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Darkness, an endangered species
Posted on: Sunday, February 19, 2017 Category: Cultures

Darkness on the South Downs. Owls hoot and boy-racers accelerate along distant B-roads. But just how dark is it? To find out Dan Oakley points a 'sky quality meter' at the stars. This, he explains, measures sky brightness in 'magnitudes per square arcsecond'. The read-out clicks beyond 20 - which is good apparently, but means nothing to me. Luckily Dan has another test: 'Can you see the Orion nebula?'

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TE Lawrence in Jordan
Posted on: Sunday, October 23, 2016 Category: Cultures

In Jordan history lies in ambush, like Lawrence of Arabia on the Hejaz Railway. Everything is quiet in the hot, shimmering desert - and then, out of nowhere, the plume of smoke, the derailed train.

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Geneva - birthplace of a 'filthy daemon'
Posted on: Friday, July 22, 2016 Category: Writers

When Lord Byron described the horror novel, Frankenstein, as 'a wonderful work for a girl' he wasn't being patronising, just stating a fact. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was 18 years old when she came to Lake Geneva and gave life to her 'filthy daemon'. Two hundred years later, on the first warm day of the year in landlocked Europe, Geneva's 18-year-olds were swimming off pontoons, canoodling on the rocks and rollerblading past the lavish mansions of the quai Gustave Ador.

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