Best of the web

Stavros: GPS artwork.

Core77: contemporary design.

Julian Beever: Now this guy is a talent. I came across him in Gent a few years ago, when I very nearly fell through the pavement in one of his “anamorphic illusion” drawings. They’re SO real!

Visualsoftheworld: longest website in the world.

Computer suicide: laptop commits suicide to save the wolrd from its owner’s Master’s thesis.

Banksy: social commentary, freely given.

Virophage

[ratings]

IN today’s issue of Nature is an account of a virus that infects a virus, a virophage. We are all familiar with the ubiquitous plant and animal viruses. Many of us are familiar with the bacteriophage, viruses that specifically attack bacterial cells and are the most abundant organism on the planet; somewhere around 10 million virus particles in a drop of sea water.

Now we hear of a small virus, called Sputnik, which infects an enormous virus, called Mamavirus. This is a larger member of a class of giant viruses, originally discovered in 2003 in a cooling tower in Bradford. The original Bradford virus of that 2003 discovery, Mimivirus, was initially mistaken for a small bacterial cell such is its size. Viruses are parasites, incapable of replicating themselves without a host cell; a virus infects and subsequently usurps the cellular machinery of the host cell to make a virus factory, spewing out replica virus particles. The small Sputnik “virophage” is able to parasitise the large virus’s factory for its own ends.

Having realised that such parasitism exists, and adjusted their views to the sizes of particles involved, researchers believe that this phenomenon may be common in nature, and particularly important in oceanic plankton blooms; the knock on effects of which have implications in ocean nutrient cycles and climate, plankton being one of the major carbon sinks on the planet.

It is a fantastically interesting discovery by Didier Raoult and colleagues, from the University of the Mediterranean, and certainly raises some questions as to the nature of whether viruses are alive or not. If the large Mimivirus is capable of being mistaken for a bacterial cell, and being parasitised by a smaller virus, at what point to we conclude that viruses are a distinct living entities, all be it obligatorily parasitic ones?

The Big Chill

I recently returned from The Big Chill 2008, down in Eastnor, Herefordshire. Arguably one of the better music festivals, being far more easy-going, and with fewer numbers and more families. I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, particularly the performances of Beth Orton and Leonard Cohen; the Orb, however, were a little disappointing.

The Body & Soul area of the Enchanted Garden site was to my mind a microcosm of The Big Chill, and embodied the spirit of the festival well. Speak of which, the festival could just have easily been a food festival, such was the variety, and quality, of food on offer; I never ate at the same stall twice. On a moe reflective note, I didn’t enjoy the streak of ruthless capitalism at the festival site, fuelled by the monopoly that was in place; nor will I miss the endless queues for food, toilets, events. The Comfy Crappers though, expensive as they were, provided welcome relief from the dreaded portaloos!

Clippings

These are unashamedly stolen from The Independent (12 th September 2005), quite literally, for I tore them from the paper in a coffee shop, and stored them in my little clippings book….and yes, I have a little clippings book.

The Paul Arden Column:

An interviewer with a wooden leg
said to Frank Zappa: “With your
long hair, from where I am sitting
you could be a woman.”
Zappa replied: “Well, from where
I am sitting you could be a table.”

Curiously, I was reminded to post this as I returned to my car today to find it covered with purple bird bombs – yes, it’s the tale end of Summer, the purple bird shit season is soon to hit full flow:

…When plump wood pigeons eat their fill
Of elderberries on the hill,
And blackberries in the cottage hedge
Or damsons at the meadow edge,
Then country folk who are wise to that
Will go out walking in a hat
To catch the falling purple rain
And ward off every mulberry stain,
Autumn! season of rumination,
And deep-dyed avian defecation

A little ditty for whom we can thank Miles Kington (The Independent) for bringing it to our attention.

With that, I shall bugger off and clean the shit of my car.

Daily titbits

I bought one of those “innocent” pure fruit smoothies at the student union this morning. The cashier said she’d give me 5% off because there was a slight dent in the bottom of the plastic bottle. I suggested that if she was willing to give me 5% off, she may as well make it 10%. So she did. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

I popped the dent out as I walked out of the shop.