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Neutrinos, Butterflies & Vladimir Nabakov: Books & Brain-Food: No 5.

Marc Salazaar picks the top Science, Popular Science & Inspiration online.

Book/Documentary/Photo-gallery of the Month:

As the first mists gathered over the ploughed brown fields a few weeks back, with the apples still ripening on the trees, it was hard to escape the conclusion that Autumn was well and truly on its way. It is a time of mixed feelings for many people- not least school pupils and college students heading back to the classroom- but it is surely impossible not to enjoy the sheer beauty of the season, whatever may lie ahead. Japan and New England are perhaps the world’s most famous places for their Fall colours, but, from personal experience, I can say that Autumn in South Korea and Central Europe can be every bit as spectacular. Hungary, in particular, is a land of hot summers, cold winters and forests that seem almost medieval, if not primeval, even yet. You can easily imagine William Tell wandering amongst the trees, hunting wild boar with his bow or gathering apples on his way back to a cottage surrounded by piles of bright yellow leaves. With that in mind, it is perhaps no surprise that playing cards in central Europe- Austria and Hungary in particular- celebrate the seasons, with pictures of noblemen and peasants and long-gone folk heroes arranged in 4 suits- each devoted to a different season. Acorns represent Winter (Tél); Hearts, Spring (Tavasz); Bells stand for Summer (Nyár) and Leaves depict Autumn (Ösz). The pictures in each suit are wonderfully evocative of the season they represent- like a folk memory of life in centuries gone by in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter in the central European countryside.

This month’s picture links, then, are to Hungarian playing cards, however strange that might sound-

and to the landscape that inspired them-

Speaking of inspiration...

This Month’s Inspiration:

…is the collection of nearly 10,000 (!) quotes on inspiration collated on


This Month’s recommended articles:

After last month’s literary detour, the first link for this month’s Books and Brain-Food is firmly back in the ample bosom of science:

1) “Operation Neutrino” by MIT Prof. David Kaiser examines the history of research on the Neutrino-

2) As promised, last time, the rest of this month’s links are about butterflies. Historically, butterfly-gathering was something of a country hobby of gentlemen and gentlewomen, many of whom who were engaged in completely different occupations and endeavours for the bulk of their time. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that some of these amateur and semi-professional butterfly “collectors” were quite famous in other fields.

This 4-part article, published in The Atlantic by Dmitri Nabakov, son of the famous writer Vladimir Nabakov, recounts his father’s fascination with butterflies-

3) Meanwhile, August’s issue of The Oldie came with an engaging 2-page article by Iwo Dawnay on the hidden, butterfly filled Mexican garden of the late British billionaire Edward James. The title is “Crumbling El Dorado for a Sussex Surrealist” and as far as I can see, only a short abstract is available free online-

the full article is behind a pay wall.

The garden itself is called Las Pozas (meaning “The Pools”)

and, according to its Wikipedia entry, can be found “near the village of Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, a seven-hour drive north of Mexico City”.

It is as well known for its surrealist concrete structures as its fluttering fauna, so it is perhaps unsurprising that The Guardian newspaper described work to renovate these garden components back in 2007-

In this case, the full article is available free online.

See you next time,

-Marc Salazaar.

Post Written/First Published 2016/2017

Republished when The Greatest Minds changed web provider, 2018.

1 comment

1 Comment

Aug 26, 2018

I never knew Nabakov was a butterfly enthusiast. Sad to admit it, but I like that about him more than a lot of his writing.

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