Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Sonnet No. 73

Posted in Uncategorized on September 24, 2016 by telescoper

That time of year thou may’st in me behold 
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, 
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. 
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day, 
As after sunset fadeth in the west, 
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest. 
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire 
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, 
As the death-bed whereon it must expire 
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by. 
   This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Did Jesus have a Beard?

Posted in Art, Beards, History, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 20, 2016 by telescoper

I don’t often venture into matters religious via the medium of this blog, but I think I’ll make an exception in this case to address a question that must surely be of prime concern to theological scholars.

The question Did Jesus have a Beard? was provoked by this image which I saw on Twitter this morning:


This is the oldest known depiction of Jesus found in England, a Roman mosaic found at Hinton St Mary, which dates from around AD 350.

All the very old depictions of Jesus that I’m aware of show him clean-shaven. The oldest I have seen in person (in the Basilica San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy) shows him likewise beardless (he’s in the middle):



Another famous depiction, in the Basillica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo also in Ravenna, which is dated 520 AD) shows him in a series of scenes in which he appears beardless, but the final scene (of the Passion) shows him with the full beard that became the norm for later portraits and remains so up to the present day. This image is from the 6th Century AD and is very much in line with the we have come to assume Jesus looked like.


As far as I am aware, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible whether Jesus had a beard or not, so does the fact that the oldest known depictions show him clean-shaven mean that the real historical figure of Jesus didn’t have a beard?

Not necessarily. You have to remember that these early depictions were Roman, so it’s natural that they would have reflected the conventions of the culture at that time, not those of a different country (Judea) more than three centuries earlier. Being clean-shaven would have been regarded as a mark of nobility in Roman society, which probably explains why he was represented in that way.

I will probably get a deluge of corrections and clarifications from people who know a lot more than me about the early Christian church, so I’ll now step back and let the Comments Box do its work!



In case you haven’t heard what’s going on in Leicester …

Posted in Uncategorized on September 18, 2016 by telescoper

Here is some extremely worrying news about the Mathematics department at Leicester University. Reducing the number of research faculty to 15 in the way suggested is bound to have an extremely negative effect on morale and send the Department into a downward spiral. The University management must reconsider.

Gowers's Weblog

Strangely, this is my second post about Leicester in just a few months, but it’s about something a lot more depressing than the football team’s fairytale winning of the Premier League (but let me quickly offer my congratulations to them for winning their first Champions League match — I won’t offer advice about whether they are worth betting on to win that competition too). News has just filtered through to me that the mathematics department is facing compulsory redundancies.

The structure of the story is wearily familiar after what happened with USS pensions. The authorities declare that there is a financial crisis, and that painful changes are necessary. They offer a consultation. In the consultation their arguments appear to be thoroughly refuted. The refutation is then ignored and the changes go ahead.

Here is a brief summary of the painful changes that are proposed for the Leicester mathematics department. The…

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Ninio’s Extinction Illusion

Posted in Uncategorized on September 17, 2016 by telescoper

This fascinating visual paradox has been doing the rounds on social media so I thought I’d share it here.

The twelve  black dots cannot be seen at the same time:


Reference: Ninio, J. and Stevens, K. A. (2000) Variations on the Hermann grid: an extinction illusion. Perception, 29, 1209-1217.

A Diſcourſe upon the “Long s”

Posted in Uncategorized on September 5, 2016 by telescoper



Yesterday I posted the endearingly vague book title shown above (which is actually from a book by Robert Boyle). When it appeared on Facebook I got some predictably rude comments about “fuch kind of thoughts”, etc, so I thought I’d post a little comment about the symbol “ſ'” which appears in the above. This character is sometimes called the “long s”. There’s a full Wikipedia article on this which there’s no point in repeating here, but I will just mention that the long s was used widely in manuscripts after the distinction arose better upper case and lower-case letters (which was around about the end of the 8th Century) where in the lower-case form, the “short s” (i.e. s) was used exclusively at the end of words or before an elision, and the long s everywhere else. It survived into the era of printing, not just in English but also in other languages including German. In fact “ſ” forms the left-hand element of the ligature “Eszett”, written  “ß”, of which the other part is “z”.

The long s fell increasingly out of favour in typography, partly because of the potential confusion with “f”, and partly because using the same “s” throughout a word is clearly tidier and easier to read: “sinfulness” is a lot easier on the eye than “”ſinfulneſs”. By the start of the 19th Century the long s had become a rarity; The Times phased out “ſ” in 1803.

Oh, and the long s is also the original form of the integral sign, introduced to mathematics by Leibniz to stand for “summa” (sum), which he wrote “ſumma”.

Alternative Blog Title

Posted in Uncategorized on September 4, 2016 by telescoper


Beards…or no Beards?

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2016 by telescoper

It’s World Beard Day, so here’s a reblog of a post by renowned beard historian Dr Alun Withey..

Dr Alun Withey


(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

It’s summer 2016, and beards are still pulling headlines in the news. A report on last week’s Financial Times website suggested that men are spending 20% more year on year, on niche products. One observer notes that the market for men’s grooming products is likely to top £1bn by 2018. The Guardian claim to be able to read personality through different beard styles, while other sites range from calling the end of the Hipster beard, to a report that one man wants to see the return of the beard tax.

There have been some signs of slowdown in recent months; a friend (and owner of a traditional barber shop) tells me that the numbers of men coming in for beard grooming has begun to fall, but also that the style has began to change towards shorter beards. Men who have beards are not removing them altogether…

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