Scintillating Scotoma

i-9e69d772d6e415be3a209ba05381c102-ScintillatingScotoma3.jpgLast night I suffered a less than hour-long bout of scintillating scotoma. It’s a weird kind of snow crash in your visual cortex where part of your field of vision is replaced by sparkly geometric patterns. It happens to me once every few years and is sometimes associated with a headache, sort of migraine lite. The scotoma is quite disorientating, particularly when the affected bit is at the centre of whatever you’re looking at, like last night. I was probably a pitiful sight, squinting out of one corner of my eye at the laptop as I laboured half blindly to download the latest Escape Pod — I needed something to do when I retired to bed. After listening to the Neal Asher story, I got up and took some ibuprophene against the headache that followed the scotoma.

Inspired by Oliver Sachs’s essay “Stereo Sue”, I’ve recently taken up using a contact lens again after many years. Maybe the unfamiliar stereoscopic calculations have taken their toll on my brain. I have a good left eye and a near-sighted right one, so for most of my life my brain has just disregarded the blurry input from one eye and made do with the good signal. The minute I popped in a lens, everything came out in glorious 3D again. I’ve reached the point where objects extending toward me scare me when I’m not wearing a lens, since I can’t see exactly how far away they are the way I’ve recently learned to.

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Mars Rovers Still Working After Four Years


Dear Reader, remember the remote-controlled Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity? How long is it since the last time you thought of them? Spirit landed on Mars four Earth years ago today, Opportunity on 25 January — and both are still going strong! These machines were originally meant to work for three months, yet they continue to trundle around that cold, distant planet, taking pictures and analysing rocks. Check out the project’s web site for news!

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US Stoners Afraid to Report ODs

A stoner friend (who is also a dedicated father of two and a successful computer consultant) sent me a link to a sad and thought-provoking story.

A Seattle teen girl takes ecstasy with her friends, the drug apparently triggers undiagnosed diabetes, she dies from ketoacidosis. The girl’s friends tend to her for hours before she dies, but nobody dares call an ambulance, because in most US legislatures a drug user runs a great risk of a jail sentence if she reports an overdose.

Another casualty in the War on Drugs. Danielle McCarthy was sixteen.

Swedish Golden Age Science Fiction Mags


Here’s something for lovers and collectors of classic science fiction. Häpna! (“Be Amazed!”) was the seminal Swedish sf fiction mag, published from 1954 to 1966, with many translations of the US Golden Age greats but also much work by Swedish writers. Now the Alvar Appeltofft Memorial Foundation is offering nearly the entire backlog of the mag very cheaply, and they have a healthy number of copies of each issue, all in pristine condition. Dear Reader — even if you don’t understand one word of Scandy, can you honestly say that your living-room table is complete without a fresh copy of a Swedish 50s sf mag with a laser-gun toting babe on the cover?


Aard in Open Lab 2007 Anthology

I just learned that my blog entry Your Folks, My Folks in Prehistory has been selected for inclusion in the 2007 Open Lab science blogging anthology! Yay! I was likewise honoured a year ago when I had an entry about the field-archaeological paradox in the volume for 2006.

The 2007 volume is edited by Reed Cartwright of the De Rerum Natura blog and Bora Zivkovic of A Blog Around the Clock and will be available in bookstores and from Amazon.

Mindless Blog Popularity

Here are the ten most popular non-carnival entries on Aardvarchaeology for 2007.

  1. Djurhamn Sword Excavated
  2. Stockholm Art Shows
  3. Scandinavian Attitudes to Nudity
  4. Wish I Could Do That in Linux
  5. Lamprey’s Spinal Cord Modelled
  6. Djurhamn Sword
  7. Star Wars Lego Girls
  8. Toys to Teach Little Girls Their Place
  9. Indecipherable Punk Reactions
  10. Subway Beggar Retaliation

These ten have been popular for very different reasons. I’m happy to see such interest in one of my archaeological finds, viz. an early-16th century sword (#1, #6). But I’m not too thrilled to find that most of the top-10 entries are only on the list because of Google Image Search and porn surfers.

#2 has pix by Sally Mann and Alphonse Mucha, and I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of people are searching for Sally Mann’s photography because she did a lot of nude studies of her kids back in the day. The entry also contains the words “child nudity” in a non-pr0n context.

#3 is about nudity in the abstract without any illustrations. Merely using the word always draws the punters. This entry also enjoys daily hits from the users of a web forum for nudists.

#4 treats another sensitive subject where people have extremely strong opinions: Linux.

#5 is a bit of a surprise. My buddy Mikael Huss wrote his PhD thesis about virtual lampreys. Whenever somebody needs a picture of a surfeit of lampreys, they now apparently grab it off my blog entry about Mikael’s work.

#7 is about Star Wars, Lego and girls, all perennial subjects of interest.

#8 is probably popular because the words “teach little girls their place”, which I used ironically, are googled a lot non-ironically by twisted individuals.

#9 has a picture of GG Allin.

#10 describes a practical joke a friend of mine pulled off.

To sum up, we learn yet again that page views are really not the same thing as readership. Only four of the entries on the top-10 are popular because people really want to read what I’ve written or see pics I have taken. The rest are just artefacts of the search engines.

With this in mind, I’ve replaced the “Popular Entries” heading on the menu bar above with “Best of Aard”, selected by fuzzy criteria. Dear Reader, if you have a favourite Aard entry you’d like newcomers to read, please tell me in a comment!