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This is essay is number six, in a series of twelve, about places associated with Jane Austen, although it does not claim to be a definitive gazeteer.


Given that Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) lived in the pre-railway age, she managed to visit quite a large number of places in England, travelling by horse-drawn coaches and carriages. However, the farthest north that she managed to reach was the village of Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire (2).

Maggie Lane, (Ref B) in describing Blaise Castle, (Essay E) and discussing Catherine Morland, the naïve heroine of Northanger
Abbey, speculates on the possible whereabouts of this imaginary Abbey. “From the distances and directions given, Northanger must lie within the triangle bounded by Tetbury Cirencester Stroud,” (Ref B). This triangle is shown on the map of the Cotswolds (2).

I seem to recall that Henry Tilney, son of the Northanger Abbey family, said that it was near Swindon, which is something one would rather keep quiet about, nowadays. In Jane Austen’s day Swindon was just a sleepy market town. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Swindon had become an industrial town with a railway works, manufacturing locomotives for the Great Western Railway Company.

(ii) Adlestrop

“From Clifton, in July 1806, Jane Austen, her mother and sister proceeded to Adlestrop, where they stayed not at Adlestrop Park (3), but at the Rectory. This was unlikely to have been Jane’s first visit. Adlestrop Park was, so to speak, Mrs Austen’s ancestral home. It had belonged to her branch of the Leigh family since the Reformation; her father had been born there, and during her lifetime it had passed successively to her uncle, her cousin, and her cousin’s son.” (Ref B)

“Jane Austen rarely praised the older generation of her relations; with affection, so the summer visit of 1806 must have been very agreeable. In terms of their surroundings, there, was everything to make it so. The Cotswold countryside has a claim to be among the loveliest in England, its golden stone buildings most in harmony with nature. From the Rectory there is a superb view of the rolling landscape of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.” (Ref B)

The name, “Adlestrop” is better-known to most English readers through the poem, written in the summer of 1914, by Edward Thomas. When I visited Adlestrop, in the 1990s, it was because of the poem, which I find intensely moving, rather than for the association with Jane Austen, of which I was unaware at the time.

The poem is of four stanzas, but only the first one is quoted here. (Ref C)

“Yes, I remember Adlestrop–

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June”

The poem speaks of days that are now over; the railway line is still there, but the station has gone, closed in 1966 as a result of the “Beeching Axe” on supposedly uneconomic branch lines and stations. Today the old railway station’s sign is mounted on the bench at the village bus stop (4).

Although the old Rectory of Adlestrop, at which Jane Austen and her family stayed, (5) is still in existence, as Adlestrop House, it seems that the much grander Adlestrop Park has not survived. I could find no reference to it, and the detailed satellite images show no large building in the village, despite the church and rectory showing clearly at the end of Main Street.

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When a star meets a black hole

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Survival of the fittest

Herbert Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest”.

“Survival of the fittest” is a phrase that originated from Darwinian evolutionary theory as a way of describing the mechanism of natural selection. The biological concept of fitness is defined as reproductive success. In Darwinian terms, the phrase is best understood as “Survival of the form that will leave the most copies of itself in successive generations.”

Herbert Spencer first used the phrase, after reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, in his Principles of Biology (1864), in which he drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin’s biological ones: “This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection’, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.”

Darwin responded positively to Alfred Russel Wallace’s suggestion of using Spencer’s new phrase “survival of the fittest” as an alternative to “natural selection”, and adopted the phrase in The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication published in 1868. In On the Origin of Species, he introduced the phrase in the fifth edition published in 1869, intending it to mean “better designed for an immediate, local environment”. Via Wiki

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The Top Five Misconceptions About Evolution

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Here’s the difference between a Sports car, a Supercar, and a Formula 1 car

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Photographer Converted a Box Trailer Into a Giant Mobile Camera obscura

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Armed with the skills of a carpenter and obsessed with all things visual, Austin photographer Ian Kasnoff has created a mobile lab for his unique brand of artistic alchemy. His Trailer Camera was born in 2014, when Kasnoff decided to turn an 8-foot box trailer he owned into a camera obscura—a dark room with a small hole in one wall. Light passes through the opening and projects the outside world onto the walls and ceiling. After replacing the hole with a lens, Kasnoff began using light-sensitive photographic paper to capture large-format images. Now in its third incarnation—a 16-foot cargo trailer complete with built-in darkroom—the Trailer Camera has evolved into a sophisticated mobile device.

Source: Ian Kasnoff Converted a Box Trailer Into a Giant Mobile Camera

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This is the fifth, in a series of twelve essays about some of the places in England associated with the life of Jane Austen. It is about a collection of places visited personally, with Jane Austen clearly in mind, but it is not a comprehensive gazeteer.


Jane Austen was quite familiar with the River Avon, from her time spent in Bath, where the river forms an attractive feature of the city. (Essay C) It is called the “Bristol Avon” to distinguish it from the “Warwickshire Avon”, and the “Wiltshire Avon” which are not far away, in adjoining counties. There are several other “Avons” in England, because the name is derived from the Welsh word, “afon”, pronounced “avvon” which simply means “river”.

As the map (2) shows, the Bristol Avon is a rather short river, rising in the southern Cotswold Hills, and flowing westwards to enter the sea at Avonmouth, on the Bristol Channel. At the end of the last Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago, the Bristol Avon, swollen by glacial meltwater, cut a 250 foot (76 m) deep channel, down into the softer rocks. This is the Avon Gorge.

The sudden decision, by Rev. George Austen, to retire from his position of Rector of Steventon, in Hampshire, and take his family to live in Bath, came as such a shock to his daughter, Jane, that she fainted away at the news. They left Steventon in December, 1800, and lived in Bath until the death of George Austen in January 1805. His widow and daughters were left in a precarious financial condition, and depended on allowances made to them by George’s far more affluent sons.

(i) Bristol and Clifton

Maggie Lane explains Jane Austen’s reactions to the situation in which she found herself,

“When Mrs Austen and her daughters left Bath for ever in July 1806, they had an entirely new home in view; but before settling down, they planned to spend the summer travelling and visiting relations. Their first stop was Clifton. For five years Jane had lived obediently but reluctantly in Bath, trying not to be discontented, but unable to write: the sense of release was immense, and Clifton came in for some of its afterglow.

Now part of the city of Bristol, Clifton (2) then lay just outside the ancient city boundary, a Gloucestershire village rapidly growing into a salubrious suburb and a fashionable resort to rival Bath. Why then should Jane have preferred it so decidedly?” (Ref B)

As explained, the Bristol Avon flows past Clifton in a deep gorge, and at the time of Jane’s visit, the river could only be crossed by boat (3), but by 1864 a suspension bridge (4) was completed to cross it. It was made to an 1831 design by the renowned engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who died before the work was completed. The span is 702 feet (214 m) between the piers, and it is 245 feet (75 m) above high tide. (Ref A).

Earlier, Maggie Lane poses the question as to why Jane Austen much preferred Clifton to Bath, and says, “Its attraction had a great deal to do with its airy clifftop situation, its elevation several hundred feet above the smelly, workaday centre of the city, and its proximity to the open green plateau of the Downs.” (Ref B) She points out the association of Clifton with health in her novels, from the juvenile production, “Lesley Castle”, to both “Persuasion” and “Emma”.
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This painting has been immensely popular with the ignorant, unlettered and uncultured members of the British public, as well as the rest, ever since it was first displayed in 1839. The artist, Turner would have altogether have approved of this. He called the painting, “my darling”, and only once, having loaned it for an exhibition, never did so again, and kept it safe in his own possession, until the day he died, when he bequeathed it to the nation in 1851. Turner gave it a longer title, few of us remember; “The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838”. Although the word “tugged” is still in use today, we would normally say “towed” about a vessel. The name, “Temeraire” is French and means, “Reckless or rash”.


(i) Popularity

In 2005 it was voted the nation’s favourite painting, in a poll organised by the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme. Despite being reproduced on biscuit tins, chocolate boxes, postcards, and prints, the painting is treasured, because everyone knows these commercial mementoes are but a pale shade of the real thing. Many people might find it difficult to put into words the reasons why they find the painting so appealing. This is because it draws on deep and emotional popular feelings for the history and culture of Britain. Turner was in a long line of artists who had depicted the exploits of British seagoing men (2). The illustration below, (2) was one of many incidents in the Napoleonic wars. The “Nymph” is the nearer ship, and “La Cleopatra” is a French ship, now flying British colours after its capture.

“The Fighting Temeraire” painting speaks to us about the long and proud maritime history of the nation. It calls to mind, “England’s Darling”, Admiral Nelson, and the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 against the maritime forces of the Napoleonic dictator. It recollects the sheer beauty of the square rigged sailing ship, as an example of the marine technology of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It also mourns the passing of an era, when beautiful sailing ships, dependent upon unreliable winds, were beginning to be replaced by dirty, noisy, ugly but more reliable steam vessels.

(ii) Turner’s Style

When Turner painted the picture, he was one of the nation’s best known artists having been an exhibitor at the Royal Academy for over forty years. Some have called him “the first Impressionist” in relation to the late nineteenth century artistic movement in France, because many of his paintings are distinctly “atmospheric”, or “impressionistic”. They sometimes create a ghostly or ethereal scene, from what might otherwise be a simple literal record of a rural landscape, or an historic building. One of the best examples of this is his painting of Norham Castle, in Northumberland, just one of many studies he made of it. (3)

“He spent much of his life near the River Thames and did many paintings of ships and waterside scenes, both in watercolour and in oils. Turner frequently made small sketches and then worked them into finished paintings in the studio. He almost certainly did not witness the actual towing of “Temeraire”, and used considerable licence in the painting which had a symbolic meaning for him, that his first audience immediately appreciated.” (Ref C, quoting Judy Egerton of the National Gallery, London,)
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Circle of Willis

The circle of Willis (circulus arteriosus cerebri) is an collection of arteries that are located at the base of the brain. The “circle” was named after Thomas Willis (1621-1675) by his student, Richard Lower. Willis authored Cerebri Anatome which described and depicted this vascular ring of arteries. The circle of Willis encircles the stalk of the pituitary gland and provides a connection between the internal carotid (the internal carotid is cut in this image) and the vertebrobasilar arterial brain supply systems. The circle of Willis is formed when each internal carotid artery divides into the anterior cerebral artery and middle cerebral artery. The anterior cerebral arteries are then united by an anterior communicating artery. Posteriorly, the basilar artery branches into a left and right posterior cerebral artery, forming the posterior circulation. The circle of Willis is completed by the posterior communicating arteries which join the posterior and internal carotid arteries. This arrangement potentially allows blood supply to the brain when there is occlusion of one of the internal carotid arteries, or vertebral arteries. However, the collateral circulation provided by this circle is typically insufficient to fully compensate for such an occlusion.

Image courtesy of Drs. Suárez-Quian and Vilensky.
Suárez-Quian, C.a. and Vilensky, J.A. 2016 All-in-One Anatomy Exam Review. Image-Based Questions and Answers. Volume 6: The Head. Apple iBooks.

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Here is the fourth, in a series of essays about places in England associated with the life of Jane Austen. It is about a collection of places visited personally, with Jane Austen clearly in mind, but not a comprehensive gazeteer.


(i) Sea Drinking and Sea Bathing

Sea bathing, as part of a holiday, either at home or abroad, is a familiar experience for all of us. Consequently, it is difficult for modern minds to imagine a time when it was a new and rather wild idea, hedged around with all kinds of restrictions, both social and practical. What should one wear in the sea? How was one to undress, and change into a bathing dress? Should one learn to swim?

The idea of drinking fresh natural mineral waters for health, developed in the late 17C, and became very popular in the 18C, at fashionable places like Spa (Belgium) Baden-Baden (Germany) and Bath or Cheltenham (Britain). This enthusiasm for “taking the waters” was extended to drinking sea-water, particularly when, in 1753, “Dr. Charles Russell published ‘The Uses of Sea Water’, which recommended the use of sea water for healing various diseases, and William Buchan wrote his 1769 book, ‘Domestic Medicine’ advocating the practice.

Sea bathing and sea water were advocated with winter considered to be the best time to follow the practice.” (Ref A)

The contemporary print of sea bathers (2) shows a “bathing machine”, which was a wheeled hut or changing room, and locker for depositing ordinary clothes. It could be drawn up or down the beach, by a horse, as the tide moved. The presence of these machines suggests a well-organised local hire company, profiting from the custom provided by bathers. The commercial sailing craft, one sailing the French tricolour, so close to the bathers, constitutes a risk, but this may well be artistic licence, to make the scene more interesting. This print dates from the time that Jane Austen left her childhood home in the village of Steventon.
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Blue Glowing Coconut Octopus

Amphioctopus marginatus, also known as the coconut octopus and veined octopus, is a medium-sized cephalopod belonging to the genus Amphioctopus. It is found in tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean. It commonly preys upon shrimp, crabs, and clams, and displays unusual behavior including bipedal walking and tool use (gathering coconut shells and seashells and using these for shelter).

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First Americans claim sparks controversy

A study that claims humans reached the Americas 130,000 years ago – much earlier than previously suggested – has run into controversy.

Humans are thought to have arrived in the New World no earlier than 25,000 years ago, so the find would push back the first evidence of settlement by more than 100,000 years.

The conclusions rest on analysis of animal bones and tools from California. But many experts contacted by the BBC said they doubted the claims.

Thomas Deméré, Steven Holen and colleagues examined material from the Cerutti Mastodon site near San Diego. The site was originally uncovered in 1992, during highway construction work. Possible stone tools were discovered alongside the smashed up remains of a mastodon (Mammut americanum) – an extinct relative of mammoths and living elephants.

The researchers behind the latest study were unable to carry out radiocarbon dating on the remains, so they used a technique called uranium-thorium dating on several bone fragments, coming up with a date of 130,000 years.

The team members found that some of the bones and teeth bore a characteristic breakage pattern known as spiral fracturing, considered to occur when the bone is fresh. Additionally, some of the bones showed typical signs of being smashed with hard objects.

Rocks found alongside the mastodon remains show signs of wear and being struck against other surfaces, the researchers say. They conclude that these represent hammerstones and anvils – two types of stone tool used by prehistoric cultures.

Dr Deméré, curator of palaeontology at the San Diego Natural History Museum, said the totality of evidence at the site had led team members to the conclusion that “humans were processing [working on or breaking up] mastodon limb bones using hammerstones and anvils and that the processing occurred at the site of burial 130,000 years ago”. Via BBC

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New photo of Earth between Saturn’s rings

That point of light between Saturn’s rings is Earth, captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on April 12. It is reminiscent of the last photo taken by the Voyager I spacecraft before engineers shut off its imaging systems. Carl Sagan had persuaded NASA to turn Voyager I’s cameras back toward the sun in 1990 and take the first ever “portrait of our solar system” from outside of it. Earth is just a speck in that photo too, a “pale blue dot” as Sagan called it.

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Grand Finale

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This is the third, in a series of twelve essays about places associated with Jane Austen. It is not a gazeteer, but a collection of places visited personally, with Jane Austen clearly in mind.


(i) History of Bath

One of the few places in Britain, with hot springs of a volcanic origin, is in the county of Somerset. It was a magical and therefore sacred site for the Celtic peoples in the area, and dedicated to their goddess Sulis. Following the Roman invasion of Britain in the first century AD, the site was named Aquae Sulis, and a classical building was erected upon it- a typical Roman public bath-house. The warm water of the baths encourages the growth of microscopic green algae, hence its colour in the photograph (1).

A town grew up around the Roman public buildings, and even after the Romans left, in the early fifth century, the town remained significant during the medieval period. Monastic buildings were founded there from 676 onwards, and the present great abbey church (1) was begun in 1499. It is still a prominent feature of the city, and escaped the destruction visited on so many ecclesiastical buildings, under Henry VIII, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid sixteenth century. Tourists still flock to see the architectural wonder of the great West Front (2), and the “Jacob’s Ladder” design, rising up each of the two flanking towers.

(ii) The Rise of Neo-Classical Architecture

Architectural tastes in Britain began to change profoundly in the early eighteenth century, when Lord Burlington began to promote the “Palladian” style. This was influenced by the Italian architect, Andrea Palladio (1518-1580) and his illustrated books about Greco-Roman classical styles. Whereas the original classical constructions were either temples or public buildings, Palladio had the revolutionary idea of applying the style to the private houses of the very wealthy. It was what we would nowadays call “conspicuous consumption”.

One of the earliest buildings in the new Palladian style was Chiswick House (3), happily still in existence. Being in the capital, it promoted wide interest in “Palladianism” by the wealthy. No place in Britain showed more enthusiasm for this neo-Classism than Bath.

As John Nellist explains, “By the end of the first quarter of the century the reputation of the city was high; it was becoming a fashionable summer resort for society, who went there when the court left London, to amuse themselves and ‘take the waters’. The importance of this royal patronage created the demand for a suitably impressive style of architecture.” (Ref B)
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Google’s AI seeks further Go glory

Google has challenged China’s top Go player to a series of games against its artificial intelligence technology. It said the software would play a best-of-three match against Ke Jie, among other games against humans in the eastern Chinese city of Wuzhen from 23-27 April.

Last year, the Google program recorded a 4-1 victory against one of South Korea’s top Go players. One expert said that result had come as a surprise.

“A lot of AI researchers have been working on Go because it’s the most challenging board game we have,” said Calum Chace, author of Surviving AI. “The conventional wisdom was that machines would ultimately triumph but it would take 10 years or so. “The win was a big wake-up call for a lot of people, including many outside the AI community.”

Google’s AlphaGo software was developed by British computer company DeepMind, which was bought by the US search firm in 2014. Its defeat of Lee Se-dol in March 2016 is seen as a landmark moment, similar to that of IBM’s Deep Blue AI beating Garry Kasparov at chess in 1997.

Several of the moves AlphaGo made defied conventional wisdom but ended up paying off. However, many Go aficionados did not recognise Mr Lee as the world’s top player at the time of the contest.

So, the new competition against 19-year-old Mr Ke – who is the current number one according to a popular but unofficial player-ranking system – has the potential to bring additional prestige to Google. Source – BBC

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Plane-tracking app explores airspace in 3D

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By the way, we are a bit disappointed with the new pound coin. – Jim

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5 very interesting facts about your thigh bone!

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McLaren to 3D-print parts at Bahrain F1 Grand Prix trackside

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