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.

Stalking Squirrels for Science – A Silent Film

Brought to you by our good friends Bethany Brookshire (aka, @SciCurious) and Scott Lewis with a special thanks to our own Michele Banks’ squirrels.

Please help Bethany and Scott support the #DIYScienceZone at Geek Girl Con 2014.

HT: Brian Switek

Martin the Warrior

Martin the Warrior by Stormbringer (All Rights Reserved - Used With Permission)

Martin the Warrior by Stormbringer (All Rights Reserved – Used With Permission)

This one is for my brother, Ben, who was a huge fan of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series of books. Martin the Warrior is instrumental in the founding of Redwall Abbey, for which the series is named.

The books are classics and I cannot wait to share them with my daughters. The Frogger is already a fan of David Peterson’s Mouse Guard graphic novels. So, the talking animals of Redwall won’t be a big leap, but I hope she won’t judge the Redwall books for not being as gritty as she her usual fare.

Predictably, one of Ben’s favorite aspects of the Redwall books was Jacques’ lush descriptions of the food:

Every one of Jacques’s books contains a feast prepared by the anthropomorphic woodland creature of Redwall Abbey. The spread alway seems to contain a delectable mix of real and imaginative dishes that leave the mouth watering. Among my personal favorites: Shrimp and Hotroot Soup, Deeper ‘n Ever Tater ‘n’ Turnip ‘n’ Beetroot Pie, Meadow Cream on fruit and pastries, Damson Cordial, and the cellarhog’s famous October Ale.

My favorite characters were the hares of the Hare Border Rangers and the otters*, who are apparently fond of Shrimp & Hotroot Soup, as one should be.

*They are good guys in the Redwall series, which is a bit unusual for an apex predator.

HT: The Brothers Brick

Rosetta Rendezvous, commemorated in LEGOs

by Stefan Schindler (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

“Rosetta – arrival at the comet” by Stefan Schindler (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

After a ten-year odyssey, the ESA Rosetta spacecraft rendezvoused with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in early August. In honor of this momentous series of events, we wanted to share this delightful LEGO model* from Stefan Schindler (Stefan has been featured here before). Continue reading

End of the World 1895: Social Darwinism is Self-Defeating

H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895)

timemachineSaunders1950With H.G. Wells, science fiction left behind the 19th century and fully entered the 20th. During the new wave of future fiction published in the late 1800’s, writers came up with many of plot lines, settings, and themes that characterize modern science fiction, but it wasn’t until H.G. Wells wrote his rock solid classic, The Time Machine, that SF actually became modern. Chronologically, it’s the first book of science fiction that, to me at least, doesn’t feel obsolete.

Why? The Time Machine, after all, has scenes inspired by 19th century culture: seances in late Victorian drawing rooms and class anxieties of turn-of-the-century Britain. Wells’ radical innovation was to do away with restrictions of scientific plausibility — which ironically let him tackle the intersection of science and human society with more depth than any writer before. Jules Verne, whose classics now feel very dated, wasn’t happy with Wells’ technique:

I make use of physics. He fabricates. I go the moon in a cannon-ball discharged from a gun. There is no fabrication here. He goes to Mars [sic] in an airship [sic], which he constructs of a metal that does away with the law of gravitation. That’s all very fine, but show me this metal. Let him produce it.

- quoted in New Maps of Hell, Kingsley Amis, p. 32

In other words, as Kingsley Amis put it, Wells “liberated the medium from dependence on extrapolation and in so doing initiated some of its basic categories.” Extrapolation is obviously still an important element of the genre today, but Wells showed how to do it without chaining one’s imagination to the boundaries of the science of the day. By giving the imagination freer rein in science fiction – by fabricating freely – Wells could better explore the human implications of science. Continue reading