Very important work coming out of UC Santa Cruz (my alma mater!), and a great example of art and science working together to help save the world, or at least the Western forests (whose existence helps keep the earth cool, so yeah, the world).
UC Santa Cruz music professor David Dunn listening to bark beetles (Images copyright UCSC and David Dunn)
UC Santa Cruz music professor David Dunn has joined forces with two forest scientists from Northern Arizona University to combat an insect infestation that is killing millions of trees throughout the West.
They are applying the results of nearly a decade of acoustic research in an unconventional collaborative effort to stop bark beetles from tunneling through the living tissue of weakened, drought-stressed pine trees.
The trio has now received a patent for a device that uses sound as a targeted sonic weapon to disrupt the feeding, communication, reproduction, and various other essential behaviors of the insects.
“This was such an insightful and creative experience,” said Cowie, who earned a graduate degree in printmaking from UW and has taught at the university since 1999. “I hope that by sharing this story and describing the residency program, we can inspire other collaborations between scientists and artists.”
By her own admission, Nemhauser wanted to host an artist in the lab “for years.” She was motivated in part by a longstanding desire for new and creative ways to move science out of the lab and into the public sphere.
“I feel strongly that scientists, as public servants, must engage with the community in meaningful ways,” said Nemhauser. “And many artists are already operating in the public sphere. Art and design have tremendous influence on how we communicate ideas.”
Nemhauser also feels that scientists could benefit from the perspective that artists bring — especially in creative processes and abstract thought.
I have been tempted to learn how to crochet for years! This might just finally push me over the proverbial edge.
PLUS, there is a medical reason behind the tentacles… so I suppose technically you could make a squid too:
"Research has shown that crocheted tentacles remind little ones of their umbilical cords and being inside their mother’s womb, which in turn helps them feel safe.
"The idea came from Denmark, where research showed that toy octopuses can calm babies, while squeezing their tentacles led to better breathing, more regular heartbeats and higher levels of oxygen in their blood. The babies were also less likely to pull on their monitors and tubes."
This is not a new method, necessarily, but it is very cool to see the technique advance and what it can tell us about style and art 2000+ years ago.
Original Greek and Roman statues, like Augustus, were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away…
Although it seems impossible to think that anything could be left to discover after thousands of years of wind, sun, sand, and art students, finding the long lost patterns on a piece of ancient Greek sculpture can be as easy as shining a lamp on it. A technique called ‘raking light’ has been used to analyze art for a long time. A lamp is positioned carefully enough that the path of the light is almost parallel to the surface of the object. When used on paintings, this makes brushstrokes, grit, and dust obvious. On statues, the effect is more subtle. Brush-strokes are impossible to see, but because different paints wear off at different rates, the stone is raised in some places – protected from erosion by its cap of paint – and lowered in others. Elaborate patterns become visible.
Infrared and X-ray spectroscopy can help researchers understand what the paints are made of, and how they looked all that time ago. Spectroscopy relies on the fact that atoms are picky when it comes to what kind of incoming energy they absorb. Certain materials will only accept certain wavelengths of light. Everything else they reflect. Spectroscopes send out a variety of wavelengths, like scouts into a foreign land. Inevitably, a few of these scouts do not come back. By noting which wavelengths are absorbed, scientists can determine what materials the substance is made of. Infrared helps determine organic compounds. X-rays, because of their higher energy level, don’t stop for anything less than the heavier elements, like rocks and minerals. Together, researchers can determine approximately what color a millennia-old statue was painted.
The author calls the work “tacky”, but I’m not convinced. What are your thoughts?
I love going to museums! I love seeing all kinds of amazing art and artifacts, learning more about an artist or piece of history, and making new discoveries.
Unfortunately, even in the museum-rich city where I live, it can be hard to see all the exhibits that come through, or even get to museums due to transportation or high cost (I’m not saying they’re wrong to charge those rates, I’m just saying if many kids had to pay $20 to look at art vs. $13 for a blockbuster film, I can guess which they’d choose).
Where I grew up the idea of a museum was a stuffy warehouse filled to the brim with items with minimal labeling and no context.
On either end of the spectrum, it can make art and history hard to engage with for many.
Now, Google has an app that is trying to address this divide.
Google has just unveiled a new app that makes it as easy to find the opening times of your local museum as it is to figure out who painted that bright purple Impressionist masterpiece you saw five years ago at the Louvre.
It’s called Google Arts & Culture, and it’s a tool for discovering art “from more than a thousand museums across 70 countries,” Google writes on its blog. More than just an online display of art, though, it encourages viewers to parse the works and gather insight into the visual culture we rarely encounter outside the rarified world of brick-and-mortar museums.
Most teens and young adults have smartphones.
This is a great way to bridge that gap between access points and give everyone the ability to geek out over Claude Monet or Alfred Stieglitz, or actually figure out who those two dudes are.
It’s hard to get passionate or take action on things you can’t see. This is why projects like this or the Crocheted Coral Reef are so crucial to bring awareness to the devastation of our oceans and broader environment.
With the Great Barrier Reef suffering the worst mass bleaching event in history, climate change could kill off the world’s coral reefs for good by the end of the century. When that happens, Courtney Mattison’s coral reef art might be the closest thing to the reefs we have left.
Called Our Changing Seas, Mattison’s series of massive, intricately detailed ceramic sculptures were created by hand to represent coral reefs in the midst of being bleached. Bleaching is what happens to reefs when their sensitive zooxanthellae—a symbiotic algae that gives coral its pigmentation—die, usually due to environmental factors like pollution or temperature. And when the zooxanthellae die, so do the reefs.
To recreate these reefs in ceramic, Mattison pokes thousands of holes into the clay with her fingers to mimic the sponge-like cavities of a coral colony, while sculpting coral’s more tubular polyps with the aid of simple tools like paintbrushes and chopsticks. Each of her sculptures takes between seven and ten months to create in her Denver studio. There, they are sculpted and fired in as many as 100 separate pieces, which combined will make up the finished reefs, weighing 900 to 1,500 pounds each.
This is amazing! There is so much science in art, and art in nature and science.
In her poem…
Sappho talks about the Pleiades, a cluster of extremely bright stars near Taurus. What’s more, Sappho mentions two interesting facts:
she watches the Pleiades go down, sinking beneath the horizon. And …
… this occurs before midnight.
Recently, two scientists got interested in the poem, because they realized these two facts could be used to determine precisely what time of year Sappho wrote the poem.
After all, constellations change their position in the sky as the year progresses. That means in different months they’ll sink beneath the horizon at different times of day. Since we know that Sappho saw the Pleiades go down before midnight, first you have deduce where Sappho was located — geographically — when she wrote the poem (because this will determine what part of the sky she was looking at). Then you check the star charts from that vantage point, and figure out what time of the year the Pleiades would have been visible right until midnight.