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.

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.

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.

Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

Petri dish Christmas ornaments

Is it too early to talk about how much I like these? I hope not.

Please note these are not actual bacteria, but watercolor paintings sealed in resin inside real petri dishes.

Check out the full collection at Etsy

This NASA simulation of a galaxy is begging for a snazzy soundtrack

This computer simulation uses what we know about physical forces in the universe to model how a galaxy might have been born, and how it might grow over 13.5 billion years.

This cosmological simulation follows the development of a single disk galaxy over about 13.5 billion years, from shortly after the Big Bang to the present time. Colors indicate old stars (red), young stars (white and bright blue) and the distribution of gas density (pale blue); the view is 300,000 light-years across. The simulation ran on the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and required about 1 million CPU hours. It assumes a universe dominated by dark energy and dark matter.

The result is a beautiful (if silent) video that is significantly labeled as public domain. It seemed like something you guys might enjoy playing around with.

Check out this Wikipedia article for more information on the growth of galaxies

Via labgrab

Protein art

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, folded and twisted in on themselves to make incredibly complex shapes.

The human brain, it has been said, is kind of a pattern-finding machine — prone to spotting faces on the moon, fat bunnies in the clouds, and Jesus on slices of toast.

When the two meet, you get Protein Art. May K., a Russian-born artist who lives in Germany, takes actual protein structures, sees the other things those structures seem to look an awful lot like, and then draws cartoons based on the resulting apophenia.

For instance, take a look at the protein structure above. After the jump, you can see the picture that May K. saw in its folds.

Read the rest

NYCC: Issa Ibrahim's "Love Among the Ruins"

One of the booths at New York Comic Con that caught my eye was the one above, by artist Issa Ibrahim, who specializes in (sometimes risqué) pieces featuring comic book characters. "Love Among the Ruins" is not only a take on one of my favorite pictures ever, "The Kiss" by Alfred Eisenstaedt, it brings together two "warring factions" of pop culture -- Marvel and DC. If there's anything we need in our deeply divided country right now, it's seeing a Marvel character (Captain America) passionately kissing a DC character (Wonder Woman).

What the world needs now is love, superhuman love...

Paintings of Minneapolis and St. Paul, by the author of the Madeline books

In 1936, Ludwig Bemelmans painted scenes of the Twin Cities to illustrate an article in Fortune magazine. If the style looks at all familiar, it's probably because you're remembering Bemelmans' most famous creation — a Parisian schoolgirl named Madeline.

In this painting, you can see the Cathedral of St. Paul and what I am pretty certain is the James J. Hill House — a massive, red sandstone mansion that is actually across the street and down a half block from the Cathedral. Bonus fact: The Hill House was built by the railroad magnate behind what is now Amtrak's Empire Builder route from Seattle to Minneapolis. In fact, that was his nickname. James "The Empire Builder" Hill. I'm not kidding. The house is open for tours and it's pretty fantastic. Plus, you get to watch a nice video which assures you that while James J. Hill was, technically, a union-busting robber baron, he also really liked kittens. Again, not kidding.

Check out the Nokohaha blog for more of these paintings

Thanks Andrew!

Great Moments in Pedantry: Librarian critiques Twilight Sparkle's professional practice

At Neatorama, librarian John Farrier helpfully points out some places where fictional pony librarian Twilight Sparkle could stand to improve her professional practice. It is simultaneously a dedicated bit of pony fandom and an interesting overview of the many responsibilities of a real-world librarian.

Conducting a reference interview is the act of translating a patron’s request into terms that are congruent with the library’s resources. It may surprise non-librarians to learn this, but yes: reference interviewing is a skill. And it is one that Twilight should develop.

A good reference interview begins with the librarian conducting him/herself in a manner that is welcoming. Helping the patron is the first priority of a librarian working the reference desk. The patron is not a distraction or an annoyance. In the first reference interview in the series, Twilight interacts with her patron, Rainbow Dash. “Can I help you?” is a good beginning. But her tone and body language suggests that she would rather not.

... Twilight has some good reference interviewing sense. One pitfall that rookie librarians fall into is to give professional advice instead of information—especially medical and legal advice. In “Cutie Pox,” Applejack and Applebloom visit the library and asking for medical advice. Twilight, aware that doing so could expose the library and herself to liability, deftly avoids doing so and refers Applejack and Applebloom to Zecora, a qualified medical professional.

Read the rest of the story at Neatorama

Cool ceramic jewelry for scientists, skeptics, and fossil lovers

A friend pointed me today toward the awesome work of Surly Amy (aka Amy Davis Roth), who makes really neat ceramic jewelry with science/skeptic themes. Some of her pieces are really simple and not super artsy—a pendant that says "This is what an atheist looks like", for instance. That's fine, but it's not the stuff I'm super excited about.

Instead, I really dig Roth's work that focuses on archaeology and paleontology—like a necklace printed with the silhouette of an archaeopteryx fossil on a crackled background that makes me think of broken stone; earrings decorated with ammonites; and a kick-ass bracelet that manages to make trilobites look just a little punk rock.

I also enjoyed reading Roth's bio on her Etsy page. It's long, but the two key takeaways are great:

1. I'm not as surly as I used to be.
2. Life is hard and it often sucks but sometimes, if you keep trying, things will get better!

Surly-Ramics wearable art

Great moments in science education

And now, let us pay tribute to the 1992 winner of the Ig Nobel Award in the category of Art: Jim Knowlton's informative poster "Penises of the Animal Kingdom". (Bonus: The U.S. National Endowment for the Arts shared the award with Mr. Knowlton, for suggesting that he continue his work in pop-up book form.) (Via Josh Rosenau)