Archive for Science Art

Crocheting a coral reef

// October 4th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Science Art

It was my birthday last week, and to celebrate I went to a crochet workshop at the Royal Institution of Australia to whip up an addition to their artistic coral reef.

I was lucky to nab some chunky bright orange yarn and made the piece pictured in about two hours.

It was good times – a glass of wine and nibbles, plenty of wool and spare crochet hooks and a group of thirty or forty people creating a hum of conversation and creativity.

My friends grabbed a spot on the floor (the tables were taken, and I prefer floor-sitting anyway) and started talking. A couple of the group were beginners, and I’m not much better, but they picked it up in about forty minutes.

The hyperbolic shapes, curvacious and wiggly, are made by frequent increases on each row. It’s kind of a funky shape, and it might look good as a scarf or fascinator, even a cuff. What do you think?

The RiAus Adelaide Reef in their downstairs gallery has closed over spring to make room for a new art installation Energy landscapes, a new frontier. It opens again over the holiday period from early December to the end of January.

I saw the exhibition a few months ago and it’s HUGE! A large room is full of pieces, handmade by people in Adelaide. They’ve linked the crochet to environmental problems plaguing the Great Barrier Reef, like coral bleaching.

A section on coral bleaching. Image by RiAus.

I’m keen to go to the next workshop, which is on Thursday 17 November 6-8pm. You can register here. It’s free.

The project is a satellite of the worldwide Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project created by Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles.

Alcoholic art, crystals of liquor

// July 12th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Just for Fun, Science Art

So it’s appropriate that I’m a little bit tipsy while writing this.

Alcohol under a microscope! That’s today’s post. BevShots take photographs of alcohol crystallized on a slide, shot under a polarized light microscope. It can take up to four weeks for the alcohol to dry completely on the slide. It’s art, distilled. And quite magnificent.

Margarita

Mmm margarita. And do you like pina colada?

Pina colada

What pretty rum. I think the citric acid helps. Anyone for a pint?

English oatmeal stout

Bevshots sell the pics (there’s heaps) as metallic prints, on canvas or as merchandise – like hip flasks, for example. Look, I’m not big on promoting items, but these would make a sweet gift for a 21st birthday. They’re stunning, and only $28. It’s a nice personal touch if you know their favourite drink.

Oh, and vodka shot glasses! So cool…

Vodka shot glasses

There’s even an iPhone app, so you can pick your poison and see the bevshots version. I imagine this will increase your popularity and attractiveness with every drink. Kind of like beer glasses.

Isn’t this just the best mix of science, alcohol and art? They should be paying me for this kinda publicity (feel free to send me a gift, guys!)

Ferrofluid patterns and dancing art, fun with magnets

// April 29th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // How Things Work, Just for Fun, Science Art

Behold ferrofluid, nanoparticles of iron coated in a surfactant and suspended in a solution of oil or water.

The surfactant can be citric acid or soy lecithin, among other things, and is used to stop them sticking together

It’s like magnetic dust.

Put a magnet under some ferrofluid and the particles align themselves in patterns to show the field.

The magnetic attraction is so strong, the ferrofluid will stick to a magnet and then you’ll never get all the iron particles off it. They’re stuck for good.

To prevent that happening, people usually play with ferrofluid inside a sealed container.

And play it is, this stuff is fun.

Usually.

A friend of mine put a magnet above some ferrofluid with the lid off, and was abruptly COVERED in black gunk which stuck to him despite three showers. He wasn’t too happy, I think it smelled pretty bad. Hardcore.

Like most hardcore stuff, it’s been turned into kickass art. This video pretty well blew my mind.

Sachiko Kodama and Yasushi Miyajima created the piece, two ferrofluid sculptures which move synthetically to music. The two towers are iron cores of electromagnets sitting in a pool of ferrofluid. Etched with a helix pattern, the ferrofluid can move up the tower if the magnetic field is strong enough, stretching out in spikes as it goes.

The strength of the electromagnet is linked to metadata in the music controlling the voltage and AC pattern. To correct for the time delay, the electromagnet controls starts early so the maximum size of spikes coincides with beats of the music.

The result is a choreographed pattern that dances and winds like a living thing.

You can buy ferrofluid from Emovendo.

Hat tip to @DrSkySkull, who bought some ferrofluid as a classroom demo and supplied the picture at the top of the article.

Science sculptures – art by Steve Tobin

// April 21st, 2011 // Comments Off on Science sculptures – art by Steve Tobin // Science Art

I recently stumbled upon these stunning sculptures by Steve Tobin. Drawing inspiration from nature, it’s a brilliant example of the intersection between art and science.

Waterglass

Waterglass - A frozen waterfall made from thousands of strands glass fibres.

Syntax

Syntax - Bronze letters and numbers welded together.

Syntax Zoom

In fact there are several spheres nested inside each other, each separated by a four inch gap.

Bones

Bones - A wall of bronze bones which reaches up like the crest of a wave.

Steel Roots

Steel Roots

Visit Steve Tobin’s online gallery.

Filming the invisible world – 3D documentaries

// February 28th, 2011 // Comments Off on Filming the invisible world – 3D documentaries // Science Art, Science Communication, Science in the Movies

We are at a very disturbing point in film production, where we assume the audience has no imagination and no intelligence. Stories are spoon fed and wrapped up with explosions and effects to sell the same tired old plot.

Such is the opinion of Douglas Trumball, who has spent his career in science fiction animation and visual effects. He spoke on Sunday afternoon at the RiAus about the problems with the film industry and how science can save it.

What’s really lacking is immersion, a story that draws people in and the technology to make it hyperreal.

The technology is certainly improving, there’s no doubt about that. Take the infamous Avatar, which I was completely entranced by. The 3D was so subtle and authentic I honestly felt like I was there, and clapped like an idiot when it finished (much to the chagrin of my friends.)

But apparently, that’s nothing compared to what’s coming. Douglas is experimenting with cameras that capture at 120 frames per second (rather than the 30 they do now), and a projector that displays it at the same rate. For the audience he says it’s like opening a window to a different world. It’s a whole different feeling.

He envisions a cinema with a screen that curves around beyond 120 degrees, so it extends past the corners of your eyes.

And what does he want to do with this set up? Explore space. Vast, infinite and complex, space lends itself to immersive film like nothing else. It quite simply matches big content with big delivery. It needs a story to go with it too, something that captures the imagination of the audience, where they can fill in the blanks and have their own “ah ha” moment of discovery.

Truth is stranger than fiction, and science has some pretty cool stories of its own. Tim Baier is a stereographer who worked on feature films like King Kong and Lord of the Rings, and spoke on the panel about his recent work making science documentaries. I watched a preview of his work “Standing in Amazement” on Sunday, and it was breathtaking.

Image by Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary

In 3D, he captured still pictures and stop-motion of Arkaroola and the Flinders Ranges.

The sun rose on mountain tops encrusted with quartzite. Macroscopic photographs showed the indentations on a snakes head which sense heat, and the pads on gecko feet which let them hang upside down on glass.

It wasn’t just a film, it was a presentation. During the movie, Tim talked about the geology of the Ranges and how the mountains had formed.

He described the van der Waals forces that work on gecko feet. It was visually breathtaking AND intellectually stimulating. The full film lasts for 90 minutes, and is playing at the RiAus this week, Tuesday to Saturday. Session times here.

He thinks there is a lot of untapped potential in 3D science documentaries. I’d agree, particularly in talking about geology. I’m thinking right now about David Attenborough’s Cave episode on Planet Earth, and combining it with Sanctum 3D.

Sunday night I watched a doco with Sir Attenborough (he is EVERYWHERE!) and they showed a stadium-sized machine that could see inside fossilized embryos in 3D. Now that’s my kinda movie!






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