Radioactivity Art

Greenpeace photographer Greg McNevin has created a beautiful series of photographs based on walking around areas formerly contaminated by the ongoing Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters with an LED stick connected to a geiger counter. It’s unfortunate that most people won’t be able to see the art past the politics, but I think it has value in both spheres.

SpaceX lands at sea

A little late with the news, but anyway the SpaceX’s Falcon-9 has successfully landed on the drone barge “Of Course I Still Love You”. The landing deck is 170 by 300 feet long, and the Falcon’s legs stand 60 feet apart. As you can see by the whitecaps, the sea was very rough with high altitude crosswinds of 50 mph and low altitude winds of 25 mph.

For true space geeks, the beautifully produced full 18 minute video:


Mercifully, the whole thing is starting to fade, to become an episode. When I do still catch the odd glimpse, it’s peripheral; mere fragments of mad-doctor chrome, confining themselves to the corner of the eye. There was that flying-wing liner over San Francisco last week, but it was almost translucent. And the shark-fin roadsters have gotten scarcer, and freeways discreetly avoid unfolding themselves into the gleaming eighty-lane monsters I was forced to drive last month in my rented Toyota. — William Gibson, The Gernsback Continuum

The photoessay This Used to Be the Future reminded me of a childhood spent reading yellowed 1940s science fiction.

1958 General Motors Firebird III

Dillon Marsh: For what it’s worth

These images combine photography and computer generated elements in an effort to visualise the output of a mine. The CGI objects represent a scale model of the materials removed from each mine, a solid mass occupying a scene showing the ground from which it was extracted. By doing so, the intention is to create a kind of visualisation of the merits and shortfalls of mining in South Africa, an industry that has shaped the history and economy of the country so radically.

new discovery in science of blowing up stuff

Alkali metals can react explosively with ​water and it is textbook knowledge that this vigorous behaviour results from heat release, steam formation and ignition of the ​hydrogen gas that is produced. Here we suggest that the initial process enabling the alkali metal explosion in ​water is, however, of a completely different nature. High-speed camera imaging of liquid drops of a ​sodium/potassium alloy in ​water reveals submillisecond formation of metal spikes that protrude from the surface of the drop. Molecular dynamics simulations demonstrate that on immersion in ​water there is an almost immediate release of electrons from the metal surface. The system thus quickly reaches the Rayleigh instability limit, which leads to a ‘coulomb explosion’ of the alkali metal drop. Consequently, a new metal surface in contact with ​water is formed, which explains why the reaction does not become self-quenched by its products, but can rather lead to explosive behaviour.

water droplet included for comparison

lego bug racks

Technically tuned to torturing transfixed termites.

Bug rack in use

“We believe the insect specimen manipulators presented here are a valuable addition to any entomologist’s toolbox and that the use of any insect manipulator is in the interest of anyone dealing with valuable specimens as the actual handling of the specimen is reduced to a minimum during examination.”

Great blog posts on color perception

I was taught in school that when light of a certain frequency strikes your eyeball, you see it as a specific color. This is almost completely untrue.

Jason Cohen talks about the inadequacy of the color wheel.

Jason doesn’t mention it, but the part of your brain responsible for color vision is about the size of a lima bean. (You know these things if you read Oliver Sachs.)

Robert Kosara talks about how the practice of assigning R-O-Y-G-B-I-V values to map data misleads viewers.

Color is a cognitive effect, a subjective phenomenon of the mind, that is influenced by culture and language as well as by gross physical circumstances like lighting and surroundings. The influence goes both ways – not only is our vision mediated by our state of mind, but also vice-versa.

Google Street Art Project

The Street Art Project showcases some of the beautiful ephemeral art that’s been appearing on the walls and public transportation of the world’s cities.
Image courtesy of
Note some of the most vibrantly beautiful works are found in the most impoverished slums, where it is frequently criticized as glorifying criminals and their activities, but artistically void “tagging” goes on nearly everywhere, rich and poor neighborhoods alike.

The stuff at Five Points in NYC, and just generally the area of Queens near the corner of Crane and Jackson is amazing. People poured their hearts into it.