Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday; the week has gone by rapidly, marked only by a flat tire which is now fixed (I get a new set of tires on Saturday). It’s January 26, 2018, National Peanut Brittle Day.  And for our friends down under, it’s Australia Day.

Today’s animated Google Doodle honors the Canadian-American neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, born on this day in 1891 (died 1976). His most famous work involved mapping the brain in living (and aware) patients, an endeavor stemming from his surgical method of treating epilepsy by destroying the relevant portions of the brain. (This work was done in Canada—at McGill University). Before he did that operation, though, he had to stimulate various brain regions with electrodes to see what happened.  In this way he developed brain maps that are still used today.  Here’s one of his maps reproduced in Vox:

Each number in the image corresponds to a particular brain function and sensation Penfield mapped. No. 18 corresponds to “Slight twitching of arm and hand like a shock, and felt as if he wanted to move them,” according to the report. At No. 8, the patient “felt sensation of movement in the thumb,” but it didn’t actually move. At No. 13, the patient felt “numbness all down the right leg.” (Photo: American neurological association).

So what does this Doodle mean? Well, Penfield’s on the left, stimulating a brain. And the burnt toast? Watch this short video to see where it came from.

When Penfield was alive, he was called “the greatest living Canadian.”

On this day in 1531, the famous Lisbon earthquake struck, killing about 30,000 people (both the shock and the resulting tsunami were responsible). On January 26, 1838, Tennessee enacted the first American law prohibiting the sale of alcohol in stores and saloons.

On this day in 1905, the world’s largest diamond ever found—the Cullinan Diamond, was discovered at the Premier Mine near Pretoria in South Africa. It weighed 3,106.75 carats, or about 0.62 kg—roughly 1.4 pounds! Here it is as it was found:


After several years on the market without a sale, the Transvaal government suggested selling it to England as a gift to King Edward VII. Edward at first declined, but Winston Churchill, of all people, persuaded him to accept it. The cost to the British people was £150,000 (about US$750,000 at that time), a value equivalent in today’s currency of £15 million. The diamond was then cut up: here are the nine major sub-diamonds:

The cutting of this stone was a perilous affair; as Wikipedia reports:

The king chose Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam to cleave and polish the rough stone into brilliant gems of various cuts and sizes. Abraham Asscher collected it from the Colonial Office in London on 23 January 1908. He returned to the Netherlands by train and ferry with the diamond in his coat pocket. Meanwhile, to much fanfare, a Royal Navy ship carried an empty box across the North Sea, again throwing off potential thieves. Even the captain had no idea that his “precious” cargo was a decoy.

On 10 February 1908, the rough stone was split in half by Joseph Asscher at his diamond-cutting factory in Amsterdam. At the time, technology had not yet evolved to guarantee the quality of modern standards, and cutting the diamond was difficult and risky. After weeks of planning, an incision 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) deep was made to enable Asscher to cleave the diamond in one blow. Making the incision alone took four days, and a steel knife broke on the first attempt, but a second knife was fitted into the groove and split it clean in two along one of four possible cleavage planes. In all, splitting and cutting the diamond took eight months, with three people working 14 hours per day to complete the task.

“Cullinan produced 9 major stones of 1,055.89 carats (211.178 g) in total, and 96 minor brilliants weighing 7.55 carats (1.510 g) (on average, 0.079 carats each) – a yield from the rough stone of 34.25 per cent.”

“Cullinan produced stones of various cuts and sizes, the largest of which is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa [top row, center], and at 530.4 carats (106.08 g) it is the largest clear cut diamond in the world. Cullinan I is mounted in the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross. The second-largest is Cullinan II or the Second Star of Africa [top left], weighing 317.4 carats (63.48 g), mounted in the Imperial State Crown. Both diamonds are part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

Here’s Cullinan I, the Great Star of Africa, and its position on the British Sceptre. Last photo is Cullinan II in the Imperial State Crown, worn by British regents on their coronation:


The crown (Cullinan II in the band at the bottom):

On this day in 1926, television was first demonstrated by John Logie Baird. On January 26, 1950, the Constitution of India came into force, and now it’s Republic Day in that nation.  Exactly 15 years later, Hindi became, according to Wikipedia, “the official language of India”. But Wikipedia also states, correctly, that there are NO national languages in India. Someone please fix that first link! Indian law actually designates 22 “scheduled languages” and 6 “classical languages”, including Sanskrit.

On January 26, 1980, Israel and Egypt established diplomatic relations, and on this day in 1998, on American television, President Bill Clinton denied that he had “sexual relations with that woman—Miss Lewinsky” (video below). He was lying, of course, and though he wasn’t convicted after impeachment, he was found guilty of civil contempt of court, fined $90,000, and lost his Arkansas law license for five years. Here’s the famous lie:

Notables born on this day include Douglas MacArthur (1880), Maria von Trapp (1905), Paul Newman (1925), Gene Siskel (1946), Ellen DeGeneres (1958), and Wayne Gretzky (1961). Those who expired on this day include Edward Jenner (1823), Soviet botanist Nikolai Vavilov (1943, died in the gulags after Stalin imprisoned him for criticizing the charlatan Lysenko), Lucky Luciano (1962), Edward G. Robinson (1973), Nelson Rockefeller (1979), Hugh Trevor-Roper (2003) and Abe Vigoda (2016).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili shows no interest in anything not connected with food:

Cyrus: What do you think about the Moon?
Hili: Actually, nothing.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Co myślisz o księżycu?
Hili: Właściwie nic.

Some tweets. First, the call of the wild (tweet found by Matthew):

And a hot tortoise threesome. Look at that head-bobbing! It’s surely sexual selection; do you think it tells the female how vigorous the male is?

Matthew found this as well, and it’s true! Turn on the video to see people battle for Nutella (I tried the stuff once and didn’t like it that much—too sweet!) From the BBC:

. . . police were called when people began fighting and pushing one another.

“They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand,” one customer told French media.

A member of staff at one Intermarché shop in central France told the regional newspaper Le Progrès: “We were trying to get in between the customers but they were pushing us.”

From Grania, an unfortunate picture:

And something good that Trump finally accomplished!:

Speaking of sharks, Grania also found a Great White endangering swimmers:

Finally, a cool short video of mitosis (cell division):


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Now that was a darn interesting read

  2. W.Benson
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Does head bobbing in the Galapagos tortoise inform the female how vigorous the male is? The ‘vera causa’ information is the cue on how vigorous and physically coordinated the offspring of a successful mating would tend to be.

    • Christopher
      Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      It would be interesting to compare a large number of tortoise mating habits. Mine, a Russian tortoise, also does the head bob, but less vigorously, followed by rear leg biting and shell ramming. So, I wonder if those that do the more vigorous head bobbing do less shell ramming and/or biting, more, or non at all. What information is being sent and received there is a great question I hope someone with greater intellect than I has studied it.

      • Liz
        Posted January 26, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        “What information is being sent and received there is a great question I hope someone with greater intellect than I has studied it.” I hope so, too. I also wonder if the leg biting, or any of it, is associated with pleasure.

    • Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      We have no idea, and of course doing that experiment would take decades! But this is a possible example of a “good genes” model (since males presumably give no parental care, it’s probably not to inform the female that the male is just in good condition alone (without a genetic basis for that).

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Bubba was impeached by the House of Representatives; he wasn’t convicted by the Senate.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Right now they are waiting for Paul Ryan to grow a spine so conviction will be the easy part. If you could be thrown out for lying there would be no congress.

    • Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      Yes, I mean successfully impeached; will fix.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 26, 2018 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        Whenever he bit that lower lip, you knew you were in for some high-octane feigned sincerity.

        I didn’t give a damn about what he did with Monica Lewinsky in a closet off the Oval Office (and figured that that was between him and Monica and Hillary). But that live tv appearance of his was as close as a simple citizen like me ever felt to having a president look him square in the eye and lie.

  4. George
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    PCC(e) – if you are not committed to getting new tires on Saturday, you might want to wait until Costco has another of its tire specials. They will do a set of four tires (either Michelin or Bridgestone) with free installation and $70 off the set. Right now the discount (from 1/29 to 3/18) is on Michelins. At some point, Costco will add the free installation for a weekend. Otherwise, it is $15 a tire.

    I got a set of four Michelins last October, installed with tax for $520. The Michelin Defender was the top rated tire for my car in Consumer Reports. The Defender has been replaced by the Premier A/S in the Michelin line.

    You do need a Costco membership but if you can borrow someone’s, it might be worth it. The South Loop Costco (1430 S Ashland) does tires.

    • Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      I joined Costco but the tires really are in terrible shape and I want to get a new set before I get a blowout. Thanks for the tip, though.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        Generally you want to wait until the ash tray is full before trading in but tires would work as well.

    • Posted January 26, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      I’m a big fan of buying tires online at The website lets you choose your model of car and then shows you a list of compatible tires and lets you see how they look. You can buy wheels too. Then get them shipped to a local tire store for installation.

  5. Sarah
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    But the famous Lisbon earthquake that inspired Voltaire happened in 1755 and it was on November 1.

  6. garman
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    How do you pronounce Wilder Penfield’s first name? I’ve read about him for years and never knew how it was pronounced.


    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 26, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Don’t know if this’ll help Seems to be “wild” as in wild animal, but how did he pronounce it?

      • Posted January 26, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        My mother (a nurse by training) met him once or so in some context or other in the Montreal health-care scene. She always said “wild-er”. I have no idea if that’s correct, of course.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Square-cut or pear-shape, those diamonds don’t lose their shape.

    • Liz
      Posted January 26, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      This also:

  8. W.Benson
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Nikolai Vavilov, who died on this day in 1942, was a botanical geneticist. He was an important Soviet researcher on the genetics of crop imporvement and, because of this, became an enemy of agricultural scientist Trofim Lysenko and his Lamarckian theories of crop improvement. Stalin considered Lamarkism politically more correct for a socialist society and backed Lysenko.
    Vavilov, in addition to his work on crop improvement, discovered a new type of mimicry in weeds, now called Vavilovian mimicry. It arises when weed seeds occurring as contaminants of grain harvests are naturally selected to have the same mechanical properties to winnowing as the food grain. The individual weeds seeds most refractive to winnowing — mimic the crop grain best — will remain as contaminants and their mimetic traits improved later on when they are sown with the grain.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 26, 2018 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      Very interesting – always good things to learn here. if the weed seed could avoid separation the cycle continues. I remember in the days long before GMO producers stopped the process of planting last years crops, the farmer would have part of his harvest professionally cleaned for planting the following year. I doubt there was any mimicry with soybean seed but that is the one that comes to mind from my experience.

  9. rickflick
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The pictures of the crown jewels produce a gag reflex in me. There seems to a surfeit of redundant, glitz. Maybe it’s a British thing, but I’d be more comfortable in my father’s old fedora(are they back in fashion yet?) and a bomber jacket.

  10. E.I.E.I.Owen
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    “On this day in 1531, the famous Lisbon earthquake struck, killing about 30,000 people (both the shock and the resulting tsunami were responsible).”

    The “famous Lisbon earthquake” occurred in 1755. That’s the one that shocked Europe, the one Voltaire wrote about. The 1531 earthquake was largely forgotten until the early 20th century.

  11. Posted January 26, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Penfield may, alas, also be a case of “religion poisoning everything”. His science is pioneering and is rightly honoured, but he also wrote what one might call a more general reflection on the work, _The Mystery of the Mind_. This book, sadly, is one sustained argument from personal incredulity concerning materialism when it comes to the “mind-body problem” from someone who really should know better.

    Bunge told me once (with the disclaimer that it was gossip) that he attended one of Penfield’s lectures on the same theme as the book (c. 1975 or so) and got the impression that he was letting his religion override his scientific and clinical judgement (especially in the Q&A or something).

    (At the time I was working on a student paper on neuroscience and philosophy and read Penfield’s book because my mother had a copy.)

  12. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Love the cat doing the d*g-paddle!

  13. Nobody Special
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I watched a documentary a couple of years ago about the discovery of a large diamond (not nearly as large as the Cullinan but still a few hundred carats) and its journey from rough stone to finished jewellery.
    The jeweller responsible for the initial cleaving told how, after days of meticulous planning and studying the stone from all angles to find the prime cleavage point in order to maximise the number of usable stones, he finally put the blade in place on the multi-million pound rock, brought his hammer down, saw with intense relief that it had split as planned……then fainted clean away.

    Personally, I’m not keen on diamonds. Yes, they’re pretty and do marvelous things with light, but give me a deep-green emerald or rich blue sapphire anyday, and for sheer natural beauty you can’t beat an Australian black opal (though genuine amber with animal inclusions comes a close second).

  14. Dale Franzwa
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Well, not only is today Wayne Gretzky’s birthday, but it’s also the NHL’s All Star day. A series of games featuring four clubs with three players plus a goalie on each team played for the All Star championship. Gretzky coached the Metropolitan Division team. In the final round, the Metropolitan Division beat the Pacific Division 4 – 3. What a nice birthday present for Gretzky.

  15. Posted February 4, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I wish they hadn’t cut the diamond.

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