Author Archives: michelebanks1

Science Caturday: LOL Effect


The area around Buffalo, NY was buried under an astonishing seven feet of snow this week, due to a phenomenon called “lake effect”, which is explained here. Meteorologists may find this fascinating, and kids may be happy to miss school, but at least one group of upstate New Yorkers is seriously disgruntled: the cats. Well, except for this guy. There’s always one.


The Art of Science: Sculpture with Deep Roots

Dalya Luttwak, Cannabis Sativa, Steel, 2014

Dalya Luttwak, Cannabis Sativa, Steel, 2014

Artist Dalya Luttwak takes hard steel and transforms it into the sinuous shapes of roots.  For a recent show at the Greater Reston Art Center in Virginia, Luttwak chose as one of her subjects the root system of Cannabis Sativa.  Cannabis, a plant of many uses, which evokes strong and complex responses and touches on so many areas of our culture – industrial, medical, recreational, and criminal – is an irresistible subject for art.

Working in a combination of gilded and blackened steel, the artist “sought the “golden balance” arising from the combination of vertical and horizontal black roots, and existing between the different elements of the Cannabis plant and their nutritious, medical, and psychedelic uses.”

Luttwak, who was born in Israel and now works in the US, says that her work tries to “uncover the hidden beauty of roots, exploring the relationship between what grows above the ground and the invisible parts below of various root systems. My sculptures reveal what nature prefers to conceal. My wish is to uncover and discover roots even when they are hidden, indeed especially when they are hidden.” (source)

Beyond the secrets of plant life, however, this sculpture, and many of Luttwak’s other works, strongly evoke the brain and nervous system. Seeing the roots of the Cannabis Sativa as a metaphor for the paths of chemical stimulation or even of our tangled attitudes to drug-taking, elevate and deepen our response to this deceptively simple art.

You can see more of Dalya Luttwak’s work on her website.

Science Caturday: I smell a whatchamacallit


A team of scientists led by Jonas Olofsson published a study this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, describing research that identified two areas in the brain which link odor to language. Using fMRI and other techniques, researchers were able to map areas of the brain which provide the interface between olfactory and verbal cues. The team hopes to use the findings to advance research into dementia. We hope they go on to experiment on cats, whose superior sense of smell is, alas, joined to a somewhat weaker verbal ability, particularly with regard to the word “the”.

The Art of Science: Simulating the Sun

John Gerrard, Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada), 2014

John Gerrard, Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada), 2014

I thought that John Gerrard’s Solar Reserve installation, currently on display on the plaza of New York’s Lincoln Center, was a sort of film, relaying images in real time from a solar power plant in Nevada. It is not.

Gerrard didn’t just set up cameras at the power plant. He sent someone to photograph every detail of it, from the thousands of mirrors to the scrubby little plants, and then he (and a team of programmers) recreated the whole thing as a computer simulation, using a game engine called Unigine. The artwork will play 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on an enormous LED wall until December 1.

The piece – its full name is Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) – simulates an actual power plant known as a solar thermal power tower, surrounded by 10,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight upon it to heat molten salts, essentially forming a thermal battery which is used to generate electricity. The work mimics the actual movements of the sun, moon, and stars across the sky, as they would appear at the Nevada site, with the thousands of mirrors adjusting their positions in real time according to the position of the sun.

It’s worth having a look at this short video, in which the artist explains how the piece unfolds, following the light as it travels among the mirrors, out into space and back to the landscape, and allows a brief look at the hypnotic effect of the artwork.


Science Caturday: Post-Halloween Edition

Sorry, lolfriends. Not much science this week – the kittehs were all busy with Halloween. Some really enjoy it:


Some others, not so much:


and some maybe found it a little scary.


However they feel about Halloween, this one is over, and now all the cats can get back to doing what cats do best – NAPPING! SCIENCE!