Art of Science: Frozen Fractals All Around

A Sierpinski Triangle by Simon Beck

In the wake of snowstorm Jonas, the east coast of the US has been consumed with snow math – counting up the number of inches that fell, the miles of roads plowed, and the days of work lost – but that’s basic arithmetic compared to Simon Beck’s advanced snow mathematics.

A Mandelbrot Set in progress

For more than a decade, Beck has made elaborate designs in snow, mainly in the French Alps, using only snowshoes and a compass. He started out making mandala-like circular shapes, but moved on to much more complex designs over the years. Beck told Discovery News that he started incorporating fractal patterns into his work after reading James Gleick’s book “Chaos: Making a New Science.”

Each image takes him up to 11 hours to make, as he walks 25-30 miles to make a design of about 100 meters square.  Beck says that he started making snow art mainly as a form of exercise, but it has now become his life’s work. You can see much more at his website.

Sierpinski Circle by Simon Beck

Science Caturday: Gas Giant? Sounds liek a doggy planet


Caltech astronomers, including Mike “Pluto Killer” Brown, announced this week that they have strong evidence for a ninth planet in our solar system. “Planet 9” as they call it, is a gas giant 5,000 times bigger than Pluto and billions of miles farther away.

The catch: nobody has actually seen Planet 9 yet. The astronomers reported their research, based on mathematical and computer modeling, in The Astronomical Journal this week. They anticipate its discovery via telescope within five years or less, and they want help.

“We could have stayed quiet and quietly spent the next five years searching the skies ourselves and hoping to find it. But I would rather somebody find it sooner, than me find it later,” Brown told The Associated Press. “I want to see it. I want to see what it looks like. I want to understand where it is, and I think this will help.”

Well OK then! Space kittehs, to your telescopes! There are new planets to be found.



Art of Science: Jantje Visscher’s Kuiper Belt

Jantje Visscher, Kuiper Belt, 2015, Light Sculpture

The Kuiper Belt is a vast region of space filled with “small bodies”, icy remnants of the formation of the Solar System made of compounds like methane, ammonia and water. It is also home to everyone’s favorite dwarf planet, Pluto.

Artist Jantje Visscher made a light sculpture inspired by images of the Kuiper Belt and the idea of microwaves dancing in outer space, created when the Big Bang occurred. The piece is made from drawings etched into silvery Mylar sheets that bounce light from an overhead fixture onto the wall.

Simple, beautiful and dazzling, Kuiper Belt invites viewers to reflect on the existence of celestial bodies almost unfathomably old and distant, now brought closer by both art and technology.

You can see more of Jantje Visscher’s work here.

Science Caturday: Who Run the World? Squirrels!


This week, we learned that one of the top threats to the US power grid is neither terrorists nor hackers but – wait for it – squirrels. According to ossim website, more than 600 successful attacks have been launched on power networks by squirrels since 1987. Squirrels are by far the most active, but birds, raccoons and snakes have also launched over 300 successful “cyberattacks”, while human hackers, foreign and domestic, have managed only to take down a few twitter accounts and magazine websites. It’s pitiful, really.

What does this have to do with cats, you ask? Who do you think is running those crack troops of cybersquirrels? Dogs?


Art of Science: Anatomical Art, in So Many Words


Beat Poetry, Digital Print, Stephen Gaeta

When cardiologist Stephen Gaeta was finishing his PhD on cardiac arrhythmias, he decided to do something more creative than just hang his diploma on the wall.  He used the words of his dissertation as create an image of an anatomical heart, which he signed with a segment of his own ekg. He later redesigned the heart using an 1809 monograph on cardiology and renamed it Beat Poetry. Since then, he has continued to create images from classic scientific texts, including an eyeball, a transgenic mouse and a set of lungs (below). The lungs feature the text of the 1628 treatise Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus (An Anatomical Exercise on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Living Beings) by William Harvey. You can read more about his work and buy prints at Street Anatomy.

Airway, Digital Print, Stephen Gaeta
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