Science

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Science

A Gigantic Circular Ice Patch Formed in a River in Westbrook, Maine

January 16, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

All images via City of Westbrook

Earlier this week a peculiar phenomenon was discovered in a section of the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine. In the chilly winter waters a gigantic disk of ice had formed with a diameter just short of the river’s width. The floating patch was recently captured by the city in an aerial video. In the footage a nearby parking garage seems dwarfed by the mammoth proportions of the circular ice patch. According to Westbrook’s marketing and communications manager Tine Radel, the icy island has been spinning in a counterclockwise direction, and does not appear to be moving up or downstream. You can view an aerial tour of the floating ice patch (set to a pretty dramatic soundtrack) in the video produced by the City of Westbrook below. (via Earther)

   

 

 



Photography Science

A Remarkably Colorful Geminid Meteor Streaks Across the Sky in a Singular Astrophotograph by Dean Rowe

January 2, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Colorado-based photographer Dean Rowe recently captured the spectacular sight of a colorful Rainbow Geminid Meteor streaking across the sky during December’s Geminid meteor shower. The image was shared on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day earlier this month, and includes a helpful explanation from a professional astronomer:

The radiant grit cast off by asteroid 3200 Phaethon blazed a path across Earth’s atmosphere longer than 60 times the angular diameter of the Moon. Colors in meteors usually originate from ionized elements released as the meteor disintegrates, with blue-green typically originating from magnesium, calcium radiating violet, and nickel glowing green. Red, however, typically originates from energized nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Rowe, the photographer who documented this ephemeral moment, shares with Colossal that he has been interested in photography and astronomy since his early teens. He built his own telescope at the age of 13 which included grinding and polishing the mirror lens by hand. After a career in software engineering, Rowe has been investing in photography in retirement, with a focus on the wide world of nature. In addition to night and astrophotography, Rowe also frequently photographs hummingbirds in flight. You can see more of his work on his website, where prints are available for purchase, and his Facebook page.

 

 



Amazing Photography Science

Winter’s Magic: Dramatic Ice Crystals Formed in Ephemeral Spheres

December 31, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

A simple mixture of corn syrup, dish detergent, and water creates magical winter snow globes when blown into bubbles on snow. Frosty shapes dance across the fragile transparent bubbles, starting out as distant stars that expand and almost tesselate to form a continuous surface pattern. The straightforward yet delicate DIY project is dramatically documented by Ontario-based nature photographer Don Komarechka in his short film “Winter’s Magic.” Komarechka’s video features the best clips from over 400 takes that were originally shot for the BBC’s Forces of Nature documentary series. The artist works in macro, landscape, and nature photography. He also teaches workshops, and sells prints of his work, from snowflakes to spiders, on his website. For the curious, Komarechka explains the process and the technical aspects of the project on YouTube. (via The Kid Should See This)

 

 



Science

Half a Century in the Making: Tree ‘Crop Circles’ Emerge in Japan

December 19, 2018

Johnny Waldman

image courtesy FNN

Two peculiar ‘crop circles’ have recently been spotted in Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture. Viewable only from above, they were formed by sugi (Japanese cedar) trees.

Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed to learn that there is a very practical explanation for how these shapes emerged: science. Specifically, it was the result of a scientific experiment that spanned close to 50 years.

According to documentation (PDF) we obtained from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in 1973 an area of land near Nichinan City was designated as “experimental forestry” and one of the experiments was to try and measure the effect of tree spacing on growth. The experiment was carried out by planting trees in 10 degree radial increments forming 10 concentric circles of varying diameters.

Part of what makes the crop circles so alluring are their concave shape, which was an unexpected result of the experiment that would suggest tree density does indeed affect growth. The trees are due to be harvested in about 5 years but officials are now considering preserving the crop circles.

Below is an image from Google Earth, which is unfortunately a bit dark. For those who are interested, here are the exact coordinates. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

image courtesy Google Earth

 

 



Art Design Science

Biochemistry Professor Transforms His Research into Bronze Recreations of Ancient Trilobites and Modern Insects

December 17, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

D. Allan Drummond (previously) is an associate professor of biochemistry, molecular biology, and human genetics at the University of Chicago. A few years ago Drummond began turning his extensive research of fossils and prehistoric sea creatures into detailed computer renderings which he then 3D prints and casts in bronze. Although many of his sculptures are inspired by ancient creatures like the trilobite, which existed for over 270 million years before its extinction 250 years ago, he also creates modern-day insects such as praying mantises and large bug-eyed jumping spiders.

Drummond currently has a solo exhibition titled “Curiosity” at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle through January 6th, 2019. In addition to several large individual sculptures, the show features a grid of wall-mounted trilobites that pay homage to the work of the 19th-century illustrator and naturalist Ernst Haeckel. Visitors are encouraged to remove the bronze pieces to explore the underside in greater detail—a part of the creature which is often eroded in fossils over time. You can see more of Drummond’s metal recreations of animals past and present on Instagram.

 

 



Craft Science

A Scientifically Accurate Hand-Knit Sculpture of the Human Brain by Dr. Karen Norberg

December 5, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

In 2009, Psychiatrist Dr. Karen Norberg from the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts decided to create a fibrous doppelgänger of the human brain. Using different colored yarns she knit together the two-sided organ one and a half times its normal size, with a cerebellum and spinal cord attached at the end. Dr. Norberg told the Telegraph that the piece was a labor of love. For me, there were two humorous aspects,” she explained. “One was simply to undertake such a ridiculously complex, time consuming project for no practical reason. The second was the idea of making a somewhat mysterious and difficult object – a brain – out of a ‘cuddly,’ cheerful, familiar material like cotton yarn.”

Dr. Norberg created the individual parts of the brain, such as the brainstem and amygdala, before sewing the lightly colored pieces together in its final form. A comparison of the textile sculpture alongside scans from a real human brain can be seen in the image below. (via Women’s Art)

 

 



Amazing Design Science

System 001: An Innovative Design to Remove Plastic From the Ocean has Been Deployed off the Coast of California

October 26, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

Founded in 2013 by 18-year-old (at the time) inventor Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit organization that’s working to clean up our oceans by removing plastic. After five years of rigorous design and testing, the Cleanup’s cleaning apparatus, called System 001, has been deployed off the coast of California.

System 001 is a passive collection apparatus that works by moving in tandem with the ocean’s currents, taking advantage of the water’s circular movement patterns, called gyres, that cause the trash to accumulate in the first place. The Ocean Cleanup points out that 92% of the debris in the Patch is still large enough to be collected using the System’s large suspended net, and it’s critical to remove this plastic now before it degrades into microplastics that enter the food chain. Because of the net’s passive, slow-moving design, the group has reported that it has not caused animals to get caught, presumably because they have sufficient time and space to navigate away from the debris-funneling nets.

While the organization has global aspirations and an international team (the founder is Dutch), their first focus is on the massive Pacific Garbage Patch, which floats in the ocean between California and Hawaii. The Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest aquatic aggregation of trash in the world, first recognized thirty years ago. It is estimated to contain about 80,000 metric tons of garbage spanning 5.2 billion square feet (nearly a million square miles). Ocean Cleanup’s boat, the Maersk Launcher, towed the System 1,200 miles from Alameda to begin its work.

You can see a live update of the System’s location and learn more about The Ocean Cleanup on the organization’s website, as well as on Twitter and Instagram.