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


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 pla…

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Science Art: Red White Blood Cells, by NCI-Frederick.


The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.

Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”

ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.

Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…

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SONG: One (is the Loneliest Number) (penitential cover)

SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”.

ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)

SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.

ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …

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Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.

That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?

This far away. …

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Science Art: Aequorea Forbesiana by Philip Henry Gosse.

Click to embiggen

This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.

He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.

A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …

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Science Art: Fig 114 – July normal sea-level pressure, Southern Hemisphere.

14 December 2014 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen Making the invisible visible – the air over the South Pole, Australia, Tierra del Fuego, Cape Town and beyond. From General Meteorology (Published Formerly Under The Title Synoptic and Aeronautical Meteorology), 1944, by Horace Robert Byers, Sc.D. The first printing seems to have been in 1937, and the maps have a marvelous Deco feel to them. Expressive in their functionality. Organic curves, laid across grids.

Moving rocks caught on camera.

29 August 2014 // 0 Comments

You might have heard, like many Discovery News readers, of the weird moving rocks of Death Valley – the ones with the long, curving trails behind them. No one’s ever seen how these huge boulders skate across the desert until now: The first witnesses to an enduring natural mystery are an engineer, a biologist and a planetary scientist who met thanks to a remote weather station. … Now, with video, time-lapse photographs and GPS tracking of Racetrack Playa’s moving rocks, the mystery has finally been solved. … agged plates of thin ice, resembling panels of broken glass, bulldoze the rocks across the flooded playa, the scientists reveal today (Aug. 27) in the journal PLOS One. Driven by gentle winds, the rocks seem to hydroplane atop the fluffy, wet mud. “It’s a wonderful Goldilocks phenomenon,” said lead study author Richard Norris. “Ponds like this are vanishingly rare in Death Valley, and it may be a decade […]

The walled city of New York… after the oceans rise.

6 May 2014 // 0 Comments

Scientific American paints a peculiar picture of the Big Apple’s future, with the hustle and bustle taking place behind a series of levees, walls and other barriers to keep the ocean out: “The city is on a good path … but it needs to be studying the barriers,” said Jeroen Aerts, a professor of risk management at the Institute for Environmental Studies in Amsterdam and lead author of the analysis, which also included researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. “Risks increase very rapidly due to climate change.” The analysis of future flood options for New York City does not capture all the psychological factors at play, such as concerns about huge floodgates being an eyesore or political factors, but aims to do a straight cost-benefit analysis of which measures can control flooding at an acceptable cost. … Assuming a “middle climate change” scenario of about a foot […]

Anti-lightning lasers zap storms.

2 April 2014 // 0 Comments

Laboratory Equipment wards off bad weather with a new finding… that lasers can be used to divert lightning strikes: Currently, high-intensity lasers, produced with modern technology essentially disappear over distances greater than a few inches or several feet at best when focused tightly, due to diffraction – the same effect that makes a stick seem to “bend” when dipped into water. This makes them too short-ranged for applications such as diverting lightning. The breakthrough lies in embedding the primary, high-intensity laser beam inside a second beam of lower intensity. As the primary beam travels through the air, the second beam – called dress beam – refuels it with energy and sustains the primary beam over much greater distances than were previously achievable. The researchers’ results were published in Nature Photonics. “Think of two airplanes flying together, a small fighter jet accompanied by a large tanker,” says Maik Scheller, an assistant research professor in the […]

Our air pollution *weakens* hurricanes (but makes them wetter).

11 March 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily says “aerosols produced by human activities” – that is, soot and exhaust fumes and all that great air pollution – definitely has an effect on the weather. It’s just not the one you might expect: Renyi Zhang, University Distinguished Professor in Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M, and colleagues Yuan Wang, Keun-Hee Lee, Yun Lin and Misty Levy … found that aerosols tend to weaken the development of hurricanes (tropical storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean) or typhoons (those formed in the Pacific). They also found that aerosols tend to cause a hurricane to fall apart earlier and wind speeds are lower than storms where anthropogenic aerosols are not present. On average, there are about 90 hurricanes or cyclones that form each year around the world, meaning their findings could be crucial in how we evaluate and prepare for destructive tropical storms. “The results are surprising,” Zhang says, “because other studies have leaned […]

Sooty, with a chance of diamonds.

16 October 2013 // 1 Comment

Pennies from Heaven? P’shaw! Nature looks over the vastly overvalued weather report on Saturn and Jupiter: …Mona Delitsky of California Specialty Engineering in Flintridge, and Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, now say it is possible. They are laying out their argument this week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Denver, Colorado. In their scenario, lightning zaps molecules of methane in the upper atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter, liberating carbon atoms. These atoms then stick onto each other, forming larger particles of carbon soot, which the Cassini spacecraft may have spotted in dark storm clouds on Saturn. As the soot particles slowly float down through ever-denser layers of gaseous and liquid hydrogen towards the planets’ rocky cores, they experience ever greater pressures and temperatures. The soot is compressed into graphite, and then into solid diamonds before reaching a temperature of about 8,000 °C, when the diamond melts, […]

SONG: Cloudbusting (by Kate Bush) (a penitential cover)

5 November 2012 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Cloudbusting” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: This is a penitential cover. I was late with the last song. This is a song about Wilhelm Reich’s tragic life (through the eyes of his son), written by Kate Bush, although I kinda favor Gemma Hayes’ version. ABSTRACT: I was never that big of a Kate Bush fan at the time all of my friends were listening to her. But man, she’s composed some great grist for great covers. I guess it takes repeated exposure for this virus to take hold. What’s strange, maybe, is that at the time all of my friends were listening to Kate Bush, I was reading plays about Wilhelm Reich, the disciple of Freud who this song is about. Now, some folks might say this isn’t so much a song about science as about pseudoscience. Reich, they might say, was a charlatan or a loon. I’m […]

SONG: Particle

23 September 2012 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Particle.” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant (with apologies to Antonio Vivaldi). SOURCE: Based on “How Fungi Create the Amazon’s Clouds”, Time, 5 September 2012, as used in the post “Mushrooms that make the weather.” ABSTRACT: Unlike the last few songs, this one has nothing to do with a SongFu prompt; we’d kind of fallen out of synch with our respective due dates, and by the time this month’s prompt rolled around (about television crushes), I’d already started working on a song about the fungus particles that make it rain. I may whip out a TV-crush song yet for October. This one, though, was almost done to a much simpler chord progression – something like Am/G/F/F – but I’ve long been obsessed with the Bobby McFerrin/Yo-Yo Ma version of Vivaldi’s “Concerto for Two Mandolins” (Because the “Don’t Worry” guy! Being beautiful!) and figured if “Whiter Shade of Pale” could rip […]

The mushrooms that make the weather.

14 September 2012 // 1 Comment

Time travels to the Amazon to reveal the fungi that creates the clouds: The clouds in the Amazon, just like everywhere else, consist of water vapor clinging to tiny clumps of carbon compounds. In forested areas, the carbon compounds are byproducts of plants’ metabolism; in populated areas, they are often from human pollution. Most of the time, atmospheric chemists can see the carbon clumping taking place; when the microscopic bits reach a certain size, they are able to attract and hold water. In the Amazon, the clumps seem to appear out of nowhere, nearly fully formed. … Max Planck graduate student Christopher Pohlker traveled to a pristine stretch of forest in Brazil to see if he could solve the riddle…. To figure out the chemical make-up of those particles, he and his colleagues brought the squares to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and placed them in the facility’s synchrotron, where X-rays of varying energies […]

Earthquake warnings from above.

19 May 2011 // 0 Comments

MIT’s Technology Review takes an interesting look at some atmospheric findings – hot flashes in the air, basically – that could help predict earthquakes: Dimitar Ouzounov at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland and a few buddies present the data from the Great Tohoku earthquake which devastated Japan on 11 March. Their results, although preliminary, are eye-opening. They say that before the M9 earthquake, the total electron content of the ionosphere increased dramatically over the epicentre, reaching a maximum three days before the quake struck. At the same time, satellite observations showed a big increase in infrared emissions from above the epicentre, which peaked in the hours before the quake. In other words, the atmosphere was heating up. These kinds of observations are consistent with an idea called the Lithosphere-Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling mechanism. The thinking is that in the days before an earthquake, the great stresses in a fault as it is about to […]

Desert feeds jungle.

11 August 2010 // 0 Comments

Nature reveals a hidden connection between Sahara dust and the Amazon rainforest: Significant amounts of plant nutrients have been found in atmospheric mineral dust blowing from a vast central African basin to the Amazon, where it could compensate for poor rainforest soils. The basin, known as the Bodélé depression, is the site of a once-massive lake in Chad. Bodélé is thought to be the dustiest place on Earth. … Charlie Bristow, a sedimentologist at Birkbeck, University of London, and lead author of the study, says, “A hypothesis we are investigating at the moment is that because it’s coming from the lakebed, this iron is going to be more bioavailable than if it were coming from the deeply weathered surface of the Sahara.” “The Amazon is essentially a leached or leaching system,” says Bristow. Nutrients in the soil are washed away by rains. “So although it is very productive, it is actually quite nutrient-poor.” So nutrient […]

Science Art: Von Karman Vortices

25 October 2009 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen vastly Landsat 7 gave us this memorable look at clouds moving rapidly over the Aleutian Islands. These whorls happen, as any canoeist knows, when a fluid moves around an object. Hypnotic, even when the moment is frozen in time. Found at the USGS Earth Resources and Observation Science (EROS) “Earth As Art 2” gallery.

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