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.
Well, it's been a quiet week in Minneapolis, Minnesota, my hometown. The heatwave broke. There was a giant tomato fight downtown. And the Gonzo Group Theater is performing Aristophanes in the middle of the lightrail construction zone. But out on the Internet, everybody is talking about the fact that Minneapolis will, on August 30, play host an Internet cat video film festival.
But I also wanted to talk briefly about the context of this, because it's awesome, and you should know about it. Czarniecki's Cat Video Film Festival is part of a summer-long program at the Walker Art Center (our fabulous modern art museum) called Open Field. If you're not familiar with Minneapolis, the Walker sits at the base of a big hill. Part of the lot is covered with art museum, and part of it is given over to a broad, grassy slope*.
*And an absolutely awesome installation piece that takes the form of a semi-hidden, ancient-temple-looking room cut into the side of the hill. Seriously, go check it out. Preferably after dark because it's most awesome then.
I've been live-tweeting today from the Aspen Environmental Forums. But in a session this morning, I noticed that my friend Rachel Weidinger—director for the ocean advocacy group Upwell—had a far niftier way of taking notes and communicating what she was learning. While I opened up my iPad, Rachel opened up a full set of watercolor paints.
What she produced was something more akin to illuminated manuscripts than paintings—collections of short quotes and key ideas, done up in vibrant colors and surrounded by thematic doodles. It's great stuff, and a really interesting way to process and present information.
Rachel was kind enough to let me post her notes here. This page comes from the panel we attended this morning, all about climate change and the long-term impacts those changes are likely to have on regional weather. Check out more of her illuminated notes at Flickr.
On Tuesday June 26, 2012, Heritage Auctions is hosting a reception and preview of its upcoming illustration art auction featuring The Jerry Weist Collection of
science fiction and fantasy art, pin-up, pulp and paperback art, and classic golden age/mainstream illustration art. Above: Gil Elvgren's "Skirting the Issue" (1956). Below: Wally Wood's "Mars is Heaven!" complete 8-page story, Weird Science #18 (EC Comics) (1953).
I had no idea that neurons came in such a beautiful diversity of shapes. Each of these neurons has a different function, too: A. Purkinje cell B. Granule cell C. Motor neuron D. Tripolar neuron E. Pyramidal Cell F. Chandelier cell G. Spindle neuron H. Stellate cell.
The image, drawn by science journalist Ferris Jabr, comes from a post of his on the Brainwaves blog, explaining the discovery of the neuron—and the first realizations that not all neurons looked the same. It's the first part of a new series he's working on called "Know Your Neuron".
When the leading anatomists of the 19th century examined fragile nervous tissue with the best microscopes available to them, they identified cell bodies that sprouted many tangled projections. German histologist Joseph Gerlach’s observations convinced him that the fibers emerging from different cell bodies fused to form a continuous network, a seamless web known as the “reticulum.” His ideas were popular. Many researchers accepted that, unlike the heart or liver, the brain and nervous system could not be split up into distinct structural units.
In 1873, Italian physician Camillo Golgi discovered a chemical reaction that allowed him to examine nervous tissue in much greater detail than ever before. For some reason, hardening a piece of brain in potassium dichromate, and subsequently dousing it with silver nitrate, dyed only a few cell bodies and their respective projections in the tissue sample, revealing their complete structures and exact arrangement within the unstained tissue. If the reaction had stained all the neurons in a sample, Golgi would have been left with an unfathomable black blotch, as though someone had spilled a bottle of ink. Instead, his technique yielded neat black silhouettes against a translucent yellow background.
I'm amused and charmed by this theoretical public art project proposed by Minneapolis' Carmichael Lynch Creative. Urban Plant Tags explain the care, placement, and proper feeding of inanimate objects like benches, streetlights, and fire hydrants.
Side note: Perhaps you are confused by the fact that this fire hydrant appears to be on a stilt. That's because it snows so much up here in Minnesota that they have to build the fire hydrants tall enough to clear the winter snow cover. An amusing regionalism.
During a photo shoot, photographers working with Art+Auction magazine picked up an irreplaceable 2600-year-old terra cotta statue from Nigeria's Nok culture so they could move it into a better line for a shot. Yada yada yada ... they're now being sued for negligence. (Via Dr. Rubidium)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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