The name given to the lake in London's Hyde Park, formed when the Tyburn River was dammed in early Victorian times.

Amusing although only tenuously related anecdote:

I used to work at a company whose offices backed on to another London park, St. James's Park. I also used to smoke, and so I'd often be standing outside the office having a quick fag. Being situated a mere stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, getting asked directions by tourists was an occupational hazard. However I'll never forget the smartly-dressed Australian with whom I had the following conversation:

Aussie: Can you tell me the way to the park?
Me: (pointing at big green grassy thing on the other side of the road) Yes, it's over there.
Aussie: That's the park with the lake in it?
Me: Yes (because there's a very beautiful and famous lake in St. James's Park)
Aussie: And there's a bridge over that lake?
Me: (a little bit worried now) errr ... yes.
Aussie: Good on ya mate! Now can I can go and stand on the bridge over the turpentine.

And on that note, he wandered off. To this day I haven't got a clue what he was on about...

Also the name given to the art Gallery in Kensington Gardens:

Serpentine Gallery
Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA.

It was transformed into a gallery from a 1934 tea pavilion by The Arts Council of England in 1970. It is still funded by the London Arts Board and Westminster City Council, along with corporate sponsorship, charitable organisations and individual donations, but benefited from £4 million overhaul in February 1998 through National Lottery cash.

It is small, but often has very interesting and unusual exhibits - particularly those of an innovative, interactive nature. Being set in the park, and with a cafe nearby, it's a lovely place to go in Central London on a hot day.

Attracting over 400,000 visitors a year, it's best to avoid peak times if you can.

It's open between 10am and 6pm every day, entrance is free and it has a small book and gift shop.

The next exhibition to open at the gallery (as of September 2000) will be the first major solo London show for 1997 Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing.

Phone number: 020 7298 1515
Website www.serpentinegallery.org

Getting there:
Underground: Knightsbridge, Lancaster Gate or South Kensington
Buses: 9,10, 12, 52, 24

A big family of minerals, often confused with many other opaque stones. Of the few that are gem-grade, the yellow-green bowenite can be mistaken for jade; "verd antique" can be taken for a dark green marble; williamsite, which is dark green with black spots, is the only easily recognizable one. However, the varieties of serpentine all have a much lower rating on the Mohs hardness scale than the more valuable stones they are passed off as; the best test is to see how easily the stone can be scratched. While the mottled colors from which it gets the name are pretty, serpentine is usually too soft to be used for jewelry.

There are many serpentine outcroppings scattered about the Coastal Range and Sierra Foothills of California, among other areas. They are easily visible from roads because when the road cuts into one, the gouged-out hillside becomes a dull green. Often, seeps and springs are also found in these areas, completely full of various minerals which leave crusty white crystals along their sides.

Serpentine areas are special becuase their soil is so harsh and full of caustic minerals that very few plants can survive there. Because these areas are found in little 'islands' scattered through the hills, only a few plants have been able to establish on them. Over millions of years, plants have evolved to cope with the harsh conditions, but due to their isolation, many of these plants are completely different than the other ones around them, or any other plants in the world. The effect is similar to that of the finches in the Galapagos which Darwin studied - except the areas are surrounded by other, more normal areas.

Serpentine vegetation is usually smaller and more stunted than other vegetation nearby. A serpentine area near a redwood forest may look as dry as a hillside near Los Angeles, even if it gets many feet of rain a year. Often, 'dwarfed' trees and shrubs are found in these areas. There are many endemic plants which are found in these areas, including individual species of lupine and manzanita, and many others. Also, small animals such as insects which have come to depend on these plants are extremely different than any others in the world.

Because the conditions are so harsh, serpentine soils are much less likely to get overwhelmed by non-native vegetation than other areas. However, some invasives such as wild oats and bromus still can be a problem. A more likely problem is overgrazing, since most of the serpentine areas are on land grazed by cattle. Also, although fire is not as vital on these areas as some other areas, an occasional fire is still beneificial, and total removal of fire from these ecosystems can lead to much damage.


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A type of curve with the equation:

x2y + aby - a2x = 0, where ab > 0

This curve was named and studied by Newton in 1701. It is contained in his classification of cubic curves which appears in "Curves by Sir Isaac Newton in Lexicon Technicum" by John Harris published in 1710. Harris's introduction to the article charmingly states:

"The incomparable Sir Isaac Newton gives this following Ennumeration of Geometrical Lines of the Third or Cubick Order; in which you have an admirable account of many Species of Curves which exceed the Conick-Sections, for they go no higher than the Quadratick or Second Order."

Newton showed that the curve f(x, y) = 0, where f(x, y) is a cubic, can be divided into one of four normal forms. The first of these are equations of the form

xy2 + ey = ax3 + bx2 + cx + d.

This is the hardest case in the classification and the serpentine is one of the subcases of this first normal form.

The serpentine had also been studied earlier by L'Hopital and Huygens in 1692.

A classic arcade-style game, developed in 1982 by David Snider (creator of David's Midnight Magic) for Brøderbund Software. I believe it was originally on the Apple ][, though I had an adapted version on my beloved Commie. No idea if there are any differences.

Anyway, you play a segmented blue snake who slithers through a Pac-Manesque maze attempting to eat other snakes. This is accomplished by sneaking up behind them and taking bites out of their tails. If you get them short enough they turn from red to green and you can eat them whole. Likewise, other snakes can shorten you (or just kill you, in the case of a head-on collision). Eat all the other snakes and advance to the next level.

You can get longer by eating little frogs that sometimes appear, or eating the spotted eggs that other snakes lay when they want to multiply. You also lay eggs from time to time, which eventually hatch into extra lives if they aren't eaten first.

Serpentine had a pretty good gameplay value; it tended to get addictive. The graphics were decent and the sound effects were well-suited (the creepy hissing noise the snakes made raised the stakes of the whole game, I think). Not bad for a game that's as old as I am.


Also a common contemporary typeface, designed by Dick Jensen for the Visual Graphics Corporation. It's technically a sans-serif typeface, though the edges spread out slightly at the tips. Squarish and often oblique, it's a very popular choice these days for all sorts of advertising and other graphic design applications, because of its uniquely dynamic appearance. It looks very crisp, clean and futuristic, and its three distinct line weights make it very versatile. I see it everywhere.

Come to think of it, it looks a little like the everything2 title...

Ser"pen*tine (?), a. [L. serpentinus: cf. F. serpentin.]

Resembling a serpent; having the shape or qualities of a serpent; subtle; winding or turning one way and the other, like a moving serpent; anfractuous; meandering; sinuous; zigzag; as, serpentine braid.

Thy shape Like his, and color serpentine. Milton.

 

© Webster 1913.


Ser"pen*tine, n. [Cf. (for sense 1) F. serpentine, (for sense 2) serpentin.]

1. Min.

A mineral or rock consisting chiefly of the hydrous silicate of magnesia. It is usually of an obscure green color, often with a spotted or mottled appearance resembling a serpent's skin. Precious, or noble, serpentine is translucent and of a rich oil-green color.

⇒ Serpentine has been largely produced by the alteration of other minerals, especially of chrysolite.

2. Ordnance

A kind of ancient cannon.

 

© Webster 1913.


Ser"pen*tine, v. i.

To serpentize.

[R.]

Lyttleton.

 

© Webster 1913.

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