Category Archives: The Art of Science

The Lovelace & Babbage Countdown Begins

"The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage" by Sydney Padua (All Rights Reserved; Adapted with Permission)

“The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage” by Sydney Padua (All Rights Reserved; Adapted with Permission)

If you were the NSA and “asked” Amazon.com for my order history, you would discover that I almost never pre-order anything. I am not an early adopter. I like to let other people sort out the bugs and kinks before wading in.

I said “almost never” for a reason. The exception is Sydney Padua’s new book, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage, which is scheduled for release in April 2015. The book is based on the adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage as described in the webcomic of the same name at 2D Goggles.

Why pre-order? Well, one, won’t you feel stupid if they run out? You will. Two, pre-orders can help those “bestseller” list numbers, depending on the list and how they tally things up. Robust pre-order numbers certainly are good for the author’s fragile psyche. Three, you will probably forget you ordered it by April. So, when it arrives, it will be like Christmas in April – four months late or eight months early, depending on the kind of person you are.

Go. Now. Don’t make me judge you.

The Art of Science: Scenes from the Deep, Distant Past

Alison Carey, Ordovician Period, 440-500 Mya, 2005

Alison Carey, Ordovician Period, 440-500 Mya, 2005

Alison Carey’s photographs of “Organic Remains of a Former World” are among the standouts of the current show at the National Academies of Science, Imagining Deep Time.  Carey uses a mix of sculpture, installation and photography to conjure up visions of ancient marine environments from each of the seven periods in the Paleozoic era.

To call these pieces small, murky and brownish would be accurate, but would barely hint at their evocative power and beauty.  Carey uses scientific data about the different periods and consults illustrations of their flora and fauna. The artist says that she was searching for uncharted territories in an era where little of the globe remains unexplored.

“In my search for a location that has not been photographed, I look to the Earth’s ancient past, a world that existed millions of years ago. I am drawn to this space because it is absent from human recollection and experience. Through my photographs, I offer the viewer a glimpse into a primitive landscape that has since been eroded or erased.”

Carey sculpts her creatures and rock formations out of clay, fires them and then submerges them  in the water of multiple 55-gallon aquariums. She then photographs them in her studio using a large format view camera, and prints them as contemporary ambrotypes using 9 x 23” black glass that she hand-coats with silver gelatin emulsion.

She adds that “the organic nature of this process adds to the rendition of these watery scenes by the serendipitous appearance of bubbles, streaks and obliterated areas of darkness.”

If you can’t make it to Imagining Deep Time (on view at the NAS in Washington, DC until January 15, 2015), you can see more of Alison Carey’s work at her website.

 

 

The Art of Science: Voyage Redux, with bonus!

Michele Banks, Micro/Macro 3, Ink on Mylar,  2013

Michele Banks, Micro/Macro 3, Ink on Mylar, 2013

Voyage of Discovery, an art exhibition I created together with Jessica Beels and Ellyn Weiss, will reopen on Thursday for a two-month run at the McLean Project for the Arts in McLean, VA.

The artwork in Voyage of Discovery has its roots in the idea of a journey of scientific exploration, in the tradition of Darwin, Wallace, and the thousands of scientists who constantly travel the globe in search of new findings. This imaginary voyage takes viewers to a polar region where the iconic, seemingly eternal, landscape of ice and snow is in profound and rapid transition due to climate change.

The pieces in the show – ranging from ink paintings to wire and paper and wax sculptures to a massive 30 foot fabric installation – reflect our artistic responses to the transformation of land and sea as the planet warms. The show looks at many aspects of climate change – not only the obvious, like the melting of glaciers and the thawing of permafrost, but also more subtle effects, like the movement of previously unknown species and microbes into the Arctic and the dramatic shift of the color of the land from white to green to black.

Voyage of Discovery, which ran for 5 months at the American Association for the Advancement of Science earlier this year, will open with a reception and gallery talk this Thursday, from 7-9 pm, at the McLean Project for the Arts’ Emerson Gallery, at 1234 Ingleside Avenue in McLean. (details here)

As a special bonus for science fans, the reception takes place on the same day that renowned science writers Carl Zimmer and Sam Kean are speaking in the same building as part of “Fall for the Book”. Their talk starts at 7:30.  So if you arrive at 7, you can take in the art, have a glass of wine, and then go downstairs and hear more about some fascinating science. Win-win.

The Art of Science: Jiyong Lee’s Genetics in Glass

Head-Thorax-Abdomen, white drosophila embryo segmentation, 2013

Head-Thorax-Abdomen, (white drosophila embryo segmentation), 2013

Jiyong Lee is a glass sculptor whose work plays with transparency and translucency, qualities that he says “serve as perfect metaphors for what is known and unknown about life science.”  Lee, who was born and raised in South Korea, was educated in the United States and is now a professor as well as a studio artist, heading the glass program at Southern Illinois University.

For the past few years, Lee has focused on the “Segmentation Series” – a group of sculptures based on cell division and genetics. In his words:

The Segmentation Series is inspired by my fascination with science of a cell, its division and the journey of growth that starts from a single cell and goes through a million divisions to become a life.  The segmented, geometrical forms of my work represent cells, embryos, biological and molecular structures—each symbolizing the building blocks of life as well as the starting point of life. The uniquely refined translucent glass surfaces suggest the mysterious qualities of cells and, on a larger scale, the cloudiness of their futures. The Segmentation Series is subtle and quiet yet structurally complex. I transform solid glass using cutting, lamination, carving, and surface refining processes to make art that is both beautiful and deeply invested with meaning.

The piece shown above, Head-Thorax-Abdomen, from 2013, is based on the embryo of a drosophila, or fruit fly. Drosophila are tiny creatures with a lifespan of weeks, but which have played an important role in the study of genetics and evolution.  Genetically, they have many similarities to humans, a fact which makes this piece a beautiful example of the profound interconnectedness of living beings.

Works from the Segmentation Series will be featured in a solo show of Lee’s work at the Duane Reed Gallery in St. Louis, MO, from October 24 – November 29. You can see more work by Jiyong Lee at his website.

My Kids Need a Velociraptor

UPDATE 2014-09-29 11:45AM – Project is fully funded and closed with £11,057 (£7600 needed) from 268 backers

UPDATE 2014-09-08 11:17AM – Project is now fully funded with £7981 pledged from 193 backers

UPDATE 2014-09-02 11:26AM – Project is now 88% funded with £6680 pledged from 155 backers

UPDATE 2014-08-28 11:34AM – Project is now 61% funded with £4643 pledged from 102 backers

Rebecca Groom, creator of Paleoplushies is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of scientifically accurate, poseable velociraptor stuffed animals (aka, plushies in the UK). You have until 28 September to pledge. As of this writing, 79 backers have pledged £3103 of the needed £7600. Misrepresentation of these creatures in toys and movies interferes with the communication of interesting discoveries in paleontology. It has also incorrectly convinced my children that Daddy could not beat a ‘raptor in a fight. Groom’s velociraptor, complete with feathers, opens up discussions.

Rebecca Groom’s velociraptor plushie prototype

If, like me, your kids* desperately need such a toy, the “perks” that include a toy start at £30 plus £4 shipping to the US (about $56).

*Or your kids are a socially acceptable excuse for you desperately needing one.

HT: John Conway