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Travel to the stars with The Intergalactic Travel Bureau

If you're in New York between now and the 21st of July, you should stop by 266 W. 37th Street — home of The Intergalactic Travel Bureau. This tongue-in-cheek travel agency offers opportunities to sit down and discuss your interstellar dreams with real astrophysicists who can answer questions, offer suggested itineraries, and help you explore the wonders of the Universe. Maggie 3

What would our night sky look like if other planets were as close as the Moon?

The Atlantic has a fantastic piece on the work on space artist Ron Miller, showing pictures of the night sky on Earth with other planets swapped in where the Moon should be. Jupiter is my favorite — if that were hovering over us every night, we'd all have deep inferiority complexes. Maggie 16

Two new Amy Crehore paintings

Artist Amy Crehore has two new excellent surrealistic paintings on her website. This one is called "A Gymnast's Memory of Fall."

The happiest little plankton in the world

Artist Hiné Mizushima makes these super adorable models of microscopic crustaceans called Daphnia out of felt. Scientists like to get the real-world versions of these creatures drunk, and use them to study how alcohol affects the nervous system. I suspect that Daphnia are cute drunks.

Via David Ng

One reason you can't take photos in the art museum

Many art museums don't hold the copyrights for the paintings and other artworks they own. So, while protecting the art from damage by exposure to 50 bazillion flashes is part of the motivation for banning museum photography, this is also a copyfight issue — and museums are starting to side with the phone-camera-toting public. Maggie

53 years of nuclear tests as electronic music

I've seen this video described as a musical depiction of all the nuclear bombs ever detonated. But that sort of makes it sound like you're about to get a particularly bombastic version of the 1812 Overture. Instead, "1945-1998" by Isao Hashimoto is more like an infographic with sound effects — or, possibly, a mash-up of the games Simon and Global Thermonuclear War.

What you get is an interesting depiction of nuclear tests through time — 2053 of them (including the non-test explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki). I found it particularly interesting to watch the slow ramp up over the course of the late 1940s and early 1950s, when months or years would tick by between tests. After that, beginning in the late 1950s, you see these patterns of sudden flurries of explosions, usually happening in the US and the USSR almost simultaneously. The cultural sense of panic is almost palpable.

A beautiful bacterium

David Goodsell of the Scripps Research Institute made this lovely watercolor illustration of a cell of Mycoplasma mycoides. This bacterium is the cause of a deadly respiratory disease that affects cattle and other cud-chewing animals.

If you've ever read much about zoonoses — diseases that pass from animals to humans — then you know that the domestication of livestock played a huge role in introducing many diseases to people. Living in close proximity to the animals we ate provided ample opportunities for those animals' diseases to jump over to us. What's interesting about Mycoplasma mycoides is that it represents a disease of animals that seems to have its origins in domestication, as well.

In 2012, scientists found evidence that suggests domesticating livestock — a process that resulted in closer living conditions for the animals and in animals from one herd being moved to other herds they likely wouldn't have otherwise had contact with — helped Mycoplasma mycoides evolve and spread. Today, different species of Mycoplasma mycoides cause a range of diseases that can kill between 10 and 70 percent of the cows they infect.

Goodsell's illustration is an attempt to show all the different parts of the bacterial cell, in the shapes, sizes, locations, and concentrations that those parts take in the real world. If you go to his site, you can see a legend explaining what everything is.

Project: Recycle old scientific equipment into new tools for public engagement

When ocean scientist Andrew Thaler found an old, outdated water level gauge, he found a way to give it new life — turning it into a tool to measure public interest in sea level rise. Instead of tracking water, the Sea Leveler tracks how much people are talking about water on Twitter.

Science at Fashion Week

From bodices made of green beetle wings to a skirt studded with embroidered-on bits of meteorite, the clothing of designer Mathieu Mirano draws inspiration from the natural world and the obsessions of science. Popular Science's Susannah Locke went to the designer's show and has a gallery of photos that you should really check out. Maggie

The men who designed space colonies

If your mental image of futuristic human colonies in space involves tubular ships, rolling hills, and a population seemingly plucked from a cocktail party in Sausalito in 1972, chances are good that you've been influenced by the art of Rick Guidice and Don Davis — illustrators commissioned by NASA to envision human homes among the stars. At Discover.com, Veronique Greenwood writes about these artists and the lasting impact they've had on science and science fiction. Maggie

Gweek 082: Mitch O'Connell, the World's Best Artist

In this episode of the Gweek podcast, I interviewed Mitch O'Connell about his massive new art book, Mitch O'Connell the World's Best Artist by Mitch O'Connell. This book shows his early work (he published a great zine when we were in high school together), his attempts to enter mainstream comics ("Interesting, but no cigar" -- Jim Shooter), his commercial art, band posters, gallery paintings, tattoo flash, and more. See sample pages here.


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Jacquard looms: Videos demonstrating early computer programs

Invented in 1801, Jacquard looms are really an add-on to already existent mechanical loom systems, which allowed those looms to create patterns more complex and intricate than anything that had been done before. The difference: Punch cards.

When you weave, the pattern comes from changes in thread position — which threads were exposed on the surface of the cloth and which were not. But prior to the Jacquard loom, there were only so many threads that any weaver could control at one time, so patterns were simple and blocky. Essentially, the Jacquard system vastly increased the pixels available in any weaving pattern, by automatically controlling lots and lots of threads all at once. Punch cards told the machine which threads were in play at any given time.

It's a really cool process, and I wanted to share a couple of videos that give you a good idea of how these looms work and how they changed the textiles industry. You can watch them below. But probably the best example is the image above. It's a picture of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, woven in silk on the loom he invented — a fantastic demonstration of the design power that loom offered. In just a few years, people went from weaving simple stars and knots, to weaving patterns that almost look like they were spit out of a printer.

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Roq La Rue Gallery art openings for Femke Hiemstra & Ryan Heshka

Kittykaboodles framed
ROQ7 the shes lo res


Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle, WA is having two simultaneous solo shows with new paintings by two of my favorites: Femke Hiemstra and Ryan Heshka. It opens Friday December 7th 6-9pm, and both artists will be in attendance. The show runs through January 5th.

Roq La Rue is very pleased to present two solo shows for our last show of 2012, with gallery favorites Femke Hiemstra and Ryan Heshka. Please join us for a festive opening party on December 7th with drinks and music. All are welcome.

Femke Hiemstra’s meticulously tight, jewel like mixed media paintings and exquisitely rendered black and white drawings are homes to a dark fairytale land where inanimate objects come to life and frolic with animal neighbors. Lollipops become ship captains, strawberries become giant wrestlers, and vegetables become Halloween gods with lantern eyes. Femke occasionally uses typography in her work, using words from various languages and letters in her paintings to further enhance the narrative while still retaining a playful sense of mystery, or as a visual device to frame in the scenery, as if you were looking at her world through a secret window. She also uses found objects to paint on, such as boxes and wrappers, to create imaginary products with magical properties. Drawing from a range of influences, from firework wrappers to Japanese woodblock prints, Femke’s use of both pop culture detritus and child-like fantasy create a vi! brant playground for the imagination, with each piece looking like a portal for a fantastic adventure, which is left up to the viewer to imagine the story that lies inside.

Ryan Heshka unapologetically pays homage to Golden Era sci fi pulp while creating a style that is also uniquely his own. He explores themes of man vs nature, (even though often the "nature" is from another world) as well as the exploring the ideology of pushing the limits of science as a tool to help and further mankind, and the technological terrors that can be inadvertently unleashed as a result. His work is usually acrylic painted on wood panel, heavily varnished and embellished with tags cut from pulp magazines, which serve as inspiration and explanation of each piece. This new show will feature a range of paintings including some of his largest works to date.

Femke Hiemstra "Let The Devil Wear Black"

Ryan Heshka "Disasterama"

How monoculture farming changes biodiversity

This image, taken by artist David Liittschwager shows the plants and animals collected in a square meter of South African public park over the course of 24 hours.

This image, from National Public Radio, illustrates the plants and animals found over the course of two nights and three days in an Iowa cornfield.

Robert Krulwich has a fascinating piece about the ways food systems affect ecological systems. How efficient is too efficient?

Via On Earth

Beautiful art from used glasses of Scotch (Plus some nifty fluid mechanics)

After you drink some Scotch, there's usually a thin film of the liquor left clinging to the bottom and sides of the glass. If you leave it out overnight, it'll dry and be a pain to wash off in the morning. But the same dried booze leavings can also be the beginnings of some really lovely art.

Ernie Button takes photos of the waving, swirling patterns left behind on Scotch glasses. This one — part of a series called Vanishing Spirits — is a picture of glass that once held a nice measure of Balvenie.

The idea for this project occurred while putting a used Scotch glass into the dishwasher. I noted a film on the bottom of a glass and when I inspected closer, I noted these fine, lacey lines filling the bottom. What I found through some experimentation is that these patterns and images that can be seen are created with the small amount of Single-Malt Scotch left in a glass after most of it has been consumed. It only takes a very thin layer of Scotch to create; the alcohol dries and leaves the sediment in various patterns. It’s a little like snowflakes in that every time the Scotch dries, the glass yields different patterns and results. I have used different colored lights to add 'life' to the bottom of the glass, creating the illusion of landscape, terrestrial or extraterrestrial.

Interestingly, there was a recent article that was published in the Journal of Nature (I think) by Dr. Peter Yunker on the Suppression of the Coffee-Ring Effect by Shape-Dependent Capillary Interactions i.e. how are coffee rings made. I contacted him to see if he could see any obvious connection between the two liquids and the rings / patterns they create. He got back to me and unfortunately could not explain what was happening with the Scotch.

That paper Button mentioned was published in 2011. It explores the physics of particles suspended in liquid — not just coffee, but lots of things. Turns out, if you put a drop of liquid on a solid surface, it will tend to dry in a circular shape. As it dries, anything suspended in the liquid will migrate to the outside of the circle. If you put a drop of coffee on a table and leave it to dry, what you'll get is a round spot ringed by a narrow band of dark coffee gunk.

Why does the gunk form a ring, instead of evenly covering the whole circle? Yunker's research showed that it has to do with the shape of the particles that make up the gunk.

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