Posted in biology, chemistry, electronic imaging and displays

This Device Sniffs Out Pollution And Turns It Into Digital Art | The Creators Project

A good way of explaining pollution to people is to visualize it:

:vtol:, aka Dmitry Morozov, has previously turned tattoos into experimental instruments and highlighted the beauty of barcodes. Now, with Digioxide, the Russian artist is turning pollution recognition into tangible artwork. The portable device is equipped with sensors that measure air pollution gases and dust particles. It’s connected to a computer via bluetooth and turns information about the concentration of dust and harmful gases such as CO, CO2, HCHO, CH4 and C3H8 into generative graphics, forming an abstract image.

Digioxide has a mobile printer that allows the pollution data to be turned into physical prints of the digitized images—pixilated, colored graphics that offer a “snapshot” of the surrounding air. :vtol: explains that the tool allows users to “freely move around a city, seek out ecologically problematic places, and turn their data into digital artworks.”

more via This Device Sniffs Out Pollution And Turns It Into Digital Art | The Creators Project.

Posted in chemistry, design and architecture, museum

Playing with plastic art for a scientific cause

From The Scientist, discussing an art installation bringing attention the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:

Early last year, Anna Hepler, a Portland, Maine installation artist, filled a gallery with undulating layers of woven plastic. The rich, latticed structure hung from the walls in the shape of a ship’s hull…the structure — so large that visitors of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, where the exhibit was on display, had to crouch to pass underneath it — was more than just a new exhibit from the acclaimed visual artist. It was created entirely with recycled plastics in response to scientists’ exploration of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The garbage patch swirls 1000 miles from the California coast in a convergence of currents known as the North Pacific Gyre. As trash floats towards the gyre, it gets sucked into the calm center of the vortex and accumulates there. Decades of non-biodegradable plastics washed into the ocean from Asia and North America are pulled into the huge eddy, forming a floating landfill about the size of Texas. Other ocean gyres scattered across the globe have similar marine wastelands at their centers.

In the past few years, scientists have traveled to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to study the chemical interactions between marine life and the debris and to test methods of collecting the trash.

Intrigued by the artistic potential of plastic for years, Hepler knew she wanted to experiment with the material, and agreed to do a room-sized installation using plastic for the Rockport, Maine gallery. Her first stop was Home Depot, for sheets of plastic she could rip up. But as she worked on the project she started hearing about the floating landfill in the Pacific Ocean. “It was insane to think about buying virgin sheet plastic and adding to the problem,” she said. “So, I headed to my local salvage yard instead and managed to get more than half of my materials in one run.”

Since creating the structure, named “Gyre” and measuring approximately 45 feet long by 15 feet wide, Hepler has continued to work with recycled plastics. “Plastic’s color and translucency had always fascinated me,” she said. “And once I embark on work with certain materials, I like to see where it takes me.”

Read full article and see images from exhibit (free registration required to read full story).

Posted in chemistry, physics

Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow

Ah, nothing like some snowflake science to get us into the Christmas mood.

Snowflakes grow different crystal patterns based on air temperature, and pollution. Wait, you ask, how is this related to art? Well, looking at these snow crystal patterns always makes me feel better that my paper snowflakes don’t look more “normal.” 

Plus, I just think snowflakes are pretty. The fact that nature creates such beautiful structures just as a matter of physics is pretty awesome!

Wired Science has details on the oddly shaped snowflakes:

Flurries of questions about mysterious triangle-shaped snowflakes may soon subside, thanks to new research on snowflake formation. Most snowflakes are hexagons because of the arrangement of hydrogen bonds in the water molecule. But the new study, appearing online at ( and in an upcoming issue of The Microscope, suggests that after hexagonal flakes, oddball triangular flakes are the most prevalent.

Study coauthors Kenneth Libbrecht and Hannah Arnold of Caltech in Pasadena propose an aeronautical reason for the triangular geometry. The results help solve the very old puzzle of how the unexpected flakes form, Libbrecht says.

Snowflake enthusiasts — such as Libbrecht, who photographs snowflakes — have spotted triangular snowflakes in the wild. The snowflake scientific literature, which goes back almost two centuries, is thick with such sightings, Libbrecht adds, but no one has explained why. “People have noticed them for hundreds of years.”

To address the mystery, the researchers created snowflakes in the laboratory and recorded the shapes. In conditions that simulate natural snowfall, the vast majority of flakes were the standard hexagons, but more of them were triangular than a statistical model had predicted, the team found. Some of these flakes still have six sides but an overall triangular shape, created by three short edges and three long ones. The abundance of triangle-shaped flakes suggests that they may be more common in nature than chance alone would allow.

Tiny impurities, such as dust particles, can cause one edge of the falling snowflake to tilt up as it falls, Libbrecht says. The snowflake sides that are pointed down grow faster as the wind blows by, leading to a stable triangular pattern. Once a triangle shape gets started, the snowflake remains triangular despite any later bumps as it falls, the researchers propose.