Science

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Animation Science

A Verdant Botanical Animation Takes a Macro View of Nature’s Cycles

February 4, 2020

Grace Ebert

Spanning from day to night and from sunshine to rain and wind, “Story of Flowers” shows the various stages of botanical growth and the help plants get along the way. The instructional project—which was illustrated by Katie Scott, animated by James Paulley, and directed by Azuma Makoto—depicts the interconnected networks within an ecosystem, like the organisms underground fertilizing the soil or a bumblebee landing atop and pollinating a pistil. Each stage of the germination process is shot with an enlarged view to magnify roots stretching out, sprouts poking through the ground, and flowers opening up to bloom. As rain falls, the petals drop and plants release their seeds, which then are embedded into the soil, beginning the cycle once again. Head to Instagram to check out more work from Scott, Paulley, and Makoto. (via The Kids Should See This)

 

 



History Illustration Science

150,000 Botanical and Animal Illustrations Available for Free Download from Biodiversity Heritage Library

January 31, 2020

Grace Ebert

Billed as the world’s largest open access digital archive dedicated to life on Earth, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is comprised of animal sketches, historical diagrams, botanical studies, and various scientific research collected from hundreds of thousands of journals and libraries around the globe. In an effort to share information and promote collaboration to combat the ongoing climate crisis, the site boasts a collection of more than 55 million pages of literature, some of which dates back to the 15th century. At least 150,000 illustrations are available for free download in high-resolution files.

Among the collections is a digital copy of Joseph Wolf’s The Zoological Sketches, two volumes containing about 100 lithographs depicting wild animals housed in London’s Regent’s Park. Wolf originally sketched and painted the vignettes in the mid-19th century. Other diverse works range from a watercolor project detailing flowers indigenous to the Hawaiian islands, to a guide for do-it-yourself taxidermy replete with illustrated instructions published in 1833.

The library also offers a variety of tools, including search features to find species by taxonomy and another option to monitor online conversations related to books and articles in the archive. Consistently adding collections to the public domain, the organization currently is working on a project to promote awareness of the field notes available from the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the Smithsonian Libraries, and the National Museum of Natural History.

For those who don’t want to dig through pages of archives, head to Flickr and Instagram for a more streamlined visual experience. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

 

 



Science

Striped Eel Catfish Traverse the Ocean Floor as a Strategically Rotating Mass

January 24, 2020

Grace Ebert

For young striped eel catfish, there really is safety in numbers. A recent Instagram post shares a video by Marie-Laure Vergne of about one hundred juvenile fish moving across the bottom of the ocean. The Abyss Dive Center, a scuba diving school located in Amed, Bali, explains in the post that until the fish are fully grown and gain all of their deadly capabilities, they protect themselves by swimming in dense groups. Similar to other catfish, this species has four pairs of barbels on the upper and lower jaws. In their pectoral and first dorsal fins, though, the fish have a highly venomous, and sometimes fatal, spine.

As suggested by The Kids Should See This, the aquatic animals appear to take turns as they move, diving toward the bottom before appearing back at the top only to repeat the cycle. If you focus on one of the fish’s movements, you’ll spot the undulating pattern. The dive center does have a cautionary tip for anyone who encounters the phenomenon: “The young ones can only produce a mild version of the venom, tingling the fingers of the people putting their hands in the school (which we don’t recommend you do! ).”

 

 



Photography Science

Use ‘Roadside Wildflowers at Full Speed’ to Identify Plants Without Leaving Your Car

January 23, 2020

Grace Ebert

Dames rocket. All images © Chris Helzer, shared with permission

What’s a road trip without checking out the scenery? Chris Helzer, aka The Prairie Ecologist, has put together a new guide for those who want to know a little bit more about the wildflowers they see along the roadside but don’t want to leave their moving vehicles.

What about the silent majority who prefer to experience wildflowers the way General Motors intended – by whizzing past them in a fast, comfortable automobile? How are nature-loving-from-a-distance drivers supposed to learn the names and habits of the wildflowers as they speed blissfully past them at 65 (85?) miles per hour?

A Field Guide to Roadside Wildflowers at Full Speed,” which is available for free download, is a satirical take on the classic handbook that describes the plant, says when it’s in bloom, and gives a hint about where to find it. For Helzer’s project, though, each habitat is listed as “roadsides” and similar flowers tend to include descriptions like “anything yellow.” The photographs identifying each species are blurred to “appear as they actually look when you see them from the road.”

A scientist for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska, Helzer began his blog in 2009 intending to serve as a resource for people interested in managing and restoring prairies. He tells Colossal he created this parody as a joke for his regular 4,500 readers who come to his site for his wildflower photos.

If you want to take this guide for a spin, be sure to heed Helzer’s warning: “Always use a designated passenger to look up flowers.” (via This Isn’t Happiness)

Butterfly milkweed

Western wallflower

 

 



Design Science

Tiny Organisms Escape Life Under a Microscope in Oversized Puppets by Judith Hope

January 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

A bacteriophage puppet. All images © Judith Hope

The familiar faces of friendly puppets like Kermit and Elmo are missing from Judith Hope’s enlarged microbe creations that magnify the world’s tiniest organisms. A brown bacteriophage, commonly known as a virus, features six moveable legs powered by a hand-operated device, while a pink tardigrade stands upright and sways side-to-side. Sometimes referred to as a “water bear,” the tardigrade imitates a resilient animal who can survive in extreme conditions and is usually only .02 inches long when fully grown. The models originally were created for the Tatwood Puppets production of Microbodyssey, a visual experience utilizing puppetry and shadow theater to explore life under the microscope. You can watch a trailer for the microbe-based show on Vimeo, and see more of Hope’s handheld crafts on Instagram.

Tardigrade and bacteriophage puppets

A bacteria puppet with removable DNA

Common cold puppet

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A post shared by Judith Hope (@judithhopepuppetmaker) on

 

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A post shared by Judith Hope (@judithhopepuppetmaker) on

 

 



Documentary Science

Fantastic Fungi: A New Film Explores Earth’s Vast Network of Mycelium and Mushrooms

December 17, 2019

Grace Ebert

A new film considers how mycelium and mushrooms have created an often-unseen network, similar to an underground internet, that has connected all living beings for the last 3.5 billion years. Featuring conversations with food journalist Eugenia Bone, mycologist Paul Stamets, and writer Michael Pollan, Fantastic Fungi: The Magic Beneath Us dives into how the diverse underground web creates the soil necessary for plants and trees to root. “It’s amazing what we don’t know about mushrooms. They really are a frontier of knowledge,” Pollan says in the film.

Fantastic Fungi explores seven benefits of the organisms, including those dealing with biodiversity, innovation, food, arts, and mental, physical, and spiritual health. Screenings are scheduled worldwide through February 2020. Follow updates on the film directed by Louie Schwartzberg and the broader fungi movement on Instagram. (Thnx, Laura!)

 

 



Photography Science

Tiny Ice Crystals Simulate a Halo Around the Sun in Photograph by Michael Schneider

December 12, 2019

Grace Ebert

Photo by Michael Schneider, shared with permission

On a November trip to the Arosa mountains in the Swiss Alps, Michael Schneider snapped a photo using his iPhone 11. The Zurich-based photographer and writer says the image he captured as the fog dissipated shows small ice crystals in the clouds, which break up the sunlight. The crystals’ insides reflect the sun, which is then broken again as it leaves the inside chamber, resulting in the halo of light.

Gizmodo’s Mika McKinnon elucidated the phenomenon when a similar shot was taken a few years ago.

Ice halos happen when tiny crystals of ice are suspended in the sky. The crystals can be high up in cirrus clouds, or closer to the ground as diamond dust or ice fog. Like raindrops scatter light into rainbows, the crystals of ice can reflect and refract light, acting as mirrors or prisms depending on the shape of the crystal and the incident angle of the light.

You can find an analysis by Mark McCaughrean of the atmospheric optics at work in the image below. Keep up with Schneider’s travel writing and the frozen landscapes he frequents on his Instagram. (via Kottke)

Photo annotation by Mark McCaughrean

 

 

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