Who doesn’t miss the excitement, the curiosity, the baking soda volcanoes of the typical grade-school science fair? Even the cutting-edge artists behind NYC’s Flux Factory got a little nostalgic recently, and decided to host a science fair of their own–but the displays are decidedly atypical, and there’s nary a volcano in sight. Try quantum physics and robots instead.
The science fair art exhibit was inspired by “the similarity between the creative and scientific process,” according to the organizers. And did we mention the trophies? Shiny awards were handed out to artists at an award ceremony last night for the best projects in such categories as “Big Violence,” “Most Empirically Rebellious,” and “Most Metaphysically Pursued.”
Science Fair runs through this weekend, so head over to Queens to check it out. Or you can click through this gallery for a selection of our favorite projects.
It’s not often that an English professor co-authors an article in Sky and Telescope, but it’s not everyday that astronomers set out to uncover a poet’s muse. Researchers believe they have found the astronomical inspiration for the “strange huge meteor procession” in the poem “Year of Meteors. (1859-60.)” published in Walt Whitman‘s Leaves of Grass.
The investigators have determined that Whitman was waxing poetic about a rare event called an Earth-grazing meteor procession. An Earth-grazing meteor never hits our planet; as its name implies, it just visits, slicing through our atmosphere on its path. On this voyage, pieces of the meteor crumble off and head generally in the same direction (the “procession”), burning as they go and making a show to awe and inspire.
To chart the rise in obesity over the last 1,000 years, look no further than artists’ depictions of the Last Supper.
Researchers from Cornell University have found that as people began consuming more food over the centuries, more items have been added to the menu at the Last Supper. While the Bible says that Jesus and his disciples ate bread and drank wine, paintings of the meal over the last 1,000 years have varied wildly and have featured fruits, fish, and even a head of lamb in one case.
And painters haven’t just added food items over the years; they’ve also increased the sizes of the plates and loaves of bread. Researchers say this points to a growing problem with portion size, which has contributed to the current obesity epidemic.
Last night at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York City, the second annual World Science Festival kicked off with a gala that attracted scientists, actors, and musicians alike.
The goal of the celebration, and the whole five-day festival, is to show how science can be fun and mainstream without being mutually exclusive with art, literature, and music. (This rift between science and the humanities took center stage at the Two Cultures Conference sponsored by DISCOVER last month.) Actor and event co-chair Alan Alda set the tone by calling science and art long-lost lovers. “Both light up your neurons like a pinball machine,” he said.
The performances began with Broadway actor Jonathan Hadary singing a musical tribute to every element on the periodic table. String theorist Brian Greene shared the stage with violinist Joshua Bell in a joint production that featured stirring selections from a Eugène Ysaÿe violin sonata interspersed with mind-boggling descriptions of the extra dimensions of space.
The night’s guest of honor was legendary evolutionary biologist and ant enthusiast Edward O. Wilson, who happened to be celebrating his 80th birthday. At the reception following the show, he emphasized the importance of protecting biodiversity. While thankful for the increased awareness of climate change, he warned that “if we save the physical environment only, we will lose everything.”
For those of us with no discernible artistic talent, it may seem impossible to produce a recognizable sketch, sculpture, or painting. For Alan Brown, a 49-year-old father of three, however, all it took was a stroke and 16 hours of brain surgery to give him the artistic prowess to get a degree in fine arts and open his own gallery.
The U.K. Daily Mail reports that Brown was still recovering from his surgery when he realized that his doodles, once limited to stick men, had become strikingly more realistic. Brain surgery can cause significant changes in behavior and abilities. Luckily for Brown, his change was for the better. He began painting (examples of his work can be seen here) and eventually quit his day job to open a gallery, where he displays and sells his art.
It appears body art has hit a whole new level: A woman with a rare skin condition known as dermatographia has been using a blunt knitting needle to etch designs into her skin—and selling them for up to $4,500.
As a symptom of her condition, Ariana Page Russell’s skin swells up into welts at the slightest scratch. Dermatographia, which affects only five percent of the population, is apparently caused by the release of histamines by mast cells near the surface of the skin, once any pressure is applied. Within five minutes, the skin swells in a reaction similar to hives—but it doesn’t hurt, it just “feels a little warm.”
Sometimes to make a point, you have to release some greenhouse gas. On September 29, artist Francesca Galeazzi climbed to a pristine spot on the Jakobshavn fiord in Greenland and—to the shock and horror of her fellow travelers—released a 6 kg tank of CO2 gas. “The CO2 came out violently, freezing the air around the nozzle,” she wrote on her website.
Galeazzi’s act of pollution may have been blatant, but it was just a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of carbon emissions each of us produces, and we do so no less consciously. In the U.S., that number is nearly 20 metric tonnes per person per year. Before Galeazzi pulled the stunt, she purchased an equivalent offset from one of the online Gold Standard Carbon Offsetting schemes—demonstrating how many of us justify our bad behavior. Buying carbon offsets seems to be a growing trend among the green-conscious, a form of environmental penance in which you can pay cash to have someone else wipe away your carbon footprint. In a recent interview, Galeazzi explained her criticism of carbon offsets:
This just in: Nerdy 16-to-25-year-old male science students are the most likely to be virgins of any of 185 students at the University of Sydney, according to a new study. Australian psychotherapist Stephen Carroll asked students in different departments about their sexual past and their knowledge of Chlamydia. While the male science students had the least amount of sex, female art students reportedly had the most, and also knew the least about the common STD.
What’s going on for all those lonely science majors? They’re spending too much time in the lab, according to Carroll. And given that the majority of science classes are still predominantly male, these deprived men probably aren’t going to find dates in their physics or engineering class. Maybe they should consider enrolling in drawing or painting 101.
Credit: flickr/ motoyzf222
Who says the art world is suffering from the downturn? A project by the Great Ape Trust of Iowa involves an exhibition and auction of original painting, with the proceeds going towards wildlife conservation efforts. The only catch: The artists are all apes.
These simian painters consist of a group of orangutans and bonobos who reside at the Trust for behavioral study. Lest anyone think the captive apes’ work is forced labor, the artists are given a choice over whether they’d like to paint—though experts say the cognitive challenge of making art ups the apes’ life enrichment—and are allowed total discretion over which canvases, colors, and brush strokes they use. The results are a Pollock-esque mix of bright colors and shapes—as well as a couple self-portraits that look a little too detailed to be done by ape hands alone. Not that we’re suggesting anything. (For a slideshow, go here.)
Last year, when the auction debuted, it raised $16,725 for the Great Ape Trust’s two major conservation initiatives, the Gishwati Area Conservation Program in Rwanda and the Ketambe Research Center on the island of Sumatra. Bidding for this work is already up to $1,200—more than what the average human makes for a piece of art these days.
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British artist Nasser Azam had a unique desire: to create a piece of art in zero G (the feeling of weightlessness). Not only did his plan become a reality, but it was a profitable one: On Friday, November 14th, the painting sold for $332,500 at Phillips de Pury’s Contemporary Art Part II auction in New York.
To create his zero-gravity masterpiece, Azam and two other artists flew 23,000 feet into the air aboard an ILYUSHIN 76 MDK parabolic aircraft. Nicknamed the “vomit comet” ride, the parabolic flight made everyone lose their breakfast, except for Azam.
The so-called “Life in Space” project required training at the Russian cosmonaut facility Star City. But what Azam had to consider most was how losing gravity would affect his ability to paint. First, Azam drew disembodied figures inspired by Francis Bacon while he was still on the ground. Then while in space, Azam filled in the pre-drawn figures using acrylic paint. But he had to do any finishing touches with oil pastels. Otherwise, the paint would have floated in the air.
Image of Nasser Azam’s Homage to Francis Bacon: Triptych I courtesy of Comlan Getty