Brain Pickings

How a Virus Conquers the World, Animated

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Dynamic animated anatomy of going viral.

Viruses are everywhere — in our bodies, in the news, and, thanks to Hollywood, in some of our worst-case apocalyptic scenarios. But how, exactly, do they get around? This short, dynamic motion graphics piece for Take Part’s pandemic and disease prevention campaign, a fine addition to other excellent educational animated visualizations, shows how a virus makes its way from person to person and into a pandemic, and what we can do as individuals to help prevent these massive outbreaks.

Researchers estimate that if everybody washed their hands regularly, a million deaths could be prevented every year.

For more on the fascinating and frightening world domination scheme of viruses, see A Planet of Viruses by Carl Zimmer, whose quirky Science Ink side project you may already know and love, and who happens to be one of the best science journalists around.

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The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves

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Lessons in the art of embracing identity from some of today’s most celebrated authors.

After centuries of politically sanctioned bigotry, LGBT rights are finally achieving human rights status — an achievement not of a particular political regime but of the generations of people who endured violence and social stigma yet spoke up for their rights anyway. But to inhabit one’s self wholeheartedly and stand firmly behind one’s identity with bravery and conviction in the face of insult and injustice is hardly simple and never easy. In The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves (public library), 63 celebrated authors, including David Levithan, Amy Bloom, Brian Selznick, Gregory Maguire, and Lucy Thurber, offer exactly what it says on the tin — honest, heartening, profoundly moving personal missives to their younger selves that are part Dear Me and part It Gets Better, imparting wisdom about what they wish they’d known about their future lives as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

The very things in your life that seem to be depressing and oppressing you right now are going to be the means by which you set yourself free.” ~ James Lecesne

Tom Rielly

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A Girl and Her Room: Portraits of Teenage Girls’ Inner Worlds Through Their Bedroom Interiors

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“I was discovering a person on the cusp on becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she barely outgrew, a person on the edge between two worlds.”

We’ve already seen the striking spectrum of where children sleep around the world and how a child’s bedroom both reflects and reinforces society’s gender norms. In A Girl and Her Room, photographer Rania Matar takes this direction of curiosity a step further and explores the inner lives of teenage girls through the interiors of their bedrooms. From upperclass mansions to displaced person camps to college dorm rooms, and just about every bedroom variety in between, Matar’s tender yet powerful portraits capture the private spaces of these wildly diverse young souls — punk rockers, peace activist, valedictorians, teen moms, refugees, dog-lovers, cat-lovers.

Matar, herself the mother of a teenage daughter, focuses on the two worlds most familiar and formative to her own teenage years and young adulthood — America and the Middle East. She reflects on the project’s process:

I was discovering a person on the cusp on becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she barely outgrew, a person on the edge between two worlds, trying to come to terms with this transitional time in her life and adjust to the person she is turning into. Posters of rock stars, political leaders or top models were displayed above a bed covered with stuffed animals; mirrors were an important part of the room, a reflection of the girls’ image to the world; personal objects, photos, clothes everywhere, chaotic jumbles of pink and black make-up and just stuff, seemed to give a sense of security and warmth to the room like a womb within the outside world.

Andrea, Beirut, Lebanon 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Emma S, Cambridge, MA 2009

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Jess, Jamaica Plain, MA 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Shannon 21, Boston MA, 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Amal, Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Ellice, Jamaica Plain, MA 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Zahra, Beirut, Lebanon 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Dima, Beirut, Lebanon 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Ai, Boston, MA 2009

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Shifa'a, Jerusalem, West Bank 2009

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Georgina, Roxbury, MA 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Tori, Exeter, NH 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Hollie, Harrisville, RI 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Ariel, Winchester, MA 2009

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Sarah 17, Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp Beirut, 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Both visually stunning and culturally captivating, A Girl and Her Room offers a rare vista into one piece of what it means to grow up as a girl and to metamorphose into a woman, with all her obsessions, convictions, and fascinations, prompting us to find the parallels and universals amidst the differences and contrasts.

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Color Harmony: An Animated Explanation of How Color Vision Works circa 1938

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Vintage black-and-white film explains the wonders of color vision.

Human vision is one of the most remarkable capacities of our bodies, its precise mechanism the subject of much fascination, from gorgeous vintage illustrations to cutting-edge modern science to Sesame Street stop-motion. In 1938, The Handy (Jam) Organization — the same folks who brought us an homage to makers and hands-on creativity, an animated explanation of how radio broadcasting works, a visual tour of mid-century design, the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animation, and a primer on ultraviolet light — produced Color Harmony: a fantastic animated explanation of how color vision works, how other animals use their eyes, and how the human eye functions to see colors both separately and in combination.

The irony, of course, is that on the timeline of film innovation, color didn’t permeate Hollywood until the 1950s — mainstream film technology in 1938 was confined to black-and-white, so all the live footage is devoid of color, complemented instead by hand-drawn color animation.

We are able to see mixtures of two-color rays as one color. We don’t need green light in order to see green, and we don’t need orange light to make us see orange. Mixtures of blue and yellow light and yellow and red light will create green and orange for us. To make the eyes see all color, then, only the three primaries — red, yellow, and blue — need be used. From these primaries, a complete color circle can be created. That is why it is possible to reproduce the brilliant colors of nature, faithfully, with just three primary colors in modern color reproducing processes.

Doobybrain

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