Science Art: Giant Animals: Modern and Extinct (detail), by Mary McLain

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These are prehistoric animals compared to their modern relatives and, for scale, a human. A human who’s interested in what they’re like… except when…

Look out! HELL PIG!

There are plenty more of the majestic giants (and some terrifying ones) at NPR’s Skunk Bear tumblog.

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Science Art: Jupiter's Rings by LORRI, 2007.

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The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter’s ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles).

This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. The faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the “halo,” a cloud of dust …

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SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..”

ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is).

So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a mes…

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Science Art: Doree, Zeus, Faber by Edward Donovan


Three names for one little fish. And those are just the beginning.

I found this one on the Scientific Illustration tumblog, which quoted Wikipedia on the doree (etc.):

John Dory, St Pierre or Peter’s Fish, refers to fish of the genus Zeus, especially Zeus faber, of widespread distribution. It is an edible benthic coastal marine fish with a laterally compressed olive-yellow body which has a large dark spot, and long spines on the dorsal fin. The dark spot is used to flash an ‘evil ey…

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Science Art: Her Majesty's Cochins; Imported in 1843, published 1904.

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These are ostensibly Cochin chickens, or forerunners of what we’d call Cochins today. They’re a breed with a *lot* of character, and are uniquely suited, temperamentally, for being “pet” chickens moreso than egg factories or walking meat supplies. Despite the name (after a part of India), they’re originally from China.

This picture is from The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans, all varieties, their origin; peculiarities of shape and color; egg production; their ma…

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Science Art: Soaking Up the Rays of a Sun-Like Star, by NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, 2015.

452b_artistconcept_beautyshotClick to embiggen

This is an artist’s impression of a planet just discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission that’s gotten the folks at SETI all excited.

It’s the most Earth-like planet yet discovered. Kepler 452b sits in the “Goldilocks” zone around its star, not too hot and not too cold, and is about the same size (or is a little larger) and made of something like the same stuff as the planet we’re sitting around on right now. It takes 365 days to orbit around its sun, too. NASA’s calling it ou…

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SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

24 August 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..” ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is). So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a message here. Something like a sailor, a long way from home, or a balloonist who can’t land. Took a while to record this one – don’t know why. Got out my guitar amp, which I haven’t done in ages. Also took the mic outside to record an old washtub, and a plastic barrel being converted into a rain barrel, and an antique copper pitcher sitting on a copper plate. Nothing […]

SONG: “Kavachi”

24 July 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Kavachi”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Deep-Sea Cameras Reveal a ‘Sharkcano’”, National Geographic Explorers’ Journal, 9 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Live Sharks Discovered Inside A Live Volcano.” ABSTRACT: There’s nothing I didn’t like about the process of writing this. If I was influenced by anyone in the making of this song, I guess it was The Residents, although the basic structure of it was unabashedly ripped off… myself. For about, oh, 15 years or so, I’ve had this vision of Devo doing a cover of a particular Doors song. It’s never going to happen. So I just stole that cover and rewrote it to have words about a sharkcano. Sharks. In a volcano. Filled with acid. Nearly everything you hear here is synthetic, except the main drum beat, which is me beatboxing into a pair of headphones, and the solo, which is a pair of sound […]

SONG: Vulnerable Ape Theory (Going to a Blues Show with the Young Earth Creationists)

29 June 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Vulnerable Ape Theory (Going to a Blues Show with the Young Earth Creationists)”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Vulnerability made us human: how our early ancestors turned disability into advantage”, PhysOrg, 15 June 2015, as used in the post “The Vulnerable Ape theory of human origins.” ABSTRACT: This is the late song. I had the chorus on time, but no verses. Will these do? They have mutations and selection in them. This is a song about tolerating people who are wrong and different, just because the more we do that, the better off our species is. Let selection happen. Maybe someday I’ll get someone with a sweet, fey voice to record this for me… it so wants to be twee. And I’ll actually play a slide guitar in the bridge, where we’re singing about slide guitars. (Because we’re going to a blues show, remember?) The Young Earth Creationists would actually be a pretty good […]

SONG: I Am Sailing

24 May 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “I Am Sailing.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “LightSail”,, retrieved 13 May 2015, as used in the post “A solar sail unfurling. Not sometime in the unspecified future – *next week*.” ABSTRACT: Is this the song I wanted to write? I’m not sure. The lyrics were not the same as where I was aiming, but I stole a first line from a reflective moment, reminiscing about the hell of junior high school, in this podcast. Thank you, Mister Roderick, for a lyric. The idea here was that chemical rockets (and things that are fueled in general) can only get you so far. But a solar sail, while it starts really slowly, will just keep going and going. There’s a Taoist lesson there, or a Sub-Genius one, about the virtues of slack. And sails! In space! That is a beautiful thing, and now it is a real thing, and that is even more beautiful. […]

SONG: “How the Moon Began”

24 April 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “How the Moon Began.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Puzzle of Moon’s origin resolved”, Nature, 8 April 2015, as used in the post “Scientists: The moon was formed when Earth smacked her twin sister.” ABSTRACT: Once again, Allison said this was the story that needed a song, and she was right. At around the same time, I was listening to “Cruel Sister” and thinking about murder ballads, but somehow, this didn’t come out folksy at all. I mean, except that it’s about ancient sisters getting into some kind of deadly fight. And has finger picking in it. I also kind of set out to write a *gushi* again, but that didn’t happen either – it kept wanting to rhyme, and then slant or else kind of extend past the rhyme (what’s the name for when that happens? Cole Porter does it all the time…). The thing that sounds like an accordion, isn’t. It’s a […]

SONG: The Waves Around the Women

24 March 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “The Waves Around the Women.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Scientists have discovered nature’s newest strongest material“, Washington Post, 18 February 2015,as used in the post “Stronger than spider silk”. ABSTRACT: Two things happened that went into this. First, Allison said, “Can we have one about limpet teeth?” I don’t know just how far her tongue was in her cheek about that, but who cares? Limpet teeth are great! They’re as strong as growing things get! The other thing that happened was I threw my hat into the ring for a Game of Bands thing as a lyricist for what was supposed to be an Asian song. I decided to write a lyric for that in the form of an old Chinese poem called a gushi… a set number of syllables per line (seven), five lines per verse, and each verse subtly changing the semantics of a couple of lines… so that things […]

SONG: White coffee and omelets.

24 February 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “White Coffee and Omelets.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Cut Sugary Drinks; Add Coffee, Eggs“, Laboratory Equipment, 20 February 2015,as used in the post “Breakfast is championed (at last)”. ABSTRACT: Yeah, this is a song about high-cholesterol food as deus ex machina. The first thing that came to me was the chorus about General La Salle (while I was doing yard work, naturally). I’d been reading “The Pit and the Pendulum” to my son as a bedtime story (for peaceful sleep, of course) and we were both disconcerted by the ending. And the way nutritional guidelines keep veering off the expected route… similarly disconcerting. The percussion was inspired by a recent (or at least recent to me) Song Exploder on The Books. I couldn’t get my turntable to do the cool analog loopy thing with the runoff groove (the arm always wants to return home), but did get some interesting sounds using PVC […]

SONG: Sleeping

23 January 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Sleeping.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Naps Help Infants Form Memories“, Laboratory Equipment, 14 January 2015, as used in the post “Naps make memories (in infants).” ABSTRACT: I’m so tired. This is so late at night that I’m putting it in the queue. Lots of delay (in both the musical sense and the getting-it-done sense). Tried to get a vocoder to work, but it refused. My life would be so much better if I actually had a room somewhere I could, like, sing in. Rather than whispering in the living room in the middle of the night. Anyway, it’s about babies, about remembering that thing that is always just out of reach of your conscious mind, that feeling of comfort and satisfaction that goes beyond words, that you can really only remember when you’re sleeping. Because sleep makes memories. It made the memories when you were very young, before there were words to […]

SONG: “Particles of Attraction” (penitential AJ Allulli cover)

11 January 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Particles of Attraction” (penitential cover) [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: This is a cover making up for a late song in December. (And I’m still one in the hole – sorry.) This song was written by AJ Allulli, who fortuitously entered it into the Cover Swap project initiated on reddit’s We Are The Music Makers sub-board. ABSTRACT: Yes, so this is both a penitential cover and a cover swap cover. Hopefully, someone will do something interesting to this old Guild song, which I always thought needed something more. AJ Allulli’s original had a great beat and some lovely robotic vocoder stuff, so I decided to go 180 degrees opposite and do a cover that’s 100% acoustic. Well, it’s an electric bass, but I mic’ed the amp. I still can’t really play the erhu, but it doubles well enough for a Camper Van Beethoven-style fiddle. And the vocals did […]

The oldest harmony. (Well, polyphony.)

30 December 2014 // 0 Comments

University of Cambridge researchers have gotten to the root of the chord. (See, that’s a music theory joke.) No, really, they’ve found was seems to be the oldest written music with more than one note playing at the same time: The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music – the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody – ever discovered. Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, it was inked into the space at the end of a manuscript of the Life of Bishop Maternianus of Reims. … The piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John’s College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an […]

SONG: Not Even Dancing Works

27 December 2014 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Not Even Dancing Works.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Zoologger: Dancing in time makes crabs sexual failures“, New Scientist, 4 December 2014, as used in the post “Dancing to the beat makes fiddler crab sexual… failures.” ABSTRACT: Are songs about dancing dumb? I dunno. Hard to resist those plucky little fiddler crabs. I grew up watching them climbing out of their holes in the banks of the Intracoastal and lifting their claws and waving. Hi. Hi. Hi. Here I am. The bridge is based on my memories of their rhythm. The rest of it is a waltz, which is where I go when I go “dance,” for whatever reason. Poor guys. I’m not sure the strings really carry the mood here, but I dunno. Why not the drama? This is, after all, life and death of the species. LYRICS: The moon shines on this beach bar The second Friday every month And the […]

SONG: High Desert

24 November 2014 // 0 Comments

SONG: “High Desert.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “All Dressed Up For Mars And Nowhere To Go“, Medium, 9 November 2014, as used in the post “Red Planet dreams: what it takes to sign up for a one-way mission….” ABSTRACT: This is one of those songs where I had a chord progression and a guitar figure worked out long before I figured out what story they wanted to tell. But then I started thinking of one-way tickets to Mars, and what drives a person to leave everything to go out into the nothing of a whole new frontier, a whole unexplored desert, and a kind of spaghetti Western thing swept me up. Clint Eastwood as space colonist, never comin’ home again. Given more time… I do get tired of saying that or thinking that, but I guess it’s part of the program with these… given more time, I think I’d layer *out* some of […]

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