Hallucinogenic Books

hallucinogenic books

Libraries can expand your mind in more ways than one. A leading London mycologist has claimed that old books, particularly those stored in less than perfect conditions, can provide inspiration without the need to read even a single word; just take a deep breath. In his Lancet journal paper ‘Sick Library Syndrome’, Dr R J Hay…

Petrichor

petrichor

The natural world is full of gods, goddesses and other mythological creatures, in name, if not spirit. For nomenclature convention draws heavily on the Greek and Roman classics when labelling new species and other scientific phenomena. One particularly pleasing term – perhaps more for what it describes than how it describes it – is petrichor. It is…

Pyramid Of Death

pyramid of death

In the 1820s, the tallest building in London was St Paul’s Cathedral, at 111 metres high. But architect Thomas Willson had grander plans. In 1829 he proposed to build a massive granite pyramid on Primrose Hill. It would rise 290 metres and cover a site of 18.5 acres. Willson declared: “(It) will go far towards…

I’ve Made A Magazine

Phox Pop magazine Issue 1

On my right wrist I’ve got a tattoo of music notation. It’s a piece from the 1965 Bob Dylan song ‘Maggie’s Farm’ (which I first heard on Rage Against The Machine’s 2000 covers album, ‘Renegades’). The lyric it corresponds to is: “I’ve got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane”. As soon…

Decoding A Star

St Barnabas at Bethnal Green.

“You wouldn’t believe how many goths we get posing outside for pictures,” says Father Brian Ralph, vicar of the church of St Barnabas at Bethnal Green. At street level on the corner of Roman Road and Grove Road in East London, it’s not immediately obvious why. But as you gaze up the yellow and red…

I Eat Cheese, Therefore I Write

Fresh curd cheese

Of course it’s slightly more complicated than my play on Rene Descartes’ famous philosophical proposition. But in simple terms, the discovery of cheese and the evolution of human tolerance to lactose had an influence on the development of written language. It all started around 10,000 years ago. Hot dry summer and cool wet winter weather patterns had…

Star Specimen: A Mineralised Skull

An image of the skull from the late eighteenth-century book Museum Britannicum, being an exhibition of a great variety of antiquities and natural curiosities belonging to the British Museum, by Jan van Rymsdyk. This was the tome that sparked the original tip-off.

Behind the Scenes at the Natural History Museum, London Some time ago I got a tip-off from my regular library source about the existence of a mineralised human skull in the Museum’s collection. All she could tell me was that a scientist had been down to consult a book that contained some information about it; but…

Inside St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

My name’s Amy and I’m a ‘no photography’ rule flouter. Many a time I’ve felt the shoulder tap and heard the hushed “no photos, Miss” from a museum or gallery worker. So when the rare opportunity arose to visit St Paul’s Cathedral after hours for a special photographer’s event, I jumped at the chance to…