A trio of researchers at Stanford recently published an article in Nature that explains the curious attraction found in droplets of everyday food coloring. The paper is the culmination of hundreds of experiments that began in 2009 when Nate Circa was working on an unrelated experiment as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. Circa noticed that when drops of food coloring were placed on a slide they exhibited bizarre behaviors: identical colors would find matches while different colors would seemingly hunt each other.
Circa soon teamed up with Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio who began working on a series of increasingly refined studies to understand why these single droplets appeared to mimic biological processes, resulting in behaviors that looked like chasing, dancing, or avoidance. One of the keys was the interaction of two different compounds found in food coloring: water and propylene glycol. Tom Abate writing for Stanford explains:
The critical fact was that food coloring is a two-component fluid. In such fluids, two different chemical compounds coexist while retaining separate molecular identities. The droplets in this experiment consisted of two molecular compounds found naturally in food coloring: water and propylene glycol. The researchers discovered how the dynamic interactions of these two molecular components enabled inanimate droplets to mimic some of the behaviors of living cells.
This complex behavior is something called artificial chemotaxis which Manu Prakash explains in layman’s terms in the video above:
The physical properties of these fluids give rise to this immense complexity of behavior. For example, chasing and sensing each other, and very much what we call artificial chemotaxis. Chemotaxis is the idea in biology that one single cell can sense where its enemy is, and it brings up all its machinery, and it chases that enemy to try to eat it.
Working with precisely cut 1/8″ pieces of laser-cut mahogany plywood, Oakland-based artist Gabriel Schama creates densely layered wood relief sculptures that twist, intersect, and overlap to create various mandala-like forms. Each piece begins as a vector illustration which is fed into his laser cutter (which he named Elsie), and is then glued and finished by hand. Collected here are a number of recent sculptures produced after a successful Kickstarter project, and he has several new pieces in his shop. If you liked this, also check out these laser-cut works by Eric Standley and Martin Tomsky. (via Hi-Fructose)
The stories of a unique bond between a child and their pet are as timeless as they come, but rarely does the pet have wings. Such is the case with photographer Cameron Bloom whose son Noah happened upon a baby magpie in 2013 when the family was out walking near their home in Newport, Australia. After consulting with a veterinarian, the family learned to raise the orphaned bird, who they affectionately named Penguin.
A year later, the curious bird has deeply integrated with the family. Despite being free to come and go outdoors, she always returns to the Bloom household where Cameron, his wife Sam, and their sons Rueben, Noah, and Oli eagerly await her return. On rare occasions, Penguin even shows off her adopted family to other magpies who have followed her inside the house.
Just yesterday, New York Times bestselling author Bradley Trevor Greiveannounced that he’ll be writing a book about Penguin and the Blooms, accompanied by Cameron’s photography. You can see more on his website. All photos shared here courtesy the photographer. (via Beautiful Decay, ABC)
Artist Rogan Brown (previously) recently completed work on this new cut paper sculpture titled Cut Microbe. Four months in the making, the piece is a continuation of Brown’s exploration of the human biome and was inspired by the form of salmonella and ecoli bacteria (this 44″ sculpture is about half a million times bigger than the real thing). The sculpture will be on view this May as part of a commission by the Eden Project in the UK. You can see more of Rogan’s work on his website.
Merry Coor produces ethereal designs from cremated remains within custom glass beads. Coor crafts each bead by hand, first melting glass into a round bead, then spiraling the design out of ashes on top, and finally sealing the design with an outer layer of clear glass. For each bead she not only requests a 1/2 teaspoon of ashes, but also a picture, letter, or story of the deceased so she can develop a personal connection while forming the piece of jewelry.
Coor has been making glass beads for about 15 years, but it wasn’t until last year that she began incorporating ashes into their designs. After this development Coor explained, “My bead making now gave me a new purpose, and a way to honor others, both living and passed.”