So here’s a thing to never try at home. Derek Muller from the very fine science video blog Veritasium visits with a team of “phsyics and chemistry demonstrators” who built this ridiculous sound board that demonstrates the effect of sound waves traveling through flammable gas. The first half deals mostly with how it works, around 3:38 it turns into pure music and fire.
La Llareta (up to 3,000 years old; Atacama Desert, Chile)
Spruce Gran Picea #0909 – 11A07 (9,550 years old; Fulufjället, Sweden)
Welwitschia Mirabilis #0707-22411 (2,000 years old; Namib-Naukluft Desert, Namibia)
Antarctic Moss #0212-7B33 (5,500 years old; Elephant Island, Antarctica)
Jōmon Sugi, Japanese Cedar #0704-002 (2,180-7,000 years old; Yakushima, Japan
Underground Forest #0707-10333 (13,000 years old; Pretoria South Africa) DECEASED
Since 2004, Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Rachel Sussman has researched, collaborated with biologists, and braved some of the world’s harshest climates from Antarctica to the Mojave Desert in order to photograph the oldest continuously living organisms on Earth. This includes plants like Pando, the “Trembling Giant,” a colony of aspens in Utah with a massive underground root system estimated to be around 80,000 years old. Or the dense Llareta plants in South America that grow 1.5 centimeters anually and live over 3,000 years. This is the realm of life where time is measured in millennia, and where despite such astonishing longevity, ecosystems are now threatened due to climate change and human encroachment.
Sussman’s photographs have now been gathered together for the first time in The Oldest Living Things in the World, a new book published by the University of Chicago Press. Sitting at the intersection of art, science, and travelogue, the book details her adventures in tracking down each subject and relays the valuable scientific work done by scientists to understand them. It includes 124 photographs, 30 essays, infographics and forewords by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Carl Zimmer.
Momentum is a project by artist Alejandro Guijarro who spent three years traveling to the quantum mechanics departments of Cambridge, Stanford, Berkeley, Oxford and elsewhere to shoot large format photographs of blackboards just after lectures. Completely removed from the context of a classroom or laboratory and displayed in a gallery, the cryptic equations from one of the most formidable branches of physics become abstract patterns of line and color. Via the artist’s statement:
Before he walks into a lecture hall Guijarro has no idea what he will find. He begins by recording the blackboard with the minimum of interference. No detail of the lecture hall is included, the blackboard frame is removed and we are left with a surface charged with abstract equations. At this stage they are documents. However, once removed from their institutional beginnings the meaning evolves. The viewer begins to appreciate the equations for their line and form. Colour comes into play and the waves created by the blackboard eraser suggest a vast landscape or galactic setting. The formulas appear to illustrate the worlds of Quantum Mechanics. What began as a precise lecture, a description of the physicist’s thought process, is transformed into a canvas open to any number of possibilities.
Guijarro graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010 with a MA in fine art and now lives
and works in both London and Madrid. He’ll have work later this year at PhotoEspaña. (via Not Shaking the Grass)
The folks over at Science Friday made this fascinating video about the Leidenfrost Effect, where water dropped on an extremely hot surface is capable of floating instead of immediately evaporating. While studying the bizarre effect, physicists at the University of Bath realized that not only does the water float, but under the right conditions and temperatures it can actually climb upward. The playful experiments lead to the creation of an incredible superheated maze. (via The Awesomer)
We’ve seen all matter of snow and ice photography here on Colossal, as well as time-lapses of melting snow and snowdrawings, but this is the first video individual snowflakes forming I’ve ever come across. Created by filmmaker Vyacheslav Ivanov this microscopic short shows the intimate details of fragile snowflakes as they form in their miraculous hexagonal forms. Robert Gonzalez writing for iO9 gives us an idea of what we’re looking at:
The ice crystal(s) in snowflakes owe their six-fold rotational symmetry to the hydrogen bonds in water molecules. As water freezes, water molecules bound to other water molecules crystallize into a hexagonal structure, where each point on the hexagon is an oxygen atom and each side of the hexagon is a hydrogen bonded to an oxygen. As freezing continues, more water molecules are added to this microscopic six-sided structure, causing it to grow in size into the six-sided macroscopic structure that we recognize as snowflakes.
We have a line into Ivanov to see how he filmed this and will update as soon as we hear something. Music by Aphex Twin.
Photograph of diatoms collected in Russia and arranged on a microscope slide in 1952 by A.L. Brigger.
Photograph of fossil diatoms collected in Pt. Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California, and arranged on a microscope slide in 1968 by A.L. Brigger.
Black and white photograph of fossil radiolaria arranged on a slide by R.F. Behan. The slide label reads “Prize Medal Paris 1867 Polycystina; Springfield, Barbados.” The arrangement is approximately 3 millimeters in diameter.
Photograph of diatoms arranged on a microscope slide by W.M. Grant.
Photograph of diatoms arranged on a microscope slide by W.M. Grant.
Photograph of diatoms arranged in October 1974 on a microscope slide by R.I. Firth. The slide label reads “Selected species from Californian fossil marine localities. To Mrs. G Dallas Hanna with compliments.”
Photograph of Arachnoidiscus diatoms collected in the Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, California and arranged on a microscope slide by R.F. Behan.
In a fascinating blend of art and science the California Academy of Sciences possesses a rare collection of microscopic diatom arrangements. Diatoms are a major group of algae that are among the smallest organisms on Earth, of which nearly 100,000 different species are estimated to exist. While there are numerous examples of diatoms that have been photographed for scientific study, these particular scientists hobbyists seem to have gone a different direction, instead turning these tiny unicellular lifeforms into mandala-like artworks. The tiny designs are all the more amazing when you consider most of them would fit on the head of a nail. You can see more examples right here. Photos by Sara Mansfield. (via Synaptic Stimuli)
Update: The California Academy of Sciences clarifies that these arrangements, despite being produced with scientific tools, are purely aesthetic, and were produced by hobbyists, not scientists.
While we’ve seen examples of objects suspended mid-air using quantum levitation and acoustic levitation, a team of three Japanese engineers from The University of Tokyo and the Nagoya Institute of Technology recently unveiled an ambitious device that uses sound waves to move objects through three dimensional space. The machine uses four arrays of speakers to make soundwaves that intersect at a focal point that can be moved up, down, left, and right using external controls. You would think such machine would be extremely loud, but according to one of the engineers the device uses ultrasonic speakers and is almost completely silent. You can read more about it right here. (via Reddit)
While it’s debatable whether we’ll ever be able to teleport objects or people around the world at the speed of light, the inFORM system from Tangible Media Group at MIT might be the seeds of the next best thing. inFORM facilitates the real-time movement of physical “pixels” on a table surface that move in accordance with data from a Kinect motion sensing input device. The system allows people to remotely manipulate objects from a distance, physically interact with data or temporary objects, and could open the door to a wide variety of gaming, medical, or other interactive scenarios where people might be in remote locations.
One can only imagine the possibilities as the resolution of such a device increases. As mind-blowing as the video is above, the inFORM demonstrated has a relatively low resolution of 30×30 resulting in 900 moving “pixels”. As technology allows, what happens if the resolution doubles or quadruples and 3D content begins to appear exponentially more lifelike.