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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

An oldie but a goodie - The windows sounds remix

On the 8th of December 2007, a man under the pseudonym 'Robbi-985' posted a video to youtube that was to become a viral sensation.  Not because it showed a cute panda with a loud sneeze or a boy drugged on his way back from the dentist, nor was there a girl or cup in sight, no, this video went 'viral' because of Robbi-985's technical prowess and imagination.

The  video below is a song, or remix, made entirely of sounds from a windows PC, from the start-up sound to the error noise and every ding and ping in between.  He creates a smooth poppy techno beat that jumps to and from every octave and 'instrument' producing an almost soothing melody.  The video entitled 'Music using ONLY sounds from Windows XP and 98!' has almost 7 millions views and continues to amaze those that stumble across.  Go on.  press play.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Aurora Borealis - Nature's light display

On first glance, you would be forgiven for mistaking this picture for a painting; the creation of an artists imagination or the technical genius of a Photoshop wizard.  This, however, is a photograph of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shining above Bear Lake in Alaska taken by Senior Airmen Joshua Strang of the U.S.Air Force.

One of the most beautiful spectacles in our skies, the Northern and Southern lights are seen at night in polar regions, and appear as a green or redish hue along the horizon or as arcs of colour curling across the sky.  The Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) are less photographed and reported due to there being fewer vantage points in the optimum 23 degree circle surrounding each magnetic pole where the lights are brighter and more frequent.

Fairbanks, Alaska by Mila Zinkova

Aurorae are caused by a bombardment of protons and electrons streaming from space.  These electrically charged particles come from the solar wind that pours from the sun in every direction.  The earth's magnetic field deflects most of these particles, however, near the magnetic poles (where particles are accelerated towards earth), some particles find their way into the atmosphere and collide with oxygen, nitrogen and other atmospheric gasses, which gain energy and in turn release it as a photon of light. 

The green and brownish red light comes from oxygen light emissions and the blue or deep red come from nitrogen.  Together creating great curtains of colour across the sky in hotspots along the northern hemisphere, from Norway to Alaska and Sweden to Greenland.

Aurora Borealis from space

It is unsurprising the the Aurora Borealis inspire artists the world over, adorning walls as oil on canvas or prints of sci-fi-esque posters.  

The Crosscountry Skier, Oliver Ævar Guðbrandsson
However, the truth of it is that there is nothing greater than this, Mother Nature's own own handicraft, the aurorae's own beautiful existence, which far exceeds any of man's interpretive efforts.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The sound of the internet

The British Museum is a massive influence in bridging the scientist-layman chasm  and I can safely say that they are one of the greats piloting the runaway sci-art bandwagon.   It's Science Museum Arts Project "explores artists’ perspectives on the past, present and future of science and technology, creating new opportunities for encountering contemporary art".  Hurray!  Something to get stuck into, and if I didn't live 250 miles away, I'd be in there prometheus-like, notebook in hand, bringing you all the latest.  So, until I get a visit in the next month or so, I will have to just provide you with a tantalising snippet (for both you and I) of what the project has to offer.

The Listening Post, is one of it's central installations at the moment and is the brain child of Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin.  The Listening Post is a rhythm of computer-synthesised voices reading out real-time words and sentences being typed into chatrooms, bulletin boards and forums from all over the internet.  It does so in real time, sampling the fragments from unrestricted and unedited sources.  
Hansen and Rubin bring to you "Stray thoughts that resonate through the space in sound and voice as texts surge, flicker, appear and disappear, at varying sizes and speeds, across a suspended grid of over 200 small electronic screens. An ambient soundtrack accompanies the activity with isolated pulses reminiscent of computer modems, clatterings, footsteps and the beeping of mechanical answering machines. At intervals darkness and silence take over, creating momentary pauses before Listening Post continues with its next movement."
Other exhibits include 'Who Am I?' which explores the challenging area of biomedical science, covering major themes such as human identity, language, consciousness, genetics, sexuality and brain science.  A series of smaller exhibits are also scattered through the ground floor that communicate the ways in which the artist feels modern science has influenced them and the world around them.

It is exciting to see that an organisation as big and powerful as the National Museum of Science and Industry are not afraid to delve into the increasingly popular fusion of the two fundamentally disparate worlds of art and science to become a forerunner in the campaign to bring science to the nation through creative arts.
Watch this space for an in-depth review of the exhibits this summer!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

It's Diabetes week - let's talk insulin wallpaper!

It is diabetes week (at least, it is according to Diabetes UK, which is good enough for me) so today’s post is inspired by the complex, and somewhat inspiring, structure of insulin.  I am talking X-ray Crystallography-inspired 1950s wallpaper!  Dorothy Hodgkin pioneered this technique of X-ray crystallography and created a contour map of insulin from the resulting scans, which, from afar, looks like a collection of rosettes, but in fact details a complex hormone that captured Dorothy’s imagination. 

This drawing and her other atomic diagrams inspired simplified patterns that adorned wallpapers, furnishing, carpets and dress fabrics at the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Insulin has many wide-ranging affects on the body; it influences many bodily functions such as protein synthesis, vascular compliance (the blood vessels’ response to blood pressure) and cognition (thinking, concentration and memory) and is crucial in the control of diabetes.  Insulin causes your body’s cells to take up glucose and store it as glycogen which can later be used for energy.  Without insulin the body uses fat as its source of energy and the glucose level rises, in turn, this system of maintaining glucose and insulin in the body gets out-of-whack (a technical term, I assure you), which is why those with type-1 diabetes have to inject themselves subcutaneously with insulin in order to keep the this system in check.

So, from the islets of langerhans* to the decor of a 1950s festival, insulin is not only pretty useful but is also just plain pretty.
*sounds like a pacific resort but is in fact where insulin is produced in the pancreas

A creation of the 'Festival Pattern Group' project at the 1951 Festival of Britain
Do your bit this diabetes week and learn more about what it is and check out the cool* video at the bottom of the link to find out insulin's role in the body.  Diabetes UK
*this is a lie, it is fairly standard and in no way demonstrates what "cool" implies

Friday, 11 June 2010

String Theory - Prose poetry

Eleven dimensions, so they say but who looks that close or cares that much anyway? They keep thinking smaller and further, and ‘what could it be’ they ask in fervour, whilst making cups of tea to keep the mind awake, asking what could it be? and not what is at stake? They want to see! they want to know everything, everything, so that nothing is precious and mystery a myth, but the mess of the specifics get all tangled in the thing; Do we live in a world where the proton isn’t the end of the line, and birds string and dogs quark, and the universe is made of twine? And if we do, and these string have only length, no height nor width just a one-dimensional oscillating line, vibrating in time with the sound of the atom, the sound of the universe busting a rhyme; then fine, but if space is still expanding, then that string must be stretched thin and should it snap like a rubber band and the universe shrink into a grain of sand then I’ll raise up my hands and say I’m sorry.
Sorry for not believing in a bloody piece of string.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Beautiful Math of Coral

The Coral Reef is made up of structures comprising some of the most complicated mathematical models known to man. Mathematicians have long maintained that ‘geometrical hyperbolic space’ (that scalloped, crenulated edge of reefs and kelp) could not be modelled in the real world, however, Margaret Wertheim has found a way; through the art of crochet! Yes, I mean the age-old technique of pulling loops of yarn through other loops with a hook!

I will leave the details of the maths and models to Margaret Wertheim in the TED video below (skip to 5 minutes for the maths-y bit if you just can’t wait!) but she has championed the understanding of maths through this feminine handicraft and in getting away from the obsessive, cerebral, pen and paper mode of mathematical thinking to a more practical approach that, as an aside, creates wonderfully crafted works of art.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Viruses - a closer look

Luke Jerram is an artist living in Bristol and working in Southampton whose ‘Glass Virus’ sculptures question the pseudo-colouring of images in biology and medical studies in order to demonstrate the elements of viruses and the way they work. He says
‘The question of pseudo-colouring in biomedicine and its use for science communicative purposes, is a vast and complex subject. If some images are coloured for scientific purposes, and others altered simply for aesthetic reasons, how can a viewer tell the difference? How many people believe viruses are brightly coloured? Are there any colour conventions and what kind of ‘presence’ do pseudocoloured images have that ‘naturally’ coloured specimens don’t? How does the choice of different colours affect their reception?

Luke Jerram aims to answer these questions, or at the very least provide a new perception of something many people may not even have thought about. His beautifully crafted hand-blown glass sculptures are multi-layered and communicate the parts of a virus exceptionally well without the need for colour.
HIV Glass Sculpture
Swine Flu

Swine Flu (close up)

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

A glimpse of the future? - 'Untitled Future Mutation'
Want to see more? Take a look here