Brain Pickings

Ants Are Amazing: Count the Ways, Literally

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We’ve already seen that bees are amazing. Today, we’re looking at why ants are: NPR’s Robert Krulwich and Odd Todd, the same team who explained to us why we can’t walk straight, report on an ingenious new study, in which scientists devised a creative way to prove that ants actually count their steps.

For more on this absolutely incredible civilization, we highly recommend Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions — a fascinating and riveting journey by entomologist Mark Moffett, who’s been rightfully described as “the Indiana Jones of entomology.” From Nigeria’s ant armies to Australia’s silk-spinning ants to Brunei diver ants, Moffett’s enthusiasm for these extraordinary and diverse creatures jumps off the page and pulls you into a remarkable parallel universe of intelligence and creativity.

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Skillshare: Decentralized Education for All

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A lot has been said about changing educational paradigms over the past year, but very little — if anything — has been done. According to our friends at Skillshare, whom you may recall as one of our favorite alternative education outposts for the lifelong learner and who just launched their online community, education isn’t something to pontificate about, write books on, or petition for; rather, it’s something to take into our own hands, a tool of decentralized empowerment rather than a hand-down at the mercy of centralized institutions. That’s precisely the sentiment captured in this beautifully animated video, which Skillshare microfunded on Kickstarter to mark the debut of the site:

Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” ~ Albert Einstein

The new Skillshare site is a portal for practical knowledge-sharing that offers a “marketplace to learn anything from anyone,” using the power of communities and networks to redefine our conception of education.

We believe that people care more about real-world skills than antiquated accreditation systems. Our communities are filled with these people who are great at what they do, whether it’s delivering a fantastic speech at a conference or baking a triple layer chocolate cake. Our vision is to unlock this knowledge and allow people to share their skills with those who want to learn them.”

We’re in. Are you?

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Metrocard Collages: 3 Phenomenal Artists

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What Oprah’s diet has to do with the Mona Lisa, Frida Kahlo and the art of meta.

The art of making whimsy out of the mundane is one of the highest manifestations of creativity. We’ve previously seen incredible artwork created out of paper, cardboard, money, spam, books, office supplies and even toilet paper rolls. Today, we turn to an even more narrow byproduct of mundanity: The iconic New York City Metrocard.

JUAN CARLOS PINTO

For the past 10 years, New-York-based Guatemalan artist Juan Carlos Pinto has been using discarded Metrocards to create vibrant mosaic portraits of cultural icons and local heroes alike. His artwork comments on issues of social justice and environmental conservation with a visual aesthetic that emanates the expressive lushness of the ancient Mayan folklore traditions of his homeland.

Frida Kahlo

Louis Armstrong

Zebra

Bruce Lee

METROCARDOODLES

If mosaic collages use the Metrocard as a pixel on a giant canvas-screen, then Metrocardoodles does the opposite, using the Metrocard itself as the canvas and superimposing on it playful doodles that comment on pop culture. From Obama to Oprah, these quirky creations are anything but high art, but we just can’t stop looking anyway.

Metrocardoodles are the work of illustrator, art director and animator Andrew Thomspon, whom we may or may not have met in a past life in Philly.

NINA BOESCH

Artist Nina Boesch doesn’t simply sample from a New York staple, she comments on New York staples with her work. From the Statue of Liberty to Conan O’Brien to the Metrocard itself, for an exercise in ultimate meta, her stunning Metrocard collages portray the Big Apple’s urban iconography, human and architectural, with a remarkable balance of simplicity and complexity.

And for the mandatory digital customization add-on, Boesch even has a microsite that lets you Metrocard yourself.

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