camels should be no further besmirched by Harry and his antics). When the first bullet did not kill him, Harry turned and bit the head of Jimmy Moorhouse who was holding him, but the second bullet settled his fate. It seems a pity that Australians call somebody "game as Ned Kelly", and not "game as Harry the camel" — perhaps if Harry had risen to the moment and bitten or shot the man with the gun, we might do so more willingly.

With the elimination of Harry, Australia was free of camels for a few more years, but it was an idea waiting to burst out again. In 1860, camels were imported from India for the Burke and Wills expedition, by 1866, Sir Thomas Elder had established a camel stud at Beltana in the dry north of South Australia, and within a few years, Ernest Giles proved just how effective the animals could be. Soon 'Afghans' (mainly from an area that is now part of Pakistan) were flooding into Australia and running huge trains of camels across the dry inland.

* * * * *

The pictures are both by S. T. Gill, and were scanned from copyright-free sources.

* * * * *

It is necessary to explain that, because we may have eliminated Harry, but we haven't eliminated plagiarists. In my next post, I will be doing my bit to eliminate one of those, and also the institution she works for, which has shamefully failed to acknowledge her misappropriation of my intellectual property.

Batteries included

Some more bits from my quotations collection:The world changed in a curious way in 1800, when Alessandro Volta wrote to Sir Joseph Banks about his piles. Voltaic piles were batteries, though. Once the pile was common, people could discover electrolysis, chemistry got a leg-up, and in time, teenagers would be able to share boom-tish and doof-doof with their fellow passengers on train and bus.You can't win them all.  Mind you, the fellow on the right was a bigger loser than most.

Sixty or more pieces of ... silver, applied each to a piece of tin or zinc ... and as many strata of cardboard, soaked in salt solution, interposed between every pair of metal discs, and always in the same order, constitutes my new instrument.
 . . . an apparatus having resemblance in its effects . . . to an electric battery . . .
— Alessandro Volta, in a letter to Sir Joseph Banks, 1800.

Having a few pet plants which slugs and snails are particularly fond of as food, I have devised the following simple and efficacious mode of protecting them against their and my enemies ; and as this plan may be useful to some of your readers, I herewith send you a description of my galvanic circle. Procure a flat ring of zinc, large enough to encircle the plant; make a slit in the ring after the manner of a keyring, so that it can be put round the stem of the plant and then rest upon the ground.

Now twist a copper wire into a ring very nearly of the same circumference as the flat zinc ring, and putting it round the plant, let it rest upon the zinc, as in the illustration. No slug or snail will cross that magic circle; they can drag their slimy way upon the zinc well enough, but let them but touch the copper at the same time and they will receive a galvanic shock sufficient to induce them at once to recoil from the barrier.
— Septimus Piesse in Scientific American May 2, 1863, p. 276.

For the sake of portability, many forms of Leclanché cell have been constructed in which there is no free liquid present. In most of these there is a paste containing manganese dioxide surrounding a carbon rod. This is in contact with a layer of sawdust, or in some cases, plaster of Paris, saturated with sal-ammoniac. The whole is contained in a zinc case which forms the negative electrode.
— J. Duncan and S. G. Starling, A Text Book of Physics, Macmillan, 1918, p. 912.

. . . the magnetic needle was moved from its position by the help of the galvanic apparatus when the galvanic apparatus was closed, but not when open . . .
— Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851

Oersted would never have made his great discovery of the action of galvanic currents on magnets had he stopped in his researches to consider in what manner they could possibly be turned to practical account; and so we would not now be able to boast of the wonders done by the electric telegraphs. Indeed, no great law in Natural Philosophy has ever been discovered for its practical implications, but the instances are innumerable of investigations apparently quite useless in this narrow sense of the word which have led to the most valuable results.
— Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), quoted in R. A. Gregory, Discovery (1916), p. 241-2.

Electric relay
The quantity of electricity requisite to deflect a magnetic needle is so inconsiderable, that if the current of a moderately-sized pair of plates were sent into one end of a wire, and only one-hundredth part of it came out at the other end, it would still be sufficient.
— Edward Davy, (1806-1885), inventor of the electrical relay.

Few of our readers have heard of the name of Edward Davy in connection with the history of the telegraph . . . nothing has been published of his labours. Yet it is certain that, in those days, he had a clearer grasp of the requirements and capabilities of an electric telegraph than, probably, Cooke and Wheatstone themselves . . .
— J. J. Fahie, The Electrician, July 7, 1883.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

On writing science verse

Sorry for the silence, but I have been playing Writer's Twister, a game that involves simultaneously having my nose to the grindstone, my shoulder to the wheel, my back to the wall and my ear to the ground.  I m doing end-touches on two books and working on the Big New Project, of which I may say something later this month.

On the right, you can see a dead wombat, keeping its ear to the ground.

Like the wombat, I am aware that I am inexorably approaching my use-by date.  Unlike the wombat, there are no intimations of mortality, and indeed, all the signs are good, but  it is simple mathematics.

So I have decided to gather some of my better stuff from around the web and put it in a place that will last. These items will be linked by the tag treasure chest.

This one was written to help young people trying to write verse for the first time.  You can't teach  people how to write verse, but you can teach them a few trade tricks.  In writing verse, there is art, which involves inspiration, and there is craft, which involves work.  This was originally called Literary Lapses, and its URL was (and for now, still is)


George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.

This is a clerihew. They are amusing "potted biographies" of people, and they were invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. They do not need to have a rhythm (a metre, if you are pedantic), but they must have a rhyme, and they must say something about the person involved who has to be historical.

Limericks have to have a perfect metre and astounding rhymes, here among the clerihews, the aim is to be historically correct in an odd sort of way, and to get a weird rhyme. Relevance rates highly in clerihews, but truth is not required. Here are two more examples:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said: "I am going to dine with some men.
If anybody calls,
Say I'm designing St Paul's."

* * * * * * *

Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium

Now it is time for you to try your hand. Here are some names to get started on. Most should be accessible to most people, and some are drawn from areas other than science, so feel free to pick and choose. They will all be found, somewhere on the web.

Julius Caesar    
Mary Anning    
Bill Gates    
Robert Koch    
Catherine the Great
James Joyce    
Louis Pasteur    
Richard Nixon    
Burke and Wills    
Marie Curie
Sir Francis Crick    
Sir Isaac Newton    
Sir Joseph Banks    
The young Torricelli    
Annie Jump Cannon
Macfarlane Burnet    
Jakob Bernoulli    
Pablo Picasso    
Kiri Te Kanawa    
Claude van Damme
Gus Nossal    
Dame Nellie Melba    
Arnold Schwarzenegger    
Enrico Fermi    
William Gates


Unlike clerihews, limericks do need metre.  They need to scan.

When you start out, you need some help, so here are some ideas, a few lines to work with. In five lines, the limerick writer mist introduce somebody, explain where they are or what they are doing (second line), explain what happened to the person or thing in line three, what the reaction was in line four, and finish the whole thing off in line five. Read a few sample limericks to get the feel of it first.

Limericks have a special form. There are five lines, with lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyming, and lines 3 and 4 are rhyming. Good limericks use different words at the end of each line. They also need the right rhythm, or metre:

d'DAH-dah d'DAH-dah d'DAH (dah)
d'DAH-dah d'DAH-dah d'DAH (dah)
   d'DAH-dah d'DAH
   d'DAH-dah d'DAH
d'DAH-dah d'DAH-dah d'DAH

Here is a prime example:

There WAS an old MAN from DarJEEling
Who TRAVelled from LONdon to EALing
   It SAID on the DOOR
   Please don't SPIT on the FLOOR
So he CAREfully SPAT on the CEILing

Notice how we can sneak in the odd syllable here and there.
Now you are ready to begin:

First lines:
There was a young man from Palm Beach (reach, beseech, teach, leech, leach, peach, preach)
There was a young man from Dee Why
There was a young fellow called Smith (myth, pith, kith, with (?))

Third lines
As the camels walked in,
As the rainforests fell
For the rest of his life
The Impressionist school
As his feet turned to lead
As the keyboard went green

It is actually better to have a good word play in mind for the fifth line, or a good idea about your third and fourth lines. Here are some lines 3 and 4:

Third and fourth lines
Though he feared they had germs,
He ate all the worms

His large flock of wrens
That he passed off as hens

They found the canary
Was rather too hairy

If the horse had a chance
It would normally dance

He said "Thanks very much,
But I cannot speak Dutch,

Fifth lines with word plays:
And made cider inside her inside. (an old one!!)
A Norse of a different colour

The people cried "Cafe au lait" ( or Olé)

I came up with this line after seeing a car with OLE in its number-plate -- so the moral is: always keep your eyes skinned, as limericks can come from anywhere!

A Spanish soprano called Fay
Always sang in a can belto way
In the Coffee Cantata
When she was a starter
The people cried Café Olé!

(That one basically came to me during a walk of 200 metres, after I passed the car, to when I reached the bus stop I was headed for. Then all I had to do was tweak it.)

Other ideas for limericks:

Dig into a book, and look through the index for some interesting words. Check out your library, and see if you can find a Rhyming Dictionary -- it lists words by their rhymes.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Talking about the weather...

The Dark Knight's Tale

Knight on bear mountain
The knight rode up, in squeaking armour,
Fury writ upon his brow
And strange to say, he rode a lama—
A thief had nicked his favourite cow.

A knight whose thing was riding cattle?
I hear you ask, in rising fear.
Why yes, he did, but not in battle
The horse he'd sold to pay for beer.

His helm was sable, like his rage
And black was all the gear he wore
Save on his shoulder an off-white gage
But black was the stubble on his jaw.

He slapped his shield upon the bar,
It bore his motto "Ebon semper"
And made it clear, both near and far
He had a really nasty temper.

He kicked the spittoon over twice
And gave the crowd a dreadful fright
And then they saw, quite in a trice,
It was a dark and stormy knight.

Please send this to your friends, and spoil their New Year.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Curtiosity about arts, culture and science

Yet another set of unused epigraphs!

Piero della Francesca painted
himself in his Resurrection, in
which he is the guard with a goitre

The division of our culture is making us more obtuse than we need be: we can repair communications to some extent: but, as I have said before, we are not going to turn out men and women who understand as much of their world as Piero della Francesca did of his, or Pascal, or Goethe. With good fortune, however, we can educate a large proportion of our better minds so that they are not ignorant of the imaginative experience, both in the arts and in science, nor ignorant either of the endowments of applied science, of the remediable suffering of most of their fellow humans, and of the responsibilities which, once seen, cannot be denied.
— C. P. Snow (1905 - 1980), The Two Cultures: a Second Look, 1963.

What happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all works of art which preceded it.
— T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965

There is a likeness between the creative acts of the mind in art and in science. Yet, when a man uses the word science in such a sentence, it may be suspected that he does not mean what the headlines mean by science.
— Jacob Bronowski (1908 -  ), Science and Human Values, Julian Messner, 1956.

What is the insight with which the scientist tries to see into nature? Can it indeed be called either imaginative or creative? To the literary man the question may seem merely silly. He has been taught that science is a large collection of facts; and if this is true, then the only seeing which scientists need to do is, he supposes, seeing the facts.
— Jacob Bronowski (1908 -  ), Science and Human Values, Julian Messner, 1956.

. . if science were a copy of fact, then every theory would be either right or wrong, and would be so forever. There would be nothing left for us to say but that this is so or not so. No one who has read a page by a good critic or a speculative scientist can ever again think that this barren choice of yes or no is all that the mind offers.
— Jacob Bronowski (1908 -  ), Science and Human Values, Julian Messner, 1956.

There should be no honours for the artist; he has already, in the practice of his art, more than his share of the rewards of life; the honours are pre-empted for other trades, less agreeable and perhaps more useful.
— Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894), Letter to a Young Gentleman.

When I find myself in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a drawing room full of dukes.
— W. H. Auden (1907 - ), 'The Poet and the City', in The Dyer's Hand, Faber, 1963, p. 81.

Couldn't spot Piero above? Here
he is, and the goitre is the lump
in his throat.
At one time, the state of culture in Czechoslovakia was described, rather poignantly, as a 'Biafra of the spirit'. . . I simply do not believe that we have all lain down and died. I see far more than graves and tombstones around me. I see evidence of this in . . . expensive books on astronomy printed in a hundred thousand copies (they would hardly find that many readers in the USA) . . .
— Vaclav Havel, Czech playwright (and later president), 'Six asides about culture' in Living in Truth, Faber 1989, pp. 124-5.
Science is part of culture. Culture isn't only art and music and literature, it's also understanding what the world is made of and how it functions. People should know something about stars, matter and chemistry. People often say that they don't like chemistry but we deal with chemistry all the time. People don't know what heat is, they hardly know what water is./I'm always surprised how little people know about anything. I'm puzzled by it.
— Max Perutz, quoted in New Scientist 26 June 1993, 31.