Science Art: Ecphora gardnerae, by J.C. McConnell

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A shellfish that was around when megalodons swam and the first crows flew.

It was drawn by J.C. McConnell, a doctor who officially worked as a clerk for the Army Medical Museum, and gained a reputation for his shells, especially prehistoric ones.

If you’re going to be known for anything, I guess, why not that?

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SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

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Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: New invented Machine, for deepning and cleansing Docks, &c., 1775.

22 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen In 1775, Pennsylvania Magazine wanted its readers to be up to date on the very latest in technological advances, including this machine for… well, it seems to be some kind of a caisson for dredging harbors, more than something that “cleanses docks.” Anyway, it’s very impressive, this American ingenuity. From the device’s description: The machine consists of a horse-drawn crane on a boat with a crane and shovel. A man is shown operating the shovel. Includes a detail of the construction of the crane tower. Found in Brown University’s JCB Collection, which is full of early American imagery.

Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering

4 October 2015 // 0 Comments

This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.) They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics playing cards from 1702. The whole engineering deck (and the other one) is viewable in the NY Public Library Digital Collections.

3D barcodes ensure pills (or microchips) are genuine.

14 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Popular Science reveals a new way to check if a little thing really is what it’s labeled as: Researchers from the University of Bradford and Sofmat, an anti-fraud technology company, developed a system to add microscopic indentations to the surface of a product. Tiny pins are set to different heights, each encoding a letter or digit. The pins can either be embedded in the mold a product is made from or stamped on afterwards. The resulting code is almost invisible, and too tiny to feel. But a quick laser scan could prove a product’s origin, which the engineers say could track and verify products to combat fakes. The annual global value of counterfeit goods has been projected to be more than $1.5 trillion by the International Chamber of Commerce. Counterfeit electronics are a problem, and counterfeit medication can be downright dangerous, containing the wrong dose or no active ingredient at all. This is especially an […]

Self-driving trucks – no humans *at all* – on Florida’s roads this year.

28 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Popular Science warns us to slow down by construction sites and watch for self-driving trucks on Florida roads by year’s end: The rigs, which are part of a Department of Transportation pilot program, can navigate by following a pre-programmed lead car, via remote control, or by using GPS Waypoint navigation. Daimler’s self-driving tractor trailers have already been testing in Nevada under a special state-granted autonomous license. But like the Google autonomous cars on the road in California, Daimler’s trucks require a human driver to be on board—the vehicles scheduled to deploy to the Sunshine State don’t. The modified medium-duty Freightliners will be used for highway construction projects, and safety was cited as a key factor in removing from the driver from the equation. Video at the link.

There’s an all-electric big rig out on the road today….

10 July 2015 // 0 Comments explains how BMW put a pollution-free semi to work on the autobahn: The BMW Group began using an all-electric semi-truck to transport vehicle components from the SCHERM group logistics center to the BMW plant in Munich on July 7, making it the first automobile manufacturer in Europe to use a 40-ton, electric-driven truck for everyday hauling on public roads. The truck, built by the Dutch manufacturer Terberg, has a 100 kilometer range on a single charge, which takes three to four hours to complete. That lets it travel for a full work day – eight trips per day – without needing to recharge. BMW said the truck will save 11.8 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere annually, as well as saving money on gas.

Science Art: Fig. XLIII. Hydromylos, sive aquaria mola, 1662.

28 June 2015 // 0 Comments

This is a waterwheel, from a book written by architect and engineer Georg Andreas Boeckler, under the title Theatrum machinarum novum : exhibens opera molaria et aquatica constructum industria Georgi Andrea Böckleri… and so on. (The title page doesn’t have a lot of white space on it.) For the Renaissance, this is pretty high tech – it turns running water into flour! Boeckler built fountains. He had a thing for moving water… and moving things with water. His whole book of wonderful machines is in the New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The sports car that reads your mind.

22 June 2015 // 0 Comments

Auto Guide (and a few other places) have been looking at… well, is the step before a driverless car or the step beyond? Anyway, it’s a thing where Jaguar/Land Rover is using NASA technology to build a car that scans your brainwaves, reading your mental state: The British automaker is developing new technology that will use sensors in the steering wheel to measure your brainwaves, and if that isn’t creepy enough, Jaguar Land Rover believes it can detect whether you’re distracted or falling asleep. “If brain activity indicates a daydream or poor concentration, then the steering wheel or pedals could vibrate to raise the driver’s awareness and re-engage them with driving,” said the company’s research and technology director Dr Wolfgang Epple. In order to develop the technology, Jaguar Land Rover is actually researching a method that is used by NASA to develop a pilot’s concentration skills. … In addition to the steering wheel sensors, the […]

Science Art: Las Cascadas Slide (Section 6) from AB Nichols Notebook Vol. 38, 1910

19 April 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen This is a handmade map from the construction of the Panama Canal, one of history’s greatest feats of engineering. Culebra Cut is where the project experienced massive landslides (is it fair to say some of them are still going on today? I think it is… it is). So the folks in charge of the dig, the Isthmian Canal Commission, got geologists down there to study how to move all that dirt out of the way without burying any workers and steam shovels and train cars. This is one section of the dirt-profile from AB Nichols’ notebooks. It’s labeled “Isthmian Canal Commission. Partial Geological Profile along axis of Canal in Culebra Cut, by A.B. Nichols and A. Raggi. 1910.” I found it in the Linda Hall Library Digital Collection.

Science Art: Plate XII. An engine of great service to bore elms or other trees to make pipes to conveigh water, and for other uses, 1701

29 March 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen An illustration from New and rare inventions of water-works; shewing the easiest ways to raise water higher than the spring. By which invention, the perpetual motion is proposed, many hard labours performed, and varieties of motions and sounds produced … by Isaac de Caus, found in The New York Public Library Digital Collection.

Here’s a hydrogen-fueled train.

25 March 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Alert reports on a new train in China – not a design, an actual vehicle – that runs on hydrogen and leaves water for exhaust: Manufactured by the Sifang Company, which is a subsidiary of the China South Rail Corporation, in conjunction with several research institutions around the country, it gets enough power from one tank of hydrogen to travel 100 kilometres at a top speed of 70 km/h, and can transport at least 380 passengers at a time. The vehicle, which has been in development for the past two years, has reportedly just rolled off the production line in coastal city of Qingdao last week, so it’s expected to be hitting the streets very soon. What’s so awesome about it is its only emission is water – the temperature inside the fuel cell will be controlled to stop any nitrogen oxides from forming – so it’s doing zero damage to the environment, and […]

Driverless cars in less than a decade

4 February 2015 // 0 Comments

That’s what Nature is expecting to see, in its overview of the world of autonomous vehicles: This summer, people will cruise through the streets of Greenwich, UK, in electric shuttles with no one’s hands on the steering wheel — or any steering wheel at all. The £8-million (US$12-million) project, part of a larger study of driverless cars funded by the UK government, is just one of many efforts that seek to revolutionize transportation. Spurred in part by a desire to end the carnage from road accidents — about 90% of which are caused by driver error — the race is on to transfer control from people to computers that never doze at the wheel, get distracted by text messages or down too many pints at the pub. … A tougher problem, says Thrun, is teaching the car how to respond to what he calls “the long tail of unlikely events”. Early on, he says, the […]

New materials are really cool. Like, make-your-own-unplugged-AC cool.

5 December 2014 // 0 Comments

The Economist is following Stanford researchers who are (literally) making some really cool stuff: Fully 15% of the electricity used by buildings in the United States is devoted to [air conditioning]. If an idea dreamed up by Aaswath Raman of Stanford University and his colleagues comes to fruition, that may change. Dr Raman has invented a way to encourage buildings to dump their heat without the need for pumps and compressors. Instead, they simply radiate it into outer space. … To encourage one part of Earth’s surface (such as an individual building) to cool down, all you need do in principle is reflect the sunlight which falls on it back into space, while also encouraging as much radiative cooling from it as possible. To try to turn principle into practice Dr Raman has made a material which reflects 97% of sunlight while itself radiating at a wavelength of between eight and 13 microns (or millionths […]

Bullet-proof fabric and cheap hydrogen fuel… and it comes from carbon.

3 December 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature celebrates more wonders – potential ones, from flexible armor to affordable fuel cells – that we can make from graphene: Protons’ ability to travel through graphene suggests that the material could be used as a membrane to sieve hydrogen from air, and to help extract energy from that hydrogen in a fuel cell, says co-author Andre Geim, a materials scientist at the University of Manchester, UK, who won a Nobel prize in 2010 for his pioneering experiments on graphene. Fuel cells convert the chemical energy stored in hydrogen (or other fuels) into electricity by breaking it apart into protons and electrons: the electrons race around an outside wire to create a current, with the protons flowing through a membrane within the cell. (Electrons and protons recombine at an electrode to react with oxygen.) Today’s membranes, such as a commercial polymer called Nafion, are tens of micrometres thick but do not entirely prevent hydrogen fuel […]

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