Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘science’

12 NOVEMBER, 2009

Carl Sagan + Sigur Rós

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What Icelandic post-rock has to do with astroscience and the gaping sores of law.

We’re big fans of “remix culture” — the mashing up of existing pieces of content (music, film, text, image) into an entirely original creative product. A couple of months ago, A Glorious Dawn — the Carl Sagan / Stephen Hawking remix — made major viral waves, and on Monday it was even released as a single on White Stripes frontman Jack White’s label.

But this actually isn’t the first remix tribute to the great scientist. This week, we saw the resurfacing of another fantastic mash-up, made in 2008 — a remix of Carl Sagan reading from his iconic book Pale Blue Dot to music by Icelandic post-rock outfit Sigur Rós, easily one of the most innovative bands of the past decade.

And while this is clearly a lovely tribute to two great innovators in science and art, the irony is that it’s illegal under current intellectual property legislature — yet another illustration of how dated and ill-equipped copyright law is to support, rather than hinder, modern creative culture.

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02 NOVEMBER, 2009

Esoteric Creativity: Michael Paukner’s Visualizations

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What 100 monkeys have to do with Atlantis, Indian yoga and Stonehenge.

One of the reasons we love data visualization and the infographic arts so much is that at their best, they can bring a level of intuitive understanding to overwhelmingly esoteric subjects. Which is why we’re head-over-heels with Austrian visualization artist Michael Paukner, who tackles the obscure and the enigmatic with creative quirk and a unique graphic style.

The Hundredth Monkey Effect: Theory, which posits that a learned behavior or idea spreads instantaneously within a group, in an almost paranormal fashion, once a critical number is reached. Click image for details.

His work is a kind of modern artistic alchemy, exploring both real phenomena and the eeriest corners of quasi-science, those fringe worldviews that have always coexisted with and challenged the dominant scientific dogmas of the time.

The Celtic Zodiac: 13-month lunar calendar dating back to around 1000 B.C., devised by Celtic priests known as Druids and constituting the ancient origins of Halloween. Click image for details.

Kundalini: Sanskrit word meaning either 'coiled up' or 'coiling like a snake.' The Kundalini movement in Indian yoga deals with 'corporeal energy' that circulates in and around the human body in an artificial electromagnetic flow. Click image for details.

Stonehenge Rebuilt: Click image for details.

Metatron's Cube: Pattern believed to have sacred geometry with religious value depicting the fundamental principles of space and time. Click image for details.

Capital City of Atlantis: Reconstruction of the mythical city based on a German plan Michael found on an obscure website. Click image for details.

See more of Michael’s work in his relentlessly fantastic Flickr stream.

via Coudal

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0375869832/ref=as_li_ss_til?tag=braipick-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0375869832&adid=02YXM5MD2VFTBCC5WMM6&Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

30 OCTOBER, 2009

Retro Revival: Man as Industrial Palace

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Vintage German artwork on digital steroids, or why you house a factory.

In 1926, German writer and artist Fritz Kahn came up with his famous Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace) analogy. Kahn’s illustrations compartmentalized the body’s functions in great detail, brilliantly depicting human physiology through analogies with an industrial factory. His work was a visual commentary on industrial modernity and an intersection of two timeless fascinations — with machines and with the human body.

In 2006, German visual communication and animation student Henning Lederer discovered Kahn’s poster and decided to resurrect this complex and unusual way of explaining the body, growing on the original work and translating it into motion graphics. He made himself a cabinet with a mix of analog and digital objects and technologies, and set to creating Industriepalast — an interactive application based on the poster.

Lederer explores human physiology in six cycles — five representing the five main biological systems, and one melding them together into the complex human factory Kahn had envisioned.

For thousands of years, human beings have used metaphors as ways of understanding the body. We talk about our ‘ear drums’, or our ‘mind’s eye’. When we are in love we say our hearts are ‘bursting’ or ‘broken’ […] These familiar images help to explain the unfamiliar and to comprehend the complexity of our bodies.

This is the wonderfully animated preview for the project:

We find this project a particularly timely reminder of our growing inability to reconcile our incessant lust for technology with a dwindling appreciation of the purely human. In an era where incredible robots in our image draw oohs and ahhs from all sides, it’s easy to forget the complex, intricate and utterly awe-inspiring machinery that is the human body. Let’s not.

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21 OCTOBER, 2009

Art, Science, Food: Kevin Van Aelst

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The sweet side of the Periodic Table, or what kitty litter has to do with your DNA.

Jackson Pollock’s near-fractal paintings notwithstanding, science and art have always had a tortured Cold War of a relationship. But photographer Kevin Van Aelst is on a mission to change this — his series of food photography presents scientific and mathematical concepts through creative images of donuts, crackers, gummy bears and other such wildly unscientific snackables.

Cantor Set

Chromosomes

The images aim to examine the distance between the ‘big picture’ and the ‘little things’ in life — the banalities of our daily lives, and the sublime notions of identity and existence.

Cellular Mitosis

The Golden Mean

We’re also quite taken with his fingerprint series — a visceral reminder of how the physical environments we construct reflect the intimate realities of our personas.

Right Index Finger

Right Middle Finger

While the depictions of information — such as an EKG, fingerprint, map or anatomical model — are unconventional, the truth and accuracy to the illustrations are just as valid as more traditional depictions. This work is about creating order where we expect to find randomness, and also hints that the minutiae all around us is capable of communicating much larger ideas.

Left Pinky Finger

Right Ring Finger

via SEED Magazine

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21 SEPTEMBER, 2009

Art Meets Science: They Might Be Giants’ Creative Education

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What paleontology has to do with stop-motion animation and kindergartners.

They Might Be Giants are among the most iconic and revolutionary alt-rock bands of our time. They’ve founded one of the first artist-owned online music stores, stunned critics with an unorthodox children’s project, performed at TED, and consistently challenged the conventions of the music industry. Oh, and they’ve won a few Grammys along the way.

This month, TMBG have released the latest installment in their critically acclaimed Here Comes children’s series. The Here Comes Science 2-disc CD/DVD album is a bundle of creativity and entertainment, tied with a ribbon of education. Although aimed at the K-5 set, the playful lyrics and brilliantly animated videos are an absolute treat for musicologists and design junkies alike — we can attest.

From the charming illustration in this Amazon-exclusive video, to the wonderful paper-cutout stop-motion animation in Electric Car, to the infographic ode to the periodic table in Meet The Elements, the album is a testament to the transformational power of a fresh approach to a stale subject.

What makes us particularly enamored with this project is that it addresses of the sore need for creativity in education, the lack of which is often a dealbreaker in kids’ engagement in the learning process. As Sir Ken Robinson so bluntly yet fairly pointed out in his TED talk, today’s schools may well be killing creativity.

Check out Here Comes Science for 19 unexpected takes on paleontology, evolution, astronomy, photosynthesis, anatomy and other delightfully geeky curiosities that you probably slept through in school.

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