Welcome to this week’s Weekly Finds! Every week I aim to share some podcasts, videos, and articles that I found interesting, fascinating, or simply intriguing. And most are also great for getting some writing inspiration…
This week I have for you a podcast about a physical notation system by the Incas that consisted of coloured, knotted string, a beautiful song and music video by Radical Face and four articles that range from spiritualism to music appreciation. (Though not music appreciation by supernatural beings. Hmm… talk about story inspiration…)
Welcome to the Kingdom of the Inca, where hundreds of rope bridges connect an imperial highway system and fiber-armored soldiers wield woven slings against the enemies of the Emperor. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe explore the khipu system of knotted, colored string that served as a physical notation system in lieu of written language.
Ruled by a dizzying array of kingdoms and empires over the centuries – from the Byzantines to the Ottomans – the city of Ani once housed many thousands of people, becoming a cultural hub and regional power under the medieval Bagratid Armenian dynasty. Today, it’s an eerie, abandoned city of ghosts that stands alone on a plateau in the remote highlands of northeast Turkey, 45km away from the Turkish border city of Kars. As you walk among the many ruins, left to deteriorate for over 90 years, the only sound is the wind howling through a ravine that marks the border between Turkey and Armenia.
Listen to the two sound clips above. Chances are, you enjoyed the first one a lot more—and so it is for most people you know. That has led researchers to believe that humans have an innate preference for so-called consonant sounds. But a new study of a remote Amazonian tribe reveals that this preference may not be so innate after all; people who have had no exposure to the outside world think both noises above are equally pleasant. The findings suggest that culture, not biology, determines at least some of our musical taste.
It seems unlikely that any era in human history was without its fascination with death or the desire to communicate with those who have passed into it. But the 19th century was a period in which breakthroughs in scientific inquiry, advances in technology, and renewed religious fervor in America and Europe conspired to offer the public imagination the apparent possibility of direct communication with the spirit realm, as well as methods to prove such communication was genuine.
I have had a beautiful image of Oxford University in my head since I was around seven years old. Being here, after more than a decade of dreaming and hoping and insisting to my parents that I was going to manage it, the town has lived up to the hype in a lot of ways. Being at this institution where you really feel like you can learn about every book, theory and fact that’s ever existed makes the world seem so much bigger.