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Art and science: "Your Inner Neanderthal"

If you're in the Twin Cities area on Saturday, April 28th, I recommend going to check out artist and science geek Lynn Fellman talk about the Neanderthal contribution to the modern human genome, and how art can help people understand complicated science. "Your Inner Neanderthal" is part of the Hennepin County Library's DNA Days events. It's free, but you need to register. Maggie

Art about climate, sustainability, and risk

Science is about facts. But how you convey those facts matters almost as much as the facts themselves. After all, if people can't understand what you're talking about enough to apply the information, it doesn't really matter much how good your data is. This is particularly true when you're talking about stuff like climate change. If you can't connect with people in a visceral, emotional way, will they remember or listen to what you're trying to tell them?

Science journalist Eli Kintisch is trying to address that problem by using public art to help people better understand the science and the risks surround climate change. Earlier this year, he organized To Extremes, a contest and exhibition of proposals for large-scale public art projects centered around the theme of climate science.

If you're in the Boston area, you can check out the proposals at an exhibition that runs April 20th through April 29th in MIT's Maseeh Hall dormitory. There's an official reception for the even April 23rd at 7:00 pm.

The image above comes from the winning proposal submitted by UK artist Sam Jury. Called "All Things Being Equal" it involves a series of commissioned films about the personal impacts of extreme climate events. The videos are paired with an algorithm that chooses which clips to play based on real-time weather data from around the globe. Plans are currently underway to install "All Things Being Equal" at a public site.

Get more information on the To Extremes exhibition and upcoming events.

Incredible art made with open-source weather data

This is what the wind over the United States looked like on March 27th, 5:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. It's beautiful. And it's even better if you go to the project page, where you can watch real-time wind currents move around the map.

The National Digital Forecast Database is a weather forecasting system that provides open access to weather data collected all over the United States. The National Weather Service has field centers all across the country, that collect information about things like wind speed/direction, precipitation, and barometric pressure. They combine this data with big-picture satellite tracking and algorithms that are based on what we know about how weather patterns work, and that's how you get the kind of daily forecast we rely on to plan our days.

In the process, the National Weather Service generates a lot of data—data that has not, traditionally, been accessible to just anybody. We saw the forecasts, but it wasn't as easy to see the measurements the forecasts were based on. The NDFD changes that. It's a really great example of publicly funded research being made available to the people who help provide the funding.

And when that happens, you get cool projects like this one, where data on wind direction and speed are used to create truly amazing art. The information on current conditions, and predictions for the future, are updated hourly. When you look at the animated version of this map, what you see is the most recent forecast playing out.

Thanks to Chris Noble for sending this in on Submitterator! It's grand!

Read a previous BoingBoing story about using wind forecasts to improve renewable energy.

Woodcut maps

I really dig creative work that turns a sense of place into art. That's why I'm really getting a kick out of WoodcutMaps.com, which uses Google Maps to create really great geometric art—some clearly map-like, others much more abstract.

It all depends on what view of the map you choose to have turned into a woodcut. You can do a tight crop, or wide pull-out. Basically, you choose the view that matters to you. They make it art. Above is what my neighborhood in Minneapolis would look like as a woodcut.

At $100 for an 8x8 square, this isn't cheap. But it is very cool and strikes me as something that would make a nice housewarming gift for a special friend, or an anniversary gift for parents who've lived in the same place for decades.

Via Flowingdata and Ryan Sager.

Quilts inspired by the Large Hadron Collider

Last week, while I was on a train, researchers at CERN announced that neutrinos are probably not traveling faster than the speed of light. Last year, as you'll recall, the OPERA experiment clocked the neutrinos breaking that speed limit. Unfortunately, it looks like those measurements were probably caused by one or more problems with the GPS system used to synchronize clocks between the neutrinos' point of origin and where they were speeding off to.

That's disappointing news. To make up for it, I offer you this art chaser—a gallery of beautiful quilts inspired by CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

The quilts are the work of artist Kate Findlay, and they're completely amazing. The one pictured here is called "Inner Eye." It's based on ATLAS, one of the major detectors built to encircle the Large Hadron Collider and collect information on what's going on inside it. Comparing the photo with the quilt makes both images doubly awesome.

See the rest of the quilts at Symmetry Magazine

Via Alexandra Witze

White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" performed on things found in a laboratory

The Blast Lab at Imperial College, London, is a place where scientists study how explosions affect the human skeleton, and try to find ways to mitigate some of those effects. As you can imagine, this involves blowing stuff up fairly regularly and The Blast Lab is a pretty loud place.

But the team of students behind PLoS' Inside Knowledge blog noticed something cool about that. The sounds in The Blast Lab weren't just loud noises, they were loud notes. Edit them together, and you could reproduce a whole song, using nothing but sounds recorded in a working scientific laboratory.

In this video, the Inside Knowledge crew plays The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" on the Imperial College Blast Lab. In case you're curious, here's the breakdown showing what lab equipment the team used to replicate the sound of which instruments.

Bass Guitar: Main sensor output cable
Bass Drum: Blast Rig
Toms: Hammer & Storm Case
Hi-Hat: Oil Spray
Cymbal: Blast Plate
'Vocals': Laces to contain dummy leg during blast
'Guitar': Accelerometer cable & Fastening Strings

Video Link

Submitterated by Ben Good

A greeting card for Valentine's Day

If that special person in your life has the right sense of humor, this card, designed by dandee and for sale on Etsy, may be just the thing to make them feel all smooshy inside without playing in too heavily to the Valentine's Day prisoner's dilemma game.

Luckily for Christopher Baker, who showed me this card, I do have the right sense of humor. Happy early Valentine's, babe.

The history of timelines

The earliest timelines, published in the 1500s and 1600s, were difficult-to-follow mashups that attempted to place all of human history into a list of numbers or an elaborate graphical metaphor. (I imagine the people who made these being somewhat stoned ... "So the fourth millennium before the birth of Christ was totally like a dragon! Here, let me show you ...")

By the 19th century, though, the art of the timeline had progressed significantly, and people like French engineer Charles Joseph Minard were creating infographics that look recognizably like infographics. This one, from 1869, traces the routes taken by Hannibal on his march through the Alps and Napoleon on his march into Russia, showing, through the thickness of the bars, how both armies dwindled during the journey.

This is from a great collection of historic timelines published on The Morning News website. Definitely worth flipping through the entire slideshow!

Via Philip Bump

Graffiti artist in Urbana, Ill. has an upbeat message for you

This bit of graffiti, spotted by entomologist and photographer Alex Wild, seems like the perfect way to start off a Monday morning. Thanks, anonymous tagger! I feel better already!

How to build an art shanty

Earlier this week, Mark told you about a couple of the cool art projects happening on a frozen lake in Minnesota.

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Collection of Etsy products inspired by exobiology

The discovery of Kepler 22-b, a planet that exists in the habitable zone of a star 600 light years away from Earth, lead Etsy user Alisa to curate a collection of really neat products themed around space and exobiology.

My favorite: A set of plush dolls designed to demonstrate the evolution of a fuzzy blue monster from a single-celled organism.

Thanks, artologica!

Roomba art

A Flickr pool for art made using colored lights, long exposures, and Roombas. (Via Sii Bo) Maggie

Can Lego be considered art?

In The Cult of Lego, my co-author Joe Meno and I devote a whole chapter to art, both works created with bricks as well as art using more traditional media featuring Lego as the subject matter.

Despite the success of museum exhibitions such as Nathan Sawaya's nationally-touring "Art of the Brick", inevitably some people claim that Lego is not a serious artistic medium. While I don't see how someone can look at Sawaya's amazing works, or those by such mainstream artists as Olafur Eliasson and Douglas Coupland which feature the bricks, and not agree it's art, nevertheless there are doubters.

Enter Lego fan and philosophy professor Roy Cook, who wrote an essay contending that yes, Lego can be art.

From The Cult of Lego:

As Lego makes its way into galleries, it’s sure to provoke a reaction from visitors who don’t think it belongs there. Conversely, the artists featured in this chapter obviously disagree. Who is right?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Scholars have debated the concept’s definition for centuries and continue to do so to this day. However, most theorists agree that art involves three criteria: form, content, and context. Roy Cook, a Lego fan and professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, wrote an essay arguing that Lego, by this definition, can clearly be called art. He uses the following criteria:

Form refers to the medium and the skill used to manipulate that medium, Cook’s essay explains. A work must typically display masterful technique to be considered art. Surely numerous models demonstrate a high level of skill. As with any technically demanding medium, there will always be works that stand out as being exemplary.

Content is the statement the piece makes or the meaning behind it. Even if this message is so obscure that only the artist can grasp it, there has to be some sort of thought behind the piece. It seems like a given: If artists desire to make a statement with a Lego model, they can do it.

Context refers to the culture and artistic tradition into which the work is placed. Andy Warhol’s soup cans outside the context of Pop Art probably would not have been considered art. As Cook points out in his essay, there is no widespread artistic tradition surrounding Lego. Just as novels were considered trash literature in the 18th century and graphic novels battle for legitimacy today, Lego simply doesn’t have the acceptance it needs to be considered legitimate art. That doesn’t mean that Lego can’t be art; there simply is no longstanding body of formal, accepted Lego art to place a model within.

[The photo at the top of this post depicts art by James "AME72" Ame, whose work may be found in The Cult of Lego.]

My Flower painting available as a print at Thumbtack Press

Thumbtack


I love Thumbtack Press, because they make excellent art prints, offer high quality framing of the prints they sell, and pay their artists a very good commission. I've been offering my work at Thumbtack Press for years, and couldn't be more pleased with their service and product quality.

Today, they introduced my latest print, Flower, Daughter of Googam, which is based on a painting I did for a Jack Kirby Museum benefit art show. You can buy the print in a variety of formats and sizes, including stretched canvas, which looks very much like a painting.

Flower, Daughter of Googam on Thumbtack Press

Underground Toy Emporium and Spaceship Parking: Incredible art by Randy Regier


The Fire Fly has landed! On November 10, “Randy Regier: H. Maxwell Fisher’s Underground Toy Emporium and Spaceship Parking” opened at Jim Kempner Fine Art, 501 West 23rd Street, NYC, where it remains on view through December 23.

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