Monday, February 18, 2019

Element of the Month!: Dubnium

February's Element of the Month:

Dubnium!
Db
105

Atomic Mass: 268ish amu
Melting Point: well, you know, it's really hard to...
Boiling Point: yeah, see, there again, you can't really...

Dubnium! Dubnium. Rub-a-dub-Dubnium. It is a totally fakey Element. I mean, Element #94, Plutonium, is by convention the highest-numbered Element that occurs in nature, although we've let a surprising amount of Element #95, Americium, go feral. Then there's Curium, Berkelium, Californium, Einsteinium, and then #100 Fermium, thought to be the highest-numbered Element that could occur in nature in certain extremely, extremely, extremely unusual circumstances. Then there's Mendelevium, Nobelium, Lawrencium, Rutherfordium, and then, finally, the Element of the Month, #115 Dubnium.

It doesn't exist in any meaningful way. The brainiest physics guys in all the lands can only, even at the very highest level of funding, produce a dozen atoms at a time, and the half-life of Dubnium isotopes peaks at about one day. That means that most of the time, there's no such thing as Dubnium.

At this point, it is tempting to marvel at modern physics, but I'll caution you that Dubnium was first concocted at the Dubna research facility in a land called "the Soviet Union," and that it happened before I was born, and that I am not a spring chicken by any reasonable measure.

The most interesting thing about Dubnium is the controversy around it was named, and even that is not very interesting.


The Centerfold!

Since Elemental Dubnium is not a thing that can be photographed, we turn -- as we once did for Hassium -- to
the My Little Pony fan art community.  Dubnium the Pony is "Solitary, Serious, and Grungy" and likes
his music loud.  He's the creation of Skoryx; image used with permission.
  

Fake Element chemists have been able to run a couple of experiments with Dubnium compounds, and I would imagine that they've been able to learn or at least confirm some significant ideas about atomic structure and behavior that way. Unfortunately, the summaries of these experiments always sound less than earth-shaking, along the lines of "gosh, they made three molecules of dubnium bromide!" In the current Wiki article on Dubnium, an earnest discussion of the chemical literature culminates in this spectacularly banal final sentence: "From the available information, it was concluded that dubnium often behaved like niobium, sometimes like protactinium, but rarely like tantalum."

And there you have it, folks.  The few dozen atoms of Dubnium that have ever existed?  They have rarely been like Tantalum.

"Dubnium," by Joyce Nielsen.  I just found a whole periodic table worth of mixed media pieces by
this Denver artist, and they are all pretty great.  Did I mention that my birthday is coming
right up?  Because it will be, eventually.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Ladder of Art -- Week #12

Cast your votes for up to four of these seven artists by Friday Feb 22.  For clarifications, consult the Ladder of Art FAQ.


Last Week's Results

This Week's Contest


Patrick Heron
1920 - 1999
British

Tournament Record: Tied for 474th. Lost to Barbara Hepworth and Hans Hartung. 5 votes for, 16 votes against (.238).






Lucian Freud
1922 - 2011
German; worked in Britain

Tournament Record: Tied for 479th. Lost to Helen Frankenthaler and Sam Francis. 6 votes for, 20 votes against (.231).






Andrea del Sarto
1486-1530
Italian

Tournament Record: Tied for 479th. Lost to Fra Angelico and Antonello da Messina. 6 votes for, 20 votes against (.231).





Luca Della Robbia
1400 - 1482
Florentine

Tournament Record: Tied for 481st. Lost to Diego Rivera and Gerhard Richter. 5 votes for, 17 votes against (.227).
  • Tied for Second in Week #11.




Baron Antoine-Jean Gros
1771 - 1835
French

Tournament Record: Placed 492th (tie). Lost to Juan Gris and Greuze. 4 votes for, 20 votes against (.167).
  • Placed Third in Ladder Week #5.
  • Tied for Third in Ladder Week #6.
  • Tied for Fourth in Ladder Week #7.
  • Third Place, Week #8. 
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #9. 
  • In a four-way tie for Second in Week #10.
  • In a three-way tie for Second in Week #11. 





Lucas van Leyden
1494 - 1533
Dutch

Tournament Record: Placed 494th (tie). Lost to L.S. Lowry and Tony Cragg. 4 votes for, 21 votes against (.160).
  • Tied for First, Week #5.
  • Tied for First, Week #7.
  • Tied for First, again, in Week #9.
  • Tied for Second in Week #11. 






Charles-François Daubigny
1817 - 1878
French

Tournament Record: Placed 505th.  Lost to Salvador Dali and Aelbert Cuyp. 4 votes for, 26 votes against (.133).
  • Finished First in Ladder Week #2.
  • Finished First again in Week #4.
  • ...and again in Week #6.
  • ...and in Week #8.
  • ...and in Week #10.





Cast up to four votes in the comments by Friday morning!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Left Bracket Sixth Round: Wyeth v. Sheeler!



The last of this round's eight matches pits Andrew Wyeth (7-1, 84-26, .764) and Charles Sheeler (5-1, 42-29, .592)?  They're two of the bigger names in 20th century Unitedstatesian painting, but although they trod the Earth at the same time, for a while, Wyeth was born when Sheeler was 34 and must have seemed like one of those dang kids today to the older man.  If I was Sheeler heading into this match, I would be pretty nervous looking at Wyeth's vote ratio and the slate of Name artists that he has already sent packing.  On the other hand, Sheeler didn't make it to the Sixth Round by not being popular with the IAT voters.  Enough talk.  Let's look at some paintings.


Wyeth's "oblique self-portrait," Trodden Weed.
Andrew Wyeth
1917 - 2009
American
Wyeth’s technical resources are remarkable. His work displays a strong linear quality, and within his limited palette—consisting mostly of earth tones—he achieves a subtly extensive range of colour. His paintings are precise and detailed, yet he moves them beyond photographic naturalism by imbuing them with a sense of subjective emotion. This work also exemplifies his use of unusual angles and his mastery of light.... Art historians have often characterized Wyeth’s work as sentimental and antithetical to the abstract trajectory of 20th-century art. In the face of such criticism, Wyeth’s work has always been popular.
- The Britannica










Self-Portrait, 1925.
Charles Sheeler
1883 - 1965
American
As he entered the 1950s, Sheeler developed a distinctive late style. He still depicted urban architecture and industrial facilities, but he reduced objects to flat planes, rather than volumes, and pared away more detail than ever before.... He also devised complex, multiple-viewpoint compositions by overlapping two or more photographic negatives of the same subject and then transferring the resulting, synthesized image to canvas.... He left behind a body of work that explored the balance between abstraction and representation, photography and painting, an increasingly mechanized present and a more homespun past, uniting all these aspects in a skillful (and occasionally ambivalent) tension.
- - The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
  • Beat Cindy Sherman in in Round 1.
  • Defeated Jan Siberechts easily in Round 2.
  • Beat Georges Seurat in Round 3 by a two-vote margin. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
  • Beat Kurt Schwitters in Round 4 by a safe margin.
  • Defeated Paul Signac in Round 5.







Monday, February 11, 2019

The Game of Reading and the Oobleck


Since last month's Game of Reading reminder, the reading went through a bit of a slow patch but has since picked up.  Here's how it all went down.


Christmas 2018 Bonus Card: Unrestricted Book: On January 14th, I burned a precious Unrestricted card and started Listen to This, a collection of essays by the excellent music critic Alex Ross that I had picked up at an odd little used book store down the way.  [I drew Card #425: Unrestricted Book!  Nice.]

Card #637: "Ask Maddy." When we last saw The Game of Reading, I had several audiobooks on reserve but had resorted to my long, periodic fallback listening of Gibbon's Decline and Fall.  When Fanny Burney's Evalina arrived, I switched over.  Now, an 18th century epistolary novel about a young woman's boy troubles is not what many folks will choose to run to.  Burney, though, was a pretty shrewd observer of the myriad ways that gallantry can be weaponized against women, and was no dull wit; you can imagine her trading sick barbs with an avuncular Benjamin Franklin in a London coffeehouse, had they ever met.  I had to relisten to long sections, sometimes more than once, when I had lost the thread of the period language and pacing.  But, I was willing to go back and try again, because it was a well crafted novel that rewarded attention.  Thanks, Maddy!  [I drew Card #569: Trollope.]

Card #484: Western. I read Riders of the Purple Sage, by Zane Grey.  If you imagined what a book about the American West written by a New York dentist and serialized in Field and Stream in the early 1910s would be like, you would be pretty close to Riders of the Purple Sage, and for good reason.  It is pretty bad.  When I drew a "Western" card last year, I was pleasantly surprised by Louis L'Amour, so I guess now I know which side I'm on vis-a-vis the twin titans of Western pulp.  I'm a L'Amour man! [I drew Card #382: Picture This, by Molly Bangs.]
Abandoned: 2017 Card #445.  While doing some literal housecleaning, I also did some housekeeping of my book lists and discovered that I had returned a hoary old History of the Willamette Valley to the library without finishing it.  That triggered the Abandonment Rule, devised in April 2017 but never before invoked; basically, it means the the old "History" card returned to my hand.
Card #288: Unnatural Death, by Dorothy Sayers.  Finishing Evalina, I decided it was time for some cozy British detective action.  Under the Serial Fiction Rule, I did not have to listen to Unnatural Death itself, but could pick any of the "Lord Peter Whimsy" books.  I chose Striding Folly.  It turns out that Striding Folly is just a collection of three short stories, two of which I've read in some other form before, so I burned through this card pretty quickly.  [When I took back the abandoned card, my hand grew to 11 cards.  Therefore, after I played Card #288, I didn't draw up.]

Card #631: Ask Chuckdaddy.  I began listening to The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a snarky and amusing novel set again the unspeakable horror of mid 20th century Dominican history.  I'm about two-thirds through, and really enjoying it.  [I drew Card #312, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and groaned a little.]

Card #382: Picture This, by Molly Bangs.  A short and charming illustrated guide to the basic psychology of pictures and illustrations, by an artist of children's books.  Simple, insightful, and short. [I drew...
Card #655: Immediately return one card to the deck, and draw two.  That was exciting, but I didn't have to think very about my choice.  I immediately discarded the extravagantly tedious Bulwer-Lyton saga of 2018 Card #279: The Last Days of Pompeii.  [I drew Card #611: Pick a Book off of a Randomly Selected Library Shelf, and Card #287: Anna Karenina]
Card #425: Unrestricted Book.  I used this to read Dr. Seuss's Bartholomew and the Oobleck, which is an undisciplined use of an Unrestricted card bordering on recklessness.  But, I remembered that it was a favorite when I was a wee bairn, and wanted to see how it had held up.  It's pretty good.  [I drew Card #597: Something From the (literal) Home "To-Read" Shelf.]

Card #597: Something From the Home "To-Read" Shelf.  Bartholomew didn't take me too long to get through, so I went upstairs and grabbed J.G. Farrell's The Singapore Grip.  I was hoping it might match the off-kilter acidic comedy of his terrific Troubles, and so far it seems like I'm in luck.  [I drew Card #472: Detective.]



The Current Hand

Here's what I'm holding at the moment.
  • 2018 Card #257: Master and Commander
  • 2018 Card #190: On Beauty
  • 2018 Card #346: Beowulf
  • 2018 Card #632: "Ask Chuckdaddy."  This will be James Baldwin's Another Country, on audiobook.
  • Card #569: Trollope.
  • 2017 Card #445: History
  • Card #312, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
  • Card #611: Pick a Book off of a Randomly Selected Library Shelf
  • Card #287: Anna Karenina
  • Card #472: Detective. 
I like this hand!  Good balance of specifics and options, good balance of ease and challenge, good options for the page and for audio alike.  I like this game!


Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Ladder of Art -- Week #11

Cast your votes for up to four of these seven artists by Friday Feb 15.  For clarifications, consult the Ladder of Art FAQ.


Last Week's Results

This Week's Contest


Luca Della Robbia
1400 - 1482
Florentine

Tournament Record: Tied for 481st. Lost to Diego Rivera and Gerhard Richter. 5 votes for, 17 votes against (.227).





Andrea Pisano
1290ish - 1348
Florentine

Tournament Record: Tied for 481st. Lost to Camille Pissarro and John Piper. 5 votes for, 17 votes against (.227).
  • In a four-way tie for 2nd in Week #10.




Edward Wadsworth
1889 - 1949
British

Tournament Record: Placed 490th. Lost to Édouard Vuillard and Alfred Wallis. 4 votes for, 16 votes against (.200).
  • Tied for Third in Ladder Week #6.
  • Tied for First in Ladder Week #7. 
  • Tied for First in Week #9. 




Baron Antoine-Jean Gros
1771 - 1835
French

Tournament Record: Placed 492th (tie). Lost to Juan Gris and Greuze. 4 votes for, 20 votes against (.167).
  • Placed Third in Ladder Week #5.
  • Tied for Third in Ladder Week #6.
  • Tied for Fourth in Ladder Week #7.
  • Third Place, Week #8. 
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #9. 
  • In a four-way tie for 2nd in Week #10.




Lucas van Leyden
1494 - 1533
Dutch

Tournament Record: Placed 494th (tie). Lost to L.S. Lowry and Tony Cragg. 4 votes for, 21 votes against (.160).
  • Tied for First, Week #5.
  • Tied for First, Week #7.
  • Tied for First, again, in Week #9. 




Fra Bartolomeo
c.1474 - c.1517
Italian (Florentine)

Tournament Record: Placed 494th (tie). Lost to Balthus and Hans Baldung. 4 votes for, 21 votes against (.160).
  • Tied for Third, Ladder Week #5.
  • Tied for Third in Ladder Week #6.
  • Tied for First, Ladder Week #7.
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #9.
  • In a four-way tie for 2nd in Week #10.




Domenichino
1581 - 1641
Italian

Tournament Record: Placed 507th (tie).  Lost to Donatello and Dosso Dossi. 3 votes for, 21 votes against (.125).
  • Tied for First, Ladder Rung #1.
  • First Place, Week #3.
  • Tied for First, Week #5.
  • Tied for Fourth in Week #7.
  • Second Place, Week #8
  • Tied for Fourth, Week #9. 
  • In a four-way tie for 2nd in Week #10.




Cast up to four votes in the comments by Friday morning!