According to Olso-based photographer and researcher Jon Larsen, the most exotic particles from across the universe are likely hiding in a rain gutter or scattered among debris on rooftops. Larsen, who works in the geosciences department at the University of Oslo, has been at the forefront of micrometeorite discovery since 2009 when “a shiny black dot suddenly appeared on my white veranda table while I was having strawberries for breakfast.”
The event sparked a now decades-long exploration into the field of “cosmic dust particles, the oldest solid matter there is, ‘ash’ from dead stars, etc,” he tells Colossal. “Nothing has traveled farther…The search/hunt for stardust continues in all directions, but I am particularly interested in the unmelted ones, which contain water and complex organic molecules, (the) building blocks of life.”
These findings are what Larsen calls urban micrometeorites or minuscule bits of extraterrestrial matter found in heavily populated areas. Even though 60 tons of the dust fall to Earth every day, scientists previously considered the tiny pieces only discoverable in remote regions devoid of human life “due to an unsurmountable wall of terrestrial contaminants,” the researcher says. “Furthermore, the micrometeorites were thought to have a very short lifespan here on Earth due to the harsh weathering.”
That theory changed after Larsen scoured countless areas across the globe, producing a monumental archive of tens of thousands of particles. These range from the common barred olivine to the rare glass with chromites and volcanic residue. Most are considerably smaller than .05 centimeters.
Larsen’s pioneering research has culminated in a few books, including an identification guide and a forthcoming tome collecting his paintings, photos, and drawings on the subject. It also forms the basis for Project Stardust, a global community of micrometeorite hunters where he shares images of the gleaming, metallic findings in the form of striking macro shots that reveal crystalline details, jagged edges, and the particles’ lustrous surfaces. Simultaneously focused on the discovery and beauty of his findings, Larsen’s practice falls at the intersection of science, photography, and art. He explains:
Stardust looks like nothing else down on Earth, and they are beautiful jewelry from space. That it fell on me to discover these extraterrestrial beauties was rather bizarre because I do not come from academia but the art world… It was these qualifications which enabled me to find the way through the labyrinth and discover what everybody else said was impossible.
The publication of Larsen’s next book will coincide with exhibitions in Oslo and Berlin. You can find more of his work in the recent Werner Herzog documentary about meteors and comets, Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, and explore the vast archive of his findings on his site. (via Kottke)
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In a lovely clash of anatomy and antiquity, artist Kit Paulson (previously) forms impossibly fragile objects entirely from glass. By referencing historical artworks through lace patterns, or traversing the structures of blood veins and bones found in the human body, she externalizes the internal and reveals hidden visceral structures all around us. She pushes the idea further still by creating wearable sculptures like masks and gloves.
Paulson works primarily with slender tubes of borosilicate glass heated with a torch through a method called flameworking. “Even with its sterility and stability, glass must be manipulated by hand, relying on very the physical, muscle memory of the hands which is invisibly powered by blood and bone,” she shares with Colossal.
The artist just arrived at Bild-Werk Frauenau in Germany, an international forum for glass and visual arts where she’ll teach for the next 6 months. You can explore more of her work on Instagram and see dozens of her small glass objects available on Etsy.
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Tainted with Manufactured Objects, Slime Molds and Spores Grow Into Unnaturally Striking Compositions
Moscow-based artist and mold enthusiast Daria Fedorova intervenes in natural decomposition processes, accentuating textures and colors and pushing the boundaries of science and art. The artist, who works as Dasha Plesen, laces petri dishes with various bacterias and other organisms before placing extra elements like fluffy balls, sugars, and sprinkles in the container. These manufactured additions impede the growths to produce myriad shades and structures and cultivate otherworldly compositions of unnaturally saturated colors, patches of fuzz, and flared coils of slime all within in a single vessel.
Forgoing antibiotics or other treatments that would save the fungi and spores from ruin, Plesen’s works take between three and four weeks to materialize. She tells Colossal that the ongoing project began with “the idea of microbiological mapping of our surroundings,” explaining:
We are all swimming in the ocean of tiny spores and organisms, breathing them in, and carrying them on the top of our skin and inside the body. I was interested in this parallel between the physical world we can see and touch and also another physical world, which also presents, but is kind of metaphysical, invisible, somewhere between the air layers, vibrations, energies, nature.
Whether displaying stacked rows of spores or a bubbly rim, the resulting studies are ripe with questions about human imposition, the artificial, cyclical processes, and the inherent beauty of decay. Explore a larger collection of Plesen’s works on Behance and Instagram. (via Trendland)
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Footage from a Blackwater Dive Off the Coast of Italy Frames the Striking Marine Creatures Found in Its Depths
For marine biologists and photographers, a nighttime dive into the ocean offers an austere backdrop for capturing the myriad creatures that live below the surface: entirely devoid of light, black water creates a stark visual contrast to the iridescent, translucent, and tentacled organisms that float in the dark expanses, making rare sightings of cusk eels and or billowing blanket octopuses all the more striking. An expedition by Alexander Semenov (previously) near Ponza Island unveiled an array of marine life off the western coast of Italy, framing their unique forms and movements. The footage is part of an ongoing documentary project for Aquatilis, and you can see more from Semenov on his site.
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Unless they were under a microscope, it would be difficult to see the shimmery barbs of a louse claw or cracks running through a single piece of table salt. The winning entries of the 47th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition unveil these otherwise imperceptible features, showing the unique textures, colors, and shapes in stunning detail. We’ve chosen some of our favorite images below—these include the crystal-like webbing of a slime mold captured by Allison Pollack (previously), the first-prize winning glimpse of an oak leaf by Jason Kirk, and the kaleidoscopic head of a tick revealed by doctors Tong Zhang and Paul Stoodley—and you can find more from this year’s competition on the contest’s site and Instagram.
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In collaboration with master beekeeper Mylee Nordin and swarms of the honey-producing insects, artist Ava Roth develops elaborate encaustic works that literally visualize the interaction between humans and the environment. The Toronto-based artist stitches small collages with leaves, twigs, rose quartz, porcupine quills, and other organic matter before handing control over to her six-legged counterparts, who faithfully build hexagonal cells around the original piece. Once complete, the waxy inter-species works are brimming with texture and color variances that highlight the inherent beauty and unpredictability of nature.
Whereas previous iterations of Roth’s embroideries used stock hoops at the center, she now enlists the help of woodworker Bernoel Dela Vega, who custom-makes inner and outer frames in the same dimensions that are typical in Langstroth hives. “Each piece requires some kind of border that separates my work from the bees’ work,” she says. “This (change) has allowed me to experiment with different sizes and shapes and has helped to make every aspect of my work hand (or bee) crafted.”
Roth tells Colossal that although it’s possible to manipulate the hive conditions to produce a 3D honeycomb or work with artificial elements, she creates self-imposed limits to use only organic materials and engender environments that mimic those bees would gravitate toward naturally. She explains:
I recognize that Langstroth hives are not a natural habitat for bees, but neither are most of the spaces that humans find themselves occupying right now. Ultimately, this project is about exploring the ways in which humans collide with the natural environment today and finding ways to make making something beautiful from this specific time and place. This means working in cities, in manufactured hives, in the midst of enormous environmental and political despair.
Roth will be pulling multiple pieces from her hives in the next few weeks, and you can follow that progress on Instagram. She also has a few works on paper currently available at Wallspace Gallery in Ottawa.
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Editor's Picks: Science
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