Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Chihuly & Lotus at NYBG!

Dale Chihuly at the NYBG

Lotus at NYBG:

Since the introduction of the ‘Lotus concept’ in 1992,  Lotus leaves have become an icon for superhydrophobicity and self-cleaning surfaces, and have led to the concept of the ‘Lotus effect’. Although many other plants have superhydrophobic surfaces with almost similar contact angles, the lotus shows better stability and perfection of its water repellency. The upper epidermis of the lotus leaf has developed some unrivaled optimizations. The extraordinary shape and the density of the papillae are the basis for the extremely reduced contact area between surface and water drops. 

All Photos© 2017 Am Ang Zhang

Often they grow in murky waters and yet they always look so pristine? Have you ever wondered why? Well, this lotus phenomenon has inspired a German scientist to invent a self cleaning paint.

“……STAY CLEAN LIKE A LOTUS PLANT. A University of Bonn researcher was intrigued by the way lotus leaves stay clean without the use of detergents. Upon investigating, he found that the plant’s leaves have nanoscale mountains: When dirt particles fall on the lotus, they teeter on these nanopeaks until they’re washed away by wind or rain. Building on this idea, a German company, Sto AG, found a way to formulate a self-cleaning paint, Lotusan. The lotus idea has led to approximately 200 pending patents for items such as paints that will keep barnacles from sticking to ship hulls, self-cleaning roof shingles, and even a fabric so waterproof that it can be submerged for 24 hours without getting waterlogged.” – quoted from Inspired by Nature, an article in the inflight magazine “The AmericanWay”.

It is human nature to be critical. It is now a habit of most, especially intellectuals, to be critical of big corporations. You give them credit at your own peril. So the Cockroach Catcher is risking his reputation by quoting from this unlikely source yet again. This magazine is available free online so that you do not even have to be on the plane to read it. But, my goodness, it is full of gems!

This article said:
“They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, Mother Nature should be ecstatic, because scientists around the world are patterning industrial processes and all kinds of everyday products after her designs. Welcome to the field of biologically inspired design….
……Some might claim that mimicking nature isn’t exactly new, though. Orville and Wilbur Wright studied birds while designing the first airplane. Velcro resulted when a Swiss engineer began to wonder how the seeds of the burdock plant stuck so stubbornly to his woolen socks. Engineers modeled the nose cone of the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train on the beak of a kingfisher. In the medical field’s search for therapies and cures, physicians have studied nature for millennia. (One of the common arguments made by conservationists is that pharmaceutical companies often find new drugs hidden in the biology of plants that grow in threatened places, like rain forests.) And in recent decades, medical companies have grown increasingly sophisticated at manufacturing joints, bones, artificial skin, and even cells that copy their natural counterparts……”

In the book The Cockroach Catcher, Dr Am Ang Zhang muses over Artemesinin:
“……This reminds me of the story of Artemesinin, now reckoned to be the most powerful anti-malaria drug. It was recorded in the Chinese book of Herbal Medicine, which is over a thousand years old, as treatment for swamp fever. Its rediscovery by China was met with scepticism until it was noted that during the Sino-Indian conflict Chinese soldiers were not dying from the malaria that was rampant in that part of the world. For a long time, the Chinese did not share the findings with the rest of the world. By chance along the banks of Potomac River, specimens of the plant were found. It took some years before the drug was developed. By now it is the standard treatment of choice……”

Ancient Medicine & Nobel.

Friday, August 25, 2017

NHS: Enjoying the work!

 One must enjoy ones hobby. What if work is your hobby too?

©2014 Am Ang Zhang 

         Fool or no fool, one needs to enjoy one’s work, even in the NHS.

         This perhaps is one thing that the government has conveniently forgotten. Many of us do what we do because we enjoy it. Otherwise why should anyone want to teach in universities when they can earn ten or twenty times more in industry? We may also decide to dedicate more time to work for personal pride and satisfaction. During the few years I worked at the inpatient units I spent in excess of a hundred hours a week there, one man doing the job of at least two.  In addition to that, I was still looking after two outpatient clinics. 

         With increased capacity, we were ready to take on transfers. At that time the Health Authorities still had decent managers not yet blinded by directives and performance targets. For a start these managers did not interfere with clinical matters. For our part we were free to exercise our clinical judgment.  Unfortunately many consultants abuse this privilege of clinical independence, often making excessive demands for treatments and investigations, and managers have learnt to ignore them.  Worse the government set up this organisation called NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) to try to deal with such behaviour.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hello Summer: BBG 2017!

Brooklyn Botanic Garden©2017 Am Ang Zhang 

Book I recently read: 

Fragile Lives by Stephen Westaby

A unique picture book consisting of 20 beautiful 9 x7 in. full bleed photos by the author of: corals, turtles, anhinga, blue tang, file fish, butterfly fish, cleaner shrimp, pompano, barracuda, flounder, star fish, and sting ray. A first of the kind tale of aquatic creatures in child-speak. A good introduction of nature to a young child, especially good as a follow-up to a visit to the aquarium; plus two pages of detailed companion

A coffee table quality photobook for a special child, introducing wild life in Africa. Photos of the animals (impala, nyala, kudu, wildebeest, warthog, gruffalo, zebra, rhinoceros, waterbuck, hippopotamus, giraffe, buffalo, elephant, saddlebilled stock) were taken by the author himself during safari trips in Africa.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Berlin, Appassionata & The Lives Of Others

©2017 Am Ang Zhang

It looked as though many have stopped listening to Beethoven’s  Appassionata.

Maxim Gorky wrote about Lenin listening to Beethoven's Appassionata:
“I know of nothing better than the Appassionata and could listen to it every day. What astonishing, superhuman music! It always makes me proud, perhaps naively so, to think that people can work such miracles! 
“Wrinkling up his eyes, Lenin smiled rather sadly, adding: ‘But I can't listen to music very often. It affects my nerves. I want to say sweet, silly things and pat the heads of people who, living in a filthy hell, can create such beauty. One can't pat anyone on the head nowadays, they might bite your hand off. They ought to be beaten on the head, beaten mercilessly, although ideally we are against doing any violence to people. Hm—– what a hellishly difficult job!”
It was said that Lenin was indeed afraid he would otherwise never ‘finish’ the revolution!!!
Henckel von Donnersmarck said he based his film The Lives Of Others on the Appassionata anecdote. 
The Lives Of Others/Sony
The Times:
The Lives of Others has caused the most delicious trouble since winning Best Foreign Language film at this year’s Oscars. Few critics expected this modest thriller about the East German Stasi to lift such a glamorous award.
“The plot is as simple as an opera charge sheet. A plump and seedy minister for the arts falls for a famous actress with a drug habit. He orders his lieutenant to bug the flat she shares with her fashionable playwright boyfriend. Wiesler is duly charged to drag up the necessary dirt. Under “Operation Lazlo”, he litters their apartment with secret microphones and moves into the attic to spy on their every twitch.
“Against every trained fibre of his highly tuned mind he starts falling in love with Martina Gedeck’s voluptuous actress, and sympathising with Sebastian Koch’s idealistic writer. The mission to nail this pair of errant artists turns into a desperate soap to save them.”
With the celebration underway for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Times reported::
“In an extraordinary frank meeting with Mr Gorbachev in Moscow in 1989 — never before fully reported — Mrs Thatcher said the destabilisation of Eastern Europe and the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact were also not in the West’s interests. 
“We do not want a united Germany,” she said. “This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.”
Perhaps she stopped listening to The Appassionata!
Anyway, The Berlin Film Festival refused to accept it as an official entry.
They stopped listening too!
In 2007, it was awarded an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Nature & Mahler: Royal Festival Hall!

As the Mahler 3rd Symphony will be at the Royal Festival Hall on 1st Oct., 2017, I will reprint my blog on the symphony. 

Yosemite ©2007 Am Ang Zhang

Here is an extract from Julliard Online:
Gerald Fox

Mahler considered the Third his "nature" symphony. He wrote: "My symphony will be unlike anything the world has ever heard! All nature speaks in it, telling deep secrets that one might guess only in a dream!"                         

Mahler himself described his experience in writing the enormous first movement: "It is frightening, the way this music keeps growing and expanding so far beyond anything I have ever composed before. I am seized with horror when I realize where all this is leading ..."

The movement begins with a startling call to attention, an open, majestic theme for eight horns in unison, which has been compared to the main theme of the finale of Brahms' Symphony No. 1. Its origin seems to be an Austrian children's marching song which Brahms also suggested in his Academic Festival Overture. The movement is characterized by its many marches, ranging from noble and heroic to vulgar (Mahler called the latter das Gesindel, 'The rabble').

The second movement is in complete contrast: a delicate minuet of moderate length, full of grace and lightness. It bears much the same relationship to the first as the Andante moderato second movement of the Second Symphony does to its highly dramatic, extensive first movement.

The second movement, with the title, "What the flowers in the meadow tell me," was described by Mahler as "carefree, as only flowers are. Everything floats on the height with lightness and suppleness, like flowers waving on their stems in the breeze."

©2008 Am Ang Zhang

In the third movement, scherzando, there are two main elements. The first draws on Mahler's earlier Wunderhorn song with piano accompaniment, Ablösung im Sommer ("Relief in Summer"). The second element is Mahler's use of an offstage posthorn in many of the trio sections. The posthorn solo includes a large fragment of a popular Spanish tune that is the main theme of Glinka's Jota Aragonesa, and also appears in Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody. The coda of the movement is apocalyptic.

Deep isolation characterizes the fourth movement, in which the contralto sings lines from Das trunkene Lied of Nietzsche's Also Sprach Zarathustra (coincidentally, Mahler's friend, Richard Strauss, was working on his symphonic poem at about the same time). The movement grips the listener with its dark mystery, despite the occasional ecstatic shafts of light.

The fifth movement follows without pause, and is a sprightly setting of a poem, Es sungen drei Engel, from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. It is sung by all the vocal forces: contralto, boys' choir and women's chorus. It opens with the boys' choir brightly singing, "bimm, bamm, bimm, bamm…" in onomatopoeic imitation of matins bells. The effect of cheerful, bright, and tingling bells abruptly dispersing the dark shadows of the previous movement is startling. A darker mid-section exhorts sinners to repent. At about four minutes in length, the movement vies with the Purgatorio of the Tenth Symphony as Mahler's shortest. As befits the music's light and playful nature, timpani (and violins) are silent.

Again following without pause is the first of Mahler's sublime Adagios; its opening theme a near quotation from the Lento assai of Beethoven's 16th String Quartet, Op. 135. It is amusing to note that a moment later, the second theme seems to have inspired the World War II popular song, "I'll Be Seeing You."
 Yosemite©2007 Am Ang Zhang
Mindful that the symphony is a glorification of all nature and all creation, Mahler ends it with a D-major, fortissimo apotheosis.

Listen: BBC

Philharmonia Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor
Michelle DeYoung mezzo-soprano

Philharmonia Voices