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Photography Science

Synchronized Starling Flocks Undulate in Mesmerizing Patterns Captured by Photographer Xavi Bou

April 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

For starlings, there’s truth to safety in numbers. “In winter, starlings join in flocks of thousands of individuals to try to confuse the hawks that attack them, doing a mesmerizing dance,” said Barcelona-based photographer Xavi Bou, who recently released a video chronicling the birds’ synchronized swooping. In “Murmurations,” a name that refers specifically to the phenomenon, Bou captures the avian movements through a series of gray lines that swell and undulate with each obfuscated turn.

Set to a soothing track by Kristina Dutton, the video is part of the photographer’s larger Ornitographies project, an ongoing endeavor stemming from his childhood walks through nature with his grandfather. Bou previously focused on chronophotography for the series, which combines multiple images of flying birds into a floating pattern that resembles double-helices. “Murmurations” similarly blurs the starlings’ outlines and distinct features to focus instead on their heaving movements.

On his site, Bou has prints available of his composite images, and more of his phenomenological work can be found on Instagram. (via Kottke)

 

 



Design Science

Meltdown Flags Visualize the Climate Crisis’s Toll on Glaciers Worldwide

March 30, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Meltdown Flags

A new digital project called Meltdown Flags envisions the disastrous effects of the ongoing climate crisis. Countries with glaciers see a reduction in the amount of white on their flags, which serves as a visual representation of the shrinking ice masses. Canada’s middle section begins at full width in 1995 before condensing in both 2020 and 2050. The United States’ white stripes similarly are a fraction of their usual height by the middle of the century.

Created by the digital design studio Moby Digg, Meltdown Flags also functions as an online tool replete with statistics about the percentage of glacier retreat from 1995 to 2050, the nation’s population, landmass, and emissions. Information on Argentina, for example, details the consequences of melting glaciers in the Andes. “Although the Perito Moreno glacier has shown an advance in the past years, ice in this region is being lost at some of the highest rates on the planet,” the page says. “And as ice vanishes, heat increases, resulting in long periods of drought, heavy rainfall, and flooding which could affect up to 130,000 people.”

The project outlines the severity of global warming, saying that based on the current projections, glaciers will be gone by 2100 and “with them, 69% of the world’s drinking water.” Meltdown Flags begins its timeline in 1995 when the first United Nations Climate Change Conference occurred. The UN hoped to reach net-zero emissions and keep the global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celcius by 2050.

To follow the global awareness movement, head to Instagram and Twitter.

 

 



Design Science

Get a Meteorite-Speckled Slab of the Moon’s Surface Made with NASA Data

March 28, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © DeskSpace

Most of us will never get to touch the moon’s outer crust, but a new project by DeskSpace lets people pretend they’ve got a little portion of the crater-covered satellite sitting on their desks or hung up on their walls. Designed using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Lunar Surface is a square piece of portland concrete that’s natural bubbles form ridges and dips that mimic the divets caused by meteorites.

The astronomical project commemorates humans’ first steps on the moon. “It was 50 years ago that the first Apollo landing took place. With such an important anniversary, we understand that space enthusiasts need special items for their collections,” DeskSpace said. There are just a few options left for purchase on Kickstarter, but you can stay up to date with future space-themed releases on DeskSpace’s site.

 

 



Science

Watch the Aquatic Animals at Monterey Bay Aquarium via These Free Live Streams

March 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

You may have had to cancel your spring vacation, but you still can (virtually) visit the aquatic animals housed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Peek at the groups of jellyfish and sharks, do some bird watching in the Aviary, follow the African penguins as they waddle around, and catch a glimpse at the pulsing moon jellies all through the institutions’ free live streams. And for close-ups of the species, head to Instagram. (via Laughing Squid)

 

 



Animation Science

Fantastical Video Imagines the Crystalized Intricacies of Mineral Deposits

March 16, 2020

Grace Ebert

In an enchanting new video titled “Waiting to Be Found,” Dan Hoopert dives into the details within Earth’s minerals. The United Kingdom-based designer highlights the sprawling crystallization process as it expands within each deposit and alters its colors. One piece even grows a sparkling mass off its left side.

Hoopert’s project is based on a 2019 article in Earth, which states that the International Mineralogical Association recognizes more than 5,000 distinct minerals, including well-known silicates and carbonates that are frequently found in masses around the world. “Most are documented based on just a few known occurrences. It’s unlikely that scientists will stumble across many new finds of singularly abundant minerals on Earth, but numerous rare minerals are probably yet to be discovered,” the article says. In the last decade, about 1,000 new species were added to the association’s growing list.

The designer brought the project to life using 3D special effects software Houdini and Redshift. For more of his imaginary explorations of natural processes, follow him on Instagram and Behance.

All images © Dan Hoopert

 

 



Photography Science

Amazing Underwater Photographs Capture the World’s Only Known Pink Manta Ray

March 13, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Kristian Laine, shared with permission

Australia-based photographer Kristian Laine recently got a glimpse at a particularly special underwater creature: the world’s only known pink manta ray. Spanning about 11 feet and nicknamed Inspector Clouseau after The Pink Panther, the aquatic animal lives near Lady Elliot Island, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef. “I had no idea there were pink mantas in the world, so I was confused and thought my strobes were broken or doing something weird,” Laine told National Geographic.

Project Manta has been studying the male fish since he was discovered in 2015. After conducting a skin biopsy, the organization concluded that the unusual hue is not due to diet or disease but rather is likely a genetic mutation called erythrism, which causes changes in melanin expressions. Most manta rays are black, white, or a combination of the two.

For more of Laine’s underwater shots, follow him on Instagram or Facebook. You also can purchase one of his photographs of Inspector Clouseau and other ocean fish from his shop. (via My Modern Met)

 

 



History Science

A Hummingbird-Sized Dinosaur Skull Found Preserved in 99-Million-Year-Old Amber

March 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

Protected in a small piece of amber dating back 99 million years, an ancient skull is changing the timeline researchers have for when reptiles transitioned into the descendants of current-day birds. Found in Myanmar, the oculudentavis khaungraae had at least 23 sharp teeth on its upper jaw, which suggests that the dinosaur ate insects, according to an article published in Nature this week. Its eye was canonical with small pupils and resembles those of a modern lizard, while the edge of the socket indicates that it was well-equipped to see in bright light. About the size of a hummingbird’s, the skull totals .6 inches, although this avian species is thought to be 70 million years older. After archaeopteryx, it’s the most ancient bird and the tiniest dinosaur ever discovered. To prevent damage to the bone, researchers used X-rays to construct a 3D model that’s shown below. (via The History Blog)

 

 

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