Science Art: Perspective view of the sky..., from "Refraction by Ice Crystals" in Instructions to Marine Meteorological Observers, 1938.

scientific illustration of the sky, a perspective view of effects from ice crystals for meteological observersClick to embiggen

These are the optical effects you have to be aware of if you’re going to describe the sky when ice-filled cirrus clouds are overhead. Ice crystals refract sunlight differently than water droplets, and you get these curves and halos which a trained meteorologist (of the 1930s) had to be able to record accurately.

It’s from a U.S. Weather Bureau manual for meteorologists that I found in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

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Science Art: Cephalopoda (Figs. 441-443), from The Depths of the Ocean, 1912

Scientific illustration of three kinds of squid, from 1912Click to embiggen

Three kinds of squid-kids (I think; at least one is identified as a juvenile), from the research expedition of the Norwegian steamer Michael Sars, published in 1912. These are listed as being “after Chun,” although exactly who Chun was isn’t described in the excerpt of The Depths of the Ocean I found at The author does say, “It was a special pleasure to me that Chun undertook to describe the Cephalopoda obtained during our Atlantic cruise,” and that Chun apparen…

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Science Art: X-Ray Lab, cartoon from Resonance: Journal of Scientific Education, August 1996.

Scientific illustration - a cartoon of a tranparent human, a visible skeleton, emerging from an X-ray laboratory. Click to embiggen

It’s funny, see? See?

This cartoon appeared in Resonance between an article called “Genetics to Genetic Algorithms: Solution to Optimisation Problems Using Natural Systems” and “Questioning a Dogma: Do Bacteria Know When and How to Mutate?”

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Science Art: Water, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1566

Scientific illustration or, well, painting of Water and marine life as an elemental faceClick to embiggen

I’m not sure if this really is a scientific illustration, but I think, given the time, it counts as natural history. This thing – heads made of… well… non-head things, that was Arcimboldo’s thing. He also made stained glass windows and traditional religious art, but that’s not nearly so well remembered as these illusion paintings. It probably helps that one of them was a portrait of his patron, the Holy Roman Emperor, as the god of the seasons.

But this is the spirit…

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Science Art: favorite image Petrus Plancius Instructing Students in the Science of Navigation, early 17th century

Scientific Illustration of an Early Modern or Late Renaissance class for exploration; how sailors got where they were going. Click to embiggen

The Age of Exploration included at least a little bit of schoolwork. Here are navigation students learning the ways of current and coastline. Their teacher, Petrus Plancius, was a cartographer and Calvinist minister who helped Henry Hudson explore what we now know as New York, helped set up the Dutch East India company, and created some of the first globes not of Earth but of the constellations visible overhead, including some seen only from the Southern Hemisphere.


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Science Art: Map IX: The Constellations of June and July by William Peck.

Scientific Illustration of a star map; the constellations of the summer monthsClick to embiggen
An image of the summer sky (in the Northern Hemisphere) by William Peck, F.R.A.S., from his book, The constellations and how to find them; 13 maps, showing the position of the constellations in the sky during each month of any year….

In 1887, this was a good way to learn about the sky. It hasn’t changed much since then, but we see a lot less because of all the electric streetlights and security lights and lights left on in our windows.

That smoky trail of the Milky Wa…

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SONG: Something in the Air

23 October 2007 grant b 0

SONG: “Something in the Air” [Download] (To download: right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. Hello there. SOURCE: “Lap dancers ‘in heat’ are the ones to […]

Sputnik DIY

22 October 2007 grant b 0

The BBC has published directions for building your own history-making satellite: In simple terms, the Sputnik satellite was a metal sphere almost 2ft (61cm) in […]

The Ares V

20 October 2007 grant b 0

Behold the mighty propaganda of a mighty space agency! NASA’s (computer generated) video of the very big (notional) Ares V rocket, launching a Very Large […]

Maps of Cosmic Bliss.

18 October 2007 grant b 0

You might remember reading, a few years ago, about some controversial claims made by Dr. Michael Persinger, who was researching how repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation […]

Time. And an OTHER time.

16 October 2007 grant b 0

Feeling pressed for time? A New Scientist interview reported by the Telegraph posits that we have more time than you think: Time is no longer […]

Sensitive Spice.

11 October 2007 grant b 0

Like it hot? Sure you do. Nature reveals how hot peppers can make anaesthetics work more potently – and more selectively – by “opening the […]