How Rembrandt painted, new research

This July 2014 video is called The complete life of the painter Rembrandt van Rijn.

From the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility:

The secret to Rembrandt’s impasto unveiled

January 14, 2019

Rembrandt van Rijn revolutionized painting with a 3D effect using his impasto technique, where thick paint makes a masterpiece protrude from the surface. Thanks to the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, Grenoble, France, three centuries later an international team of scientists led by the Materials Science and Engineering Department of the Delft University of Technology and the Rijksmuseum have found how he did it. The study is published in Angewandte Chemie.

Impasto is thick paint laid on the canvas in an amount that makes it stand from the surface. The relief of impasto increases the perceptibility of the paint by increasing its light-reflecting textural properties. Scientists know that Rembrandt, epitome of the Dutch Golden Age, achieved the impasto effect by using materials traditionally available on the 17th century Dutch colour market, namely lead white pigment (a mixture of hydrocerussite Pb3(CO3)2(OH)2 and cerussite PbCO3), and organic mediums (mainly linseed oil). The precise recipe was, however, unknown until today.

Plumbonacrite, Pb5(CO3)3O(OH)2 is the mysterious, missing ingredient of the impasto effect, researchers from The Netherlands and France have discovered. It is extremely rare in historic paint layers. It has been detected in some samples from 20th century paintings and in a degraded red lead pigment in a Van Gogh painting. “We didn’t expect to find this phase at all, as it is so unusual in Old Masters paintings”, explains Victor Gonzalez, main author of the study and scientist at the Rijksmuseum and Delft University of Technology. “What’s more, our research shows that its presence is not accidental or due to contamination, but that it is the result of an intended synthesis,” he adds.

The European Synchrotron, ESRF, played an essential role in these findings. The team sampled tiny fragments from the Portrait of Marten Soolmans (Rijksmuseum), Bathsheba (The Louvre) and Susanna (Mauritshuis), three of Rembrandt’s masterpieces. Using the ESRF’s beamlines, they quantified the crystalline phases in Rembrandt’s impasto and in the adjacent paint layers, modelled the pigment crystallites morphology and size and obtained crystalline phase distribution maps at the microscale.

The samples were less than 0.1mm in size, requiring the small and intense beam delivered by the synchrotron. The scientists analysed them on two ESRF beamlines, ID22 and ID13, where they combined High-angular Resolution X-Ray Diffraction (HR-XRD) and micro-X-Ray Diffraction (?-XRD) . “In the past, we have already successfully used the combination of these two techniques to study lead-white based paints. We knew that the techniques can provide us with high quality diffraction patterns and therefore with subtle information about paint composition,” explains Marine Cotte, scientist at the ESRF, 2018 Descartes-Huygens Prize laureate for her research on art conservation.

The analysis of the data showed that Rembrandt modified his painting materials intentionally. “The presence of plumbonacrite is indicative of an alkaline medium. Based on historical texts, we believe that Rembrandt added lead oxide (litharge) to the oil in this purpose, turning the mixture into a paste-like paint,” explains Cotte.

The breakthrough yields the path for the long-term preservation and conservation of Rembrandt‘s masterpieces. However, the number of samples studied is not extensive enough to assess if lead white impastos systematically contain plumbonacrite. “We are working with the hypothesis that Rembrandt might have used other recipes, and that is the reason why we will be studying samples from other paintings by Rembrandt and other 17th Dutch Masters, including Vermeer, Hals, and painters belonging to Rembrandt’s circle,” explains Annelies van Loon, scientist at the Rijksmuseum.


Dutch Winterswijk Triassic fossils, new study

This May 2018 video is called Dutch Minerals and [Triassic] Fossils / Winterswijk.

I myself was at this quarry. Unfortunately, only the path at the top is accessible for the public. So, I saw only a willom warbler, not the nesting eagle owls and Triassic fossils below.

From the University of Bonn in Germany:

Fossil deposit is much richer than expected

Paleontologist analyses finds from the Dutch town of Winterswijk

January 14, 2019

It has long been known that a quarry near the Dutch town of Winterswijk is an Eldorado for fossil lovers. But even connoisseurs will be surprised just how outstanding the site actually is. A student at the University of Bonn, himself a Dutchman and passionate fossil collector, has now analyzed pieces from museums and private collections for his master’s thesis. He found an amazing amount of almost completely preserved skeletons, all between 242 and 247 million years old. The good condition is presumably due to particularly favorable development conditions. These make Winterswijk, which belongs to the so-called Germanic Basin, a cornucopia for paleontology. The study is published in the Paläontologische Zeitschrift.

Jelle Heijne examined exactly 327 remains of marine reptiles for his master’s thesis — collected partly from public museums, but primarily from about 20 private collections. He was particularly impressed by the high quality of the finds: “Among them were more than 20 contiguous skeletons”, he emphasizes. “Only very few complete skeleton finds are known from the other sites of the Germanic Basin, which stretches from England to Poland.”

In his study, the 25-year-old investigated the question of why the bones, which are over 240 million years old, have been preserved so well here. The reason is probably a combination of fortunate circumstances: At that time the Germanic Basin was a sea, which was extremely shallow, in today’s Winterswijk. This is illustrated by the fossil footprints of terrestrial animals that were found not far from the reptile bones. The region probably resembled today’s Wadden Sea of the North Sea coast, but with a bottom that was not sandy but covered in lime silt.

The shallow depth ensured that cadavers quickly hit the ground, where they were then covered by sediment. If dead animals float in the water for a long time and are tossed back and forth by waves and currents, the probability increases that body parts, such as tail, limbs or head, are lost.

Another important factor was a process called “Stick’n’Peel” by paleontologists: The animal is colonized by microorganisms and algae that hold the skeleton together like a skin. “It was probably these two factors in particular that favored the occurrence of well-preserved finds”, explains Heijne.

In fact, there is some evidence for the Stick’n’Peel hypothesis. For example, some skeletons lack individual larger bones, while the small bones are complete — even though the latter are usually most likely to be carried away by the water. “Such unusual patterns typically occur when a skeleton is unevenly colonized and thus protected”, Heijne explains.

It has long been known that Winterswijk stands out among the sites of the Germanic Basin. Nevertheless, the large number of high-quality finds is likely to surprise even connoisseurs, especially since most of the finds are not accessible to the public. “I have been a member of an association of private collectors in the Netherlands for years”, Heijne explains. This was the ideal contact exchange for his study: “The collectors I approached were all proud to be able to contribute to the research on Winterswijk.”

Fukushima Japanese nuclear disaster update

This September 2017 video is called Shocking! TEPCO ignored advice that caused Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The former chairman and two vice presidents of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. should spend five years in prison over the 2011 flooding and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japanese prosecutors say, accusing the executives of failing to prevent a foreseeable catastrophe: here.

A UN Special Rapporteur who last August joined two colleagues in sounding an urgent alarm about the plight of Fukushima workers, has now roundly criticized the Japanese government for returning citizens to the Fukushima region under exposure levels 20 times higher than considered “acceptable” under international standards: here.

Unusually strong typhoons, heavy rainfall and damaging floods tested the resilience of Japan’s famous urban infrastructure throughout 2018. Rather than freak weather events, these phenomena are increasingly the norm. They will only get worse as temperatures rise. Despite this, Japan remains the fifth largest greenhouse gas polluter in the world. It is barely doing its share to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius: here.

‘Center’ right-neofascist right coalition in Spain

This 2000 Associated Press video says about itself:

Anti-fascist demonstrators clashed with police in the Spanish capital, Madrid, on Sunday as the country commemorated the 25th anniversary of death of fascist dictator General Franco.

Police baton charged around 2000 protesters in the centre of the city. Elsewhere in Madrid, neo-fascist supporters of the former leader gathered to commemorate the anniversary.

Sunday’s activities followed a remembrance ceremony by some five thousand people the previous night at a Mass at the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen). Franco – who died on November 20, 1975 – had the mausoleum sculpted out of a mountain side near Madrid for his burial place.

Franco became western Europe’s longest reigning dictator this century, ruling Spain with an iron fist after unleashing one of the continent’s bitterest civil wars. But 25 years after his death, the few thousand who joined the memorial ceremonies were further testimony that the vast majority of Spaniards have no desire to cherish his memory.

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Spain’s far-right Vox party backs right-wing coalition government in Andalusia

14 January 2019

The far-right Vox party has agreed to back the bid of the right-wing

sometimes called euphemistically ‘center right‘ or ‘moderate right’

Popular Party (PP) and Citizens (Cs) to rule Andalusia, the second-largest and most populous region in Spain. This marks the first time a far-right party promoting the legacy of fascist dictator Francisco Franco has helped form a government in Spain since the Francoite dictatorship fell 40 years ago. The deal is poised to end 36 years of uninterrupted Socialist Party (PSOE) rule in the region and sets a precedent for a possible national coalition government between PP, Citizens and Vox.

PP’s Manuel Moreno is to become the new regional premier, despite having obtained the PP’s worst-ever electoral results in the region. An investiture debate is scheduled for this week.

Last week, Vox agreed to support a PP-Cs government—dropping its calls to expel 52,000 migrants, repeal of laws on gender violence and gender equality, and scrap LGBT anti-discrimination policies. After obtaining widespread media coverage based on these demands, Vox then renounced them. Its leader, Santiago Abascal, had committed the party to an alliance with the PP and Cs soon after the elections, stressing that Vox would not be “an obstacle to political change in Andalusia.”

Other points in Vox’s 100-issue manifesto included abolishing the 17 regions to recentralize Spain as under Franco, outlawing separatist parties, slashing taxes, and banning undocumented migrants.

Right-wing newspapers welcomed the deal. El Español cheered Vox’s “exercise of pragmatism”, and El Mundo defined the agreement as reflecting Vox’s “wisdom of consensus”. The ultra-Catholic La Razón rejoiced that Vox “has renounced their most extreme demands.”

The government programme combines the promotion of the legacy of Francisco Franco, the fascist butcher of the Spanish Civil War, the defense of the wealth of the financial aristocracy, and appeals to nationalism and anti-Muslim hatred. It includes a “concord law” to replace the region’s Historical Memory Law, which condemns Franco’s regime and allows for exhumations of the remains of victims of the fascists in the Civil War.

The agreement is an unabashed defense of the banks’ austerity diktat. It calls for slashing income tax, estate tax and inheritance tax. The estate tax is only paid by 17,700 people (0.2 percent of the population), while inheritance tax is only paid by those inheriting over 1 million euros. The indebted region will thereby reduce its income, providing a pretext for even more social cuts. The regional government will audit its expenditure to cut “superfluous” spending, eliminate subsidies that do “not meet obvious public and social purposes” and de-fund the public media.

The agreement also opens the door to attacks on public education, asserting “freedom and the right of parents to choose the model they wish for their children, avoiding any interference by public authorities in the ideological formation of students.”

Appealing to the ultra-Catholic sections of the population, the agreement calls for tax incentives to families to drive up the birth rate, the creation of a Family Ministry and forcing women with unwanted pregnancies to receive “extra information” to dissuade them from having abortions. It calls for promoting flamenco and Holy Week celebrations, protecting bullfighting as “a source of wealth and jobs”. and changing Andalusia’s regional day to commemorate the end of the Christian reconquest of Spain, and the start of the expulsion of Muslims and Jews, in 1492.

The agreement calls for a mass crackdown on immigrants, calling on the State Security Forces to “protect borders, guaranteeing an orderly, legal immigration, respectful of our western culture.”

The PSOE received its worst-ever result of 28 per cent after slashing education, health and social spending at the national and regional levels. After its 36-year rule, and the worst capitalist crisis since the 1930s, over a quarter of Andalusia’s population is unemployed; tens of thousands depend on the Minimum Social Rent subsidy of €400. Nearly 42 percent of Andalusians live at risk of social exclusion.

In the six months of PSOE Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s rule from Madrid, the government has continued the austerity and militarist policies of its PP predecessor and its repression of Catalan nationalist political prisoners.

The PSOE has reacted to Vox’s victory by shifting further to the right. PSOE regional candidate Susana Díaz blamed her defeat on the lack of Catalan-bashing during her campaign. PSOE regional premier of Castilla-La Mancha, Emiliano García-Page, raised the prospect of banning all secessionist parties.

The speed with which the PP and Cs have moved towards incorporating the fascist programme of Vox is a warning to workers and youth across Spain and Europe. The leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, has already said that the agreement in Andalusia is a “preamble of what will happen in May in Spain”, referring to local and regional elections.

Vox’s fascistic programme does not enjoy mass support. Like other far-right parties in Europe, Vox is acquiring influence far beyond its actual strength, based on support not in the population, but in the ruling class, the army, and other capitalist parties.

It was founded in December 2013 by ex-PP members who wanted the PP government to take a harder line for pro-business tax policies and against Basque and Catalan nationalists and migration. They contested the 2014 elections but failed to win seats. Today most Vox voters are rich or upper middle class former PP voters.

The Spanish ruling class used the Catalan crisis of October 2017 to catapult Vox to prominence. A marginal party until the fall of 2017, it received widespread coverage based on its extreme anti-Catalan rhetoric and demonstrations. It only obtained 395,978 votes in Andalusia (10.97 percent), four mayors out of 8,122, 17 town councilors out of 67,611 and 12 seats in the Andalusian parliament out of 109. Nevertheless, it has set the tone since the Andalusian elections, as the ruling elite in Spain—as across Europe—tries to channel growing political discontent in a fascistic direction.

… Podemos number two Irene Montero called on women to “fill the streets and ballots” to stop Vox.

Elephantnose fish, electrical fish

This 14 January 2019 video from the Natural History Museum in London, England says about itself:

Elephantnose fish are usually found in murky waters. Although it would be difficult for us to find our way around in their preferred habitat, these fish have developed a special sense that helps them see.

Royal albatross New Zealand nesting colony

This 13 January 2019 video says about itself:

Royal Cam highlight 2019: Ranger checks egg

Welcome to Royal Cam – streaming live from our northern royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head near Dunedin, in New Zealand.

Go to to learn more about the camera, leave a comment, or ask questions.