The Laterna Magica is alledged to have been first described by Giambattista della Porta in his 1558 treatise, Magiae naturalis although like so many inventions of the western world, it may actually have been invented centuries earlier by the Chinese. For a public used to live entertainment, the Magic Lantern provided a striking alternative with the projections of a variety of images made onto screens, walls or curtains, or in the case of Phantasmagoria … even onto smoke. Read the rest of this entry »

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The American Chestnut Foundation has a regional adaptation program designed to capture the potential diversity exhibited throughout the range of the tree in the Foundation’s back-cross breeding program.   The basic premise is that Chinese chestnut trees (Castanea mollisima) and others of asian origin have exhibited resistance to the fungus (Cryphonectira parasitica) that attacks the American chestnut (Castanea dentata).   Breeding the Chinese chestnut with the American chestnut can impart the resistance of the Chinese to the American.  Further crosses to American parents can result in a tree that still has resistance to blight, but that looks and ecologically functions like the American chestnut.   There have been several studies that looked at the amount of breeding required to recover the American character.  The current understanding is about four generations.  Additional breeding is required to concentrate the resistance and  get the trees to breed true for resistance. Read the rest of this entry »

Spring in New England is marked by rapid changes from winter to spring with the most pronounced transformation being the growth of the new leaves in the deciduous forests in mid-May.  With a restless and energetic dog to exercise, my opportunities to witness this transformation come almost daily.  She and I have found a favorite hike which combines a range of habitat and plenty of water.  The Wilton, CT Town Forest allows dogs and provides varied terrain and a large enough area to allow Sparkles her daily dose of exercise. Read the rest of this entry »