Monday, 23 May 2011


Aaah! - Gramownessence - that wonderful smell

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains...” (Diana Ackerman) - or immediately transport you back to those many arduous but well-spent Saturdays mowing the lawn.

There's that lush, sweet, earth, warm, grassy smell wafting through the air as you push (or watch someone else push) the mower over the luminescent sward.

What's the word for that...? There's a wonderful word for the rich smell of rain on dry ground - petrichor - but not for freshy cut grass, until now that is.

Gramownessence (n.) - the scent of freshly mown grass. 

Etymology: from graminaceous (pertaining to grass), mown (cut down), and essence (perfume).

Usage: "The hum of lawn mowers and sweet, earthy gramownessence always reminds me of warm summer days."

So, deliciate in the gramownesscence, and don't forget to lie in, roll on, and deeply contemplate upon the incomparable wonder that is Grass

Now available as a scented candle

Available from:

Btw, scientists say gramownessence is a distress signal in response to cutting to call in the insect troops for help and to heal the open wounds, but scientists perhaps need to spend a bit more time on and in the grass ... 

And now officially recognised as one of the essential keys to human happiness on planet Earth

Happiness is...

Thursday, 12 May 2011

A statistical analysis of empircal measures of the weight of the human soul

What is the weight of the human soul?

In 1907, Dr Duncan MacDougall, M.D.of Haverhill, Mass., set out to precisely measure the weight of the human soul. He conducted an experiment involving six hapless souls that were terminal and carefully measured their changes in mass (due to respiration, sweating, etc) while lying on a bed hooked up to a scale, and then the change in mass upon moment of expiration...

He noted:  "[When subject No. 1] expired...suddenly coincident with death the beam end dropped with an audible stoke [CLANG!] hitting against the lower limiting bar and remaining there with no rebound"  - the loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce.

All other five patients demonstrated similar losses in mass upon death (one took a while - the scale hovered up and down..).

His results were published in American Medicine, April, 1907. See paper at:

Here I present a careful statistical analysis of his data (originally in ounces but converted to grams) to assess the plausibility of his results.


A two-tailed paired T-test of mass change upon death (pairs were the six human subjects) was conducted to test the null hypothesis of zero mean (average) change in mass upon death  - i.e. no measurable soul.

Test statistic t = 4.60 on 5 d.f. Probability = 0.006

Mean loss in mass =  29.23 g (standard error: 6.352).

After accounting for losses in body mass before and immediately after death, it appears there is a consistent, statistically significant loss of body mass of between 0.2-0.6% of the fresh (live) mass. On average, this loss - the assumed mass of the human soul - was just less than 30 g, or less than one third the mass of a standard Cadbury chocolate bar.

1. Dr MacDougall repeated the same experiment on a number of dogs (he didn't wait patiently until they expired) and found the average change in mass to be zero, suggesting the absence of a measurable soul.

2. The film 21 Grams, starring Sean Penn, was named after subject number 1 (see above table) whose soul weighed 21 g. But please note that the average human soul appears to be about 8 g heavier than this.



Wednesday, 4 May 2011

What indigenous grass should I plant in my garden?


Short grasses:
  • Ehrharta erecta (shade ehrharta)*
  • Eragrostis capensis (heart-seed love grass)
  • Eragrostis racemosa (narrow heart love grass)
  • Oplismenus hirtellus (basket grass)*

Medium height grasses:
  • Eragrostis curvula (weeping love grass)
  • Harpochloa falx (caterpillar grass)
  • Heteropogon contortus (spear grass)
  • Imperata cylindrica (cottonwool grass)#
  • Melinis nerviglumis (bristle-leaved red top)
  • Melinis repens (Natal red top
  • Themeda triandra (red grass)
  • Tristachya leucothrix (hairy trident grass)
  • Aristida junciformis (n’Gongoni)
Tall grasses:
  •  Arundinella nepalensis (river grass)#
  • Bothriochloa insculpta (pinhole grass)   
  • Cymbopogon excavatus (turpentine grass)
  • Hyparrhenia hirta (common thatching grass)
  • Miscanthus capensis (daba grass)
  • Panicum maximum (guinea grass)*
  • Setaria sphacelata (common bristle grass)#  
 * shady habitats
# moist habitats