The Geek Biker

Rambles of a geek that rides a bike

Monthly Archives: August 2015

What did I learn today – Book bound in human skin

I’ve heard about this one a while ago. It was rumoured that Harvard has a book in its library bound in human skin. It does sound a bit like something you would find in a Hannibal Lecter film. A scene of fine dining while paging carefully through an oddly covered book.

But the book was revealed not to be of human skin. It was in fact sheep skin. This fact reduces the Hannibal type movie to something along the lines of the Snow White movie. Set in medieval times and nothing else really interesting about it. (Oh no, there was one other interesting bit. Thor had an Axe and not a hammer.)

But recently, another shot of fuel was added to the human skin book fire story. See the extract below


This past April brought disappointing (but relieving?) news that a book long suspected to be bound in human skin in Harvard’s library was, in fact, bound in sheepskin. Nothing here, move along, right? But no! Now Harvard has confirmed, for the first time ever, one of its other books is indeed sheathed in human skin.

The book in question is Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame, described appropriately enough as a “mediation on the soul life and after death“. The 19th century volume is believed to have been bound in the skin of a female mental patient by its owner, a Dr Ludovic Bouland. Bouland inserted a manuscript in the book with this morbidly fascinating note, translated from the French:

This book is bound in human skin parchment on which no ornament has been stamped to preserve its elegance. By looking carefully you easily distinguish the pores of the skin. A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering: I had kept this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman. It is interesting to see the different aspects that change this skin according to the method of preparation to which it is subjected. Compare for example with the small volume I have in my library, Sever. Pinaeus de Virginitatis notiswhich is also bound in human skin but tanned with sumac.

While the origin story of this human skin-bound book seems particularly wrong to our modern sensibility, the practice of “anthropodermic bibliopegy” encompassed many realms. “The confessions of criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted, or an individual might request to be memorialised for family or lovers in the form of a book,” wrote Heather Cole, a librarian at Harvard.

Bouland’s note aside, it was not easy to prove that his claims. The librarians at Harvard finally put it to modern science. First, they used a technique called “mass peptide fingerprinting” to identify proteins in the skin, which ruled out possible animal origins like goat, sheep or cow. But it couldn’t quite distinguish human from our closer relatives such as great apes and baboons. They had to narrow it down through Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LCMSMS), which allows scientists to determine the order of molecules that make up the proteins. The result? Almost certainly human.

I have actually seen this book in person, and it’s been haunting me since freshman year of college. Like many of us around campus, I knew of the human skin books — it was a tidbit often traded at parties and a2006 Harvard Crimson article seems to still regularly make the internet rounds. But what I didn’t expect when I peered up close was how utterly ordinary it looked, indistinguishable from the hundreds of other animalhide-bound book in the room.

Lastly…the cover of the book said to be covered in human skin:




What did I learn today – Centennial Light

I’ve many a times wondered if I should replace the light bulbs in our house with new and improved bulbs that don’t die. Way to many times have I switched on ye old bed lamp to be startled by a flash that made me think the coppers finally caught up with the neighbours’ wrong doing but just had the address wrong when they decided to storm the house. The flash of a blown bulb so bright that it takes me a few seconds to realize that the bulb is actually dead and it is dark and that I’m not blind. My new found joy of still being able to see only lasting the second I walk around in the dark room and stub that little toe against the bed. Then starts the epic search for a light bulb to replace the one that’s just blown.

Then whilst researching ‘the longest lasting light bulb ever to grace this earth with its warm glow’ (googled), I came across this beauty. The Centennial Light!

The Centennial Light is the world’s longest-lasting light bulb. It is at 4550 East Avenue, Livermore, California, and maintained by the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department.[1] The fire department says that the bulb is at least 113 years old and has been turned off only a handful of times. Due to its longevity, the bulb has been noted by The Guinness Book of World Records,[2]Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and General Electric.[3] It is often cited as evidence for the existence of planned obsolescence in later-produced light bulbs.[4]

And here’s a picture (not photoshopped)


Granted it is not the prettiest light in existence, but then again, functionality over looks I say!


My Pepper’s Ghost Build

I recently posted about using an inverted pyramid like object to reflect a display and simulate a holographic image. So I got my hands on some acetone sheets and started building.

Not overly complicated. I used the schematics of the build in the previous post to build one for a phone and then doubled it up for an iPad.

End result:

Looked pretty good I think.

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More photos from the #PeppersGhost illusion on the #iPad

A post shared by LordFluffyGoggles (@lordfluffygoggles) on


View this post on Instagram

More photos from the #PeppersGhost illusion on the #iPad

A post shared by LordFluffyGoggles (@lordfluffygoggles) on

Smartphone holograms

This is pretty cool.

According to Mrwhosetheboss, you can use a simple reflection technique to change an old CD case and a smartphone into a hologram display device.

Also the hologram clip:

I’m definitely going to try this.

Surfing biker – nutter

Robbie Maddison you nutter! If being a stunt rider is not enough, then you just hop onto the water with the bike and see what happens?

This is an awesome video shot in 4K in Tahiti for Pipe Dream. Great editing, great riding. Overall awesomeness.