Brian Cox and Robin Ince get into the Christmas spirit as they look at the science of Christmas behaviour with actor/writer Mark Gatiss, geneticist Steve Jones, psychologist Richard Wiseman and emeritus Dean of Guildford Cathedral Victor Stock.
A 14-minute rebroadcast version of the 1993 gun ownership program from Alistair Cooke's Letter from America BBC series, which ran for 58 years (2,869 installments), the longest-running speech radio show in history. "Does a multiple murder on a Long Island train prove that America has a problem with guns?" This program is available through December 29, 2012.
The problem of US gun ownership, and why the American constitution doesn't actually guarantee a right to bear arms, as examined by broadcaster and journalist Alistair Cooke in 1993.
Paddy O'Connell introduces a shortened archive edition of Letter from America first broadcast 19 years ago on 29 October 1993.
In this edition, Alistair Cooke took the American nation's temperature on gun control in the midst of that early-90s panic, as Congress was about to pass the Brady Act in 1993, after more than a decade of lobbying by Jim Brady, President Reagan's former press secretary, shot with the President in an assassination attempt in 1981.
Alistair Cooke's talks on American life, history and politics - Letter from America - were broadcast weekly on BBC Radio from 1946 -2004. Over 920 archive editions are available to listen or download for free on the Radio 4 website.
Most of lower Manhattan and the Financial District were burned down on the freezing night of December 17th, 1835. In Gore Vidal's meticulously-researched novel, Burr, the protagonist Charlie Schuyler, the morning after the great blaze, describes the destruction during the previous night:
[After the December 17, 1835, NYC great fire] Like everyone else in the city, I was awake the whole night. Half the First Ward has burned down.
It was Dante's Hell: ice and fire together. A horrible racket of bells pealing, of fire-engines clattering, of houses collapsing. At midnight the sky was like a red dawn. Today every New Yorker who knows how to read mentions The Last Days of Pompeii.
I am thankful that I won't be required to describe what I saw. Memory too crowded with fiery images. Wall Street in flames. A freezing wind full of fire--an anomaly.
Suddenly the new Merchants' Exchange vanishes in a long wave of flame. A moment later I was able to see through the walls to the statue beneath the dome of Alexander Hamilton [in the church graveyard.]
From nowhere, a half-dozen young sailors raced into the building and tried to save the statue. They pulled the figure off its pedestal but then the police forced them out of the building just in time for with a hissing sigh the dome fell in and Hamilton was seen no more (his would-be rescuer was a young officer from the Navy Yard--a banker's son, who else?).
A group of Irish approached [Leggett and I] and said, "They'll be making no more of them five-per-cent dividends, with they now?".... Leggett grinned and gave [the speaker] a thumbs-up.
In the side streets the shopkeepers were gloomily digging among the ashes to see what the fire had spared. In Pearl Street there are miles of scorched cloth stacked on the side-walls. In Fulton Street furniture. Nearly every street like an open bazaar of ruined good. The poor steal whatever they can, particularly food...as do the pigs, who have declared themselves a national holiday and are now rampant.... The only contented sound in the city is their squeaking and snorting as they turn up delicacies where once were taverns, grocery shops, homes."
Image (click to enlarge) - View of the Great Fire in N.York, Dec. 16th & 17, 1835, as seen from Williamsburg (sic), by Nicolino Caly, circa 1835. Medium gouache on paper mounted on canvas, on stretcher, 7.7 × 11.5 in, collection of the New York Historical Society.
A working group at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), based at UT, used mathematical modeling that found the transmission of sex-specific epi-marks may signal homosexuality.
According to the study, published online today in The Quarterly Review of Biology, sex-specific epi-marks, which are "erased" and thus normally do not pass between generations, can lead to homosexuality when they escape erasure and are transmitted from father to daughter or mother to son.
Epigenetics' role in homosexuality finally gets some evidentiary underpinnings--even if via mathematical modeling. The reports' language sounds too definitive though. It's early. But...I've been saying for years--with in utero endocrinological possibilities in mind--that "born this way" and "it's genetic" were potentially problematic declarations because of how people take them to mean inevitability. Genetics is complex. The possibility of homosexuality someday being made a thing of the past in developed countries through medical monitoring and intervention during pregnancy is by no means beyond the realm of possibility.
It's also further evidence that at least as far as male same-sex sexual attraction is concerned, it's maternal-line heredity that's most critical--other studies about sexually antagonistic traits have suggested this is the case.
From Gore Vidal's essay "Writers and the World," Times Literary Supplement (London), November 25, 1965:
The obvious danger for the writer is the matter of time. "A talent is formed in stillness," wrote Goethe, "a character in the stream of the world." Goethe, as usual, managed to achieve both. But it is not easy, and many writers who choose to be active in the World lose not virtue but time, and that stillness without which literature cannot be made. This is sad. Until one recalls how many bad books the World may yet be spared because of the busyness of writers turned Worldly. The romantic-puritans can find consolation in that, and take pleasure in realizing that there is a rude justice, finally, even in the best of worlds.
Mr Romney won the white vote by 59% to 39%—an improvement over John McCain’s showing in 2008. But in Midwestern swing states, that margin was narrower: just four points in Wisconsin, for example, and 15 in Ohio. ..... Over the course of his presidency, [Obama] has pointedly unveiled policies designed to appeal to each element of this coalition. ..... Perhaps the best illustration of Mr Obama’s campaign-by-niches is his wooing of gay voters.
The 5% of voters who identified themselves as gay in exit polls opted for Mr Obama by 76% to 22%—enough to account for his entire margin of victory.
King's Lomatia is unusual because all of the remaining plants are genetically identical. Because it has three sets of chromosomes (a triploid) and is therefore sterile, reproduction occurs only vegetatively: when a branch falls, that branch grows new roots, establishing a new plant that is genetically identical to its parent.
Although all the plants are technically separate in that each has its own root system, they are collectively considered to be one of the oldest living plant clones. Each plant's life span is approximately 300 years, but the plant has been cloning itself for at least 43,600 years (possibly up to 135,000 years). This estimate is based on the radiocarbon dating of fossilised leaf fragments that were found 8.5 km away. The fossilised fragments are identical to the contemporary plant in cell structure and shape, which indicates that both plants are triploid and therefore clones due to the extreme rarity of the occurrence of triploidy.