In the headlines this week: 16th century rocket cats. That’s right, experts recently revealed that a military manual dating from around 1530 imagined the use of cats and birds as weapons of war, with gunpowder-filled “jet packs” strapped to their backs to set fire to enemy castles or cities.
According to this article in The Guardian, the academics studying the manuscript believe that cats would be poor weapons. Given their preference for staying close to home and doing pretty much as they please, a gunpowder-toting kitty would be more likely to set fire to his master’s camp than to go near a strange castle.
However, the photo above, obtained from a top-sekrit source, indicates that some testing of rocket cats may have been carried on long after castle walls fell, and may indeed be going on to this day.
Image via cheezburger.com
Thousands of science kitties have gathered in Chicago this week for the AAAS Annual Meeting, where they get together to discuss the latest research on catnip addiction and hold panels on the causes of dogs’ inability to read. You can follow along on twitter with hashtag #AAASmtg or see some sessions live-streamed online.
Hiroshi Sugimoto, Mathematical Model 009, Surface of revolution with constant negative curvature, 2006
Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto is best known for his photography, especially his gloriously simple compositions of seascapes and lightning. But my favorites are his sculptures based on mathematical models. According to Art News, “Drawn to the objects’ purity of form and also inspired by Man Ray’s interest in photographing mathematical models, Sugimoto first photographed nineteenth-century plaster examples for his Conceptual Forms series. During the process, he was struck by the softness and fragility of the vintage models – many had lost pieces or no longer possessed the sharpness that they were meant to represent. Sugimoto sought to extend the limits of these mathematical models using cutting-edge technology, searching out the highest-level precision metalworking team in Japan. For Conceptual Form 009, a model of the equation for a surface containing a single point extended to infinity, Sugimoto succeeded in creating an infinity point with a mere one millimeter diameter, the minimum width before the material itself becomes structurally unstable.”
I can’t even begin to understand the math behind it, but as a visual representation of an “infinity point” it’s hard to top that. If you live in LA, don’t miss the chance to see an exhibition of Sugimoto’s work at the Getty Museum from February 4-June 8 . If you don’t, see lots more of his work at his website.
Happy New Year from the Finch & Pea. Remember, if you’ve overdone the EtOH, a little C 8 H 10 N 4 O 2 may help!
A special Thanksgiving Day reminder that evolution is weird. The front end of a wild turkey:
… and the back end:
Photos by Hans Braxmeier (top) and Arthur Morris