Posted in astronomy, literature

Astronomers determine time of year an ancient poem was written

This is amazing! There is so much science in art, and art in nature and science.

Sappho Poem translated by Mary Barnard
by ancient Greek poet Sappho

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.

That’s what the scientists did, in their fascinating paper “Seasonal Dating of Sappho’s ‘Midnight Poem’ Revisited”.

Read the analysis via the original article (worth the read!): Astronomers Crack The Secret of This Gorgeous Poem by Sappho

Posted in biology, communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays, literature

This Gorgeous iPad Science Book Will Make You Feel Like A Kid Again | Co.Design | business + design

Science is beautiful and has a child-like element, it’s time books started reflecting that more.

Ebook publisher TinyBop is creating what they call the Explorer’s Library–an encyclopedia set for the iPad generation–in which scientific illustrations become breathing, touchable worlds for you to explore. The company has just received $5 million in series A funding to build out this idea.Their first app explored the human body.

Their second takes us into interactive dioramas of the world’s biomes–2-D environments that were illustrated by Marie Caudry in Ligne claire clear line, a style defined by its simplistic, ink-traced characters devoid of additional texture. You may recognize Clear Line from The Adventures of Tintin or, more recently, The Simpsons. But the app is as defined by its interactivity as its aesthetic. Its scenes appear as mostly still, save for an occasional rustle of leaves or visit from an animal walking into the frame. Like nature itself, the environments are tranquil but alive.

more via 4 | This Gorgeous iPad Science Book Will Make You Feel Like A Kid Again | Co.Design | business + design.

Posted in chemistry, literature

Hobbit’s Gollum Lacked Precioussss Vitamins : Discovery News


A little offbeat, but a great application of science to literature.

Think kindly of the dragon Smaug. Shed a tear for Gollum. And give an orc a hug. If only they had tucked into the occasional quiche and salad or a touch of smoked salmon, or had a few sessions on a sunbed. How much kinder history would have been to them.So suggests an offbeat study, released on Sunday, which concludes that the evil characters in J.R.R. Tolkien\’s \”The Hobbit\” lost their battle against men, elves and dwarves because they suffered from vitamin deficiency.

Shunning sunlight, surviving on a sketchy or unbalanced diet based on rotten meat or (in Gollum’s case) the occasional blind fish, they lacked vitamin D, a key component for healthy bones and muscle strength.

via Hobbit’s Gollum Lacked Precioussss Vitamins : Discovery News.

Posted in communication and networking, design and architecture, electronic imaging and displays, literature, music, physics, Solar and Alternative Energy

The Record-Breaking XOXO Festival Returns to Cross-Pollinate Art and Tech | Underwire |

How did I not know about this event?! And right in my backyard!

Last year, the XOXO festival and conference made waves in the arts and tech world, becoming the highest-funded convention ever on Kickstarter after raising $175,000 and bringing together 400 artists, technologists, and makers in Portland for a four-day celebration of “disruptive creativity.”

The conference returns to Portland this weekend for its sophomore iteration, which will likely determine whether the success of the festival — the brainchild of Andy Baio and Belfast Build conference founder Andy McMillan — is a one-time fluke or a sustainable phenomenon. WIRED sat down with XOXO co-organizer Baio to talk about where XOXO is headed, and what it means for independent creative culture and commerce in the digital age.

The goal of XOXO, says Baio, is to bring together independent artists and the developers building the platforms and systems that can enable them to operate outside of traditional production and distribution models. “First and foremost, XOXO is about independence. It’s about artists and hackers and makers that are using the internet to make a living doing what they love independently without sacrificing creative or financial control.”

XOXO focuses on the intersection of art and tech, and its speakers straddle both worlds: developers and coders who use tech tools to build communities and arts platforms; artists and musicians who self-publish online. Long-term, says Baio, he hopes to see the fest foster cross-field collaborations, and change the shapes those collaborations can take. “You are starting to see a really interesting trend, which is not just coders that are working on stuff for artists, but artists that are then entering into startups.”

more via The Record-Breaking XOXO Festival Returns to Cross-Pollinate Art and Tech | Underwire |

I want details! I have several articles linked below, but I want to hear about it from you! I want write-ups! Reports! Pictures! Did you go? Leave your feedback about your experience in the comments below, please!

Posted in biology, design and architecture, earth sciences, education, literature, museum

art of instruction + contest | DesignSponge

Design*Sponge is featuring a very cool book today that contains illustrations from science textbooks and educational charts over the 19th and 20th century, curated specifically for their aesthetic value.

illustrations of flowers from old science textbooks

Design*Sponge contributor Amy Azzarito writes:

I’m 100% certain that if the education charts in my junior high science class looked like those found in this book, I would have gotten a much better grade. A few years ago, I hunted down a chart of sea plants in Paris found at the most magical of natural history stores, Deyrolle. It is still one of my favorite pieces of art. Katrien Van der Schueren, owner of voila! Gallery in Los Angeles, has been collecting educational charts for over a decade. In this volume, Katrien compiled over 100 of these vintage educational posters for the Art of Instruction. The book’s charts cover subjects ranging from the anatomy of a tulip or apple tree to that of a hedgehog or starfish. The book is just now available for pre-order.

Van de Schueren, the author of the book, is also hosting a giveaway:

To celebrate the book’s launch, Katrien is gifting one lucky reader the chart depicted on the book’s cover! To enter, just leave a comment below describing your favorite poster from childhood; it doesn’t have to be an instructional poster.

check out closeups and more previews of the book via art of instruction + contest | DesignSponge.

Posted in communication and networking, education, literature

Why Does Writing Make Us Smarter?

I always felt like I remembered my notes better when writing other than typing. I wonder if this is related:

A new study that compared the different brain processes used for writing by hand and typing has found that there are cognitive benefits to putting a pen to paper. These findings give support to the continued teaching of penmanship and handwriting in schools.

Children who don’t learn the skill of handwriting, like generations before them had to, may be missing out on an important developmental process. Compared to using two hands to type out letters on a keyboard, writing with one hand uses more complex brain power.

Writing is more complicated because it integrates the following three brain processes:

  • Visual: Seeing what is on the paper in front of you.
  • Motor: Using your fine motor skills to actually put the pen to paper and form the letters to make the words.
  • Cognitive: Remembering the shapes of the letters requires a different type of feedback from the brain.

more via Why Does Writing Make Us Smarter?.

Posted in biology, communication and networking, literature, museum

Carl Djerassi: “What can the theatre do for science: OXYGEN and PHALLACY” | Science Gallery

science gallery speaker carl djerassiScience Fiction is not just cheesy aliens popping up out of burning wreckage or traveling to Mars; it offers us a glimpse into what is possible for humanity, both good and bad. And who better to explore this than a scientist?

Carl Djerassi, emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University, is one of the few American scientists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive–”the Pill”) and the National Medal of Technology (for promoting new approaches to insect control).

For the past 22 years, he has turned to fiction writing, mostly in the genre of “science-in-fiction,” whereby he illustrates, in the guise of realistic fiction, the human side of scientists and the personal conflicts faced by scientists in their quest for scientific knowledge, personal recognition, and financial rewards.

more via Carl Djerassi: “What can the theatre do for science: OXYGEN and PHALLACY” | Science Gallery.

I know I say this often, but if when I make it to Dublin, my first stop will be the Science Gallery.