Fiery Angel

Surrealist cinema was the inspiration for a boisterous new opera from Thomas Adès. Clemency Burton-Hill on sheep, divas and a musical epiphany… Read the rest

The Mysterious Gotland Grooves

Scattered throughout the island of Gotland, in the middle of the Baltic Sea, are thousands of stones with strange grooves or furrows cut into its smooth, hard surface. The grooves always occur in groups, cut side by side and are of varying length, width and depth.

At first glance, it appears as if someone had been sharpening their axes or swords on them. That was the general opinion when the grooves were widely reported in the mid-19th century. Consequently, the grooves were called "sharpening stones". But soon scholars began to have doubts about their origin, since the shape and size of the grooves made them unfit for sharpening swords. Someone pointed out that stone-age swords, and even those from the Middle Ages and Viking Age, were … Read the rest

The Crypt of Civilization

Under the foundation of Phoebe Hearst Memorial Hall at Oglethorpe University in Georgia, the United States, is a large room, that was sealed shut with a welded stainless steel door more than seventy five years ago. A plaque on this door strictly forbids anyone from attempting to open the door for another six thousand years.

Behind this steel door is an assortment of artifacts and documents comprising nearly all of humanity's knowledge, as it was in 1940. This room is the Crypt of Civilization, and it represents the first successful attempt to record and preserve a snapshot of human culture and civilization for future inhabitants of planet Earth. It was the world’s first time capsule.

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Contents of the Crypt of Civilization. Photo credit:  Oglethorpe University

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Postman’s Park’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Postman's Park in central London, easily overlooked, lies a remarkable memorial. Under a wooden canopy, stands a short stretch of brick wall upon which are affixed over fifty ceramic plaques, each bearing the name of an ordinary person who performed a final, extraordinary act of bravery and self-sacrifice in their life. Some plaques bear two or more names. Altogether some sixty-two people are commemorated here. All of them died while trying to save the lives of others.

The Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice was created by artist George Frederic Watts, who put forward the idea for a memorial in a letter to The Times in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria's golden jubilee. Watts had been colleting stories of heroic sacrifice … Read the rest