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Monday, 20 September 2010

Michelangelo: Secret Scientist

Michelangelo Buonarroti, know only by his first name to his mates, began dissecting corpses from a church graveyard in his teens, then, from 1508 (probably why he’s a bit famous) he began painting the roof of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo was famously an artisitic genius, sculptor, architect and, the hidden gem in his professional repertoire; an anatomist! Although this is something that no doubt aided in his drawing of extremely accurate human depictions, Michelangelo concealed this side of himself by destroying almost all of his anatomical sketches and notes. However, artists (and nerds too) have been scrutinising his work for decades looking for hints at his secret double life and boy did they find a corker!

Back in 1990, Frank Meshburger proposed that in the famous central panel, God creating Adam was a depiction of the human brain in cross section.  See for yourself.

Meshberger 'speculates that Michelangelo surrounded God with a shroud representing the human brain to suggest that God was endowing Adam not only with life, but also with supreme human intelligence.'  However, some interpret these findings as a confirmation of many atheist's beliefs, that God originates in the brain of man, that he is a creation of the mind.

A new study by Johns Hopkins Researchers published in the May 2010 issue of the Scientific Journal of Neurosurgery claims to have found further evidence of hidden anatomical diagrams of the brain amongst the paintings in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. They believe that God’s neck is a concealed diagram of the brainstem and other neighbouring regions of the brain. Check out these pictures

In this panel, The Separation of Light from Darkness, Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo have found a ‘precise’ depiction of the human spinal cord and brain stem leading up the centre of God’s chest and forming his throat.

R Douglas Fields tells us that “Art critics and historians have long puzzled over the odd anatomical irregularities in Michelangelo’s depiction of God’s neck in this panel, and by the discordant lighting in the region”. I am not sure this is the answer they were after.

from Pixwit.com
Now some interpretations seem a little far fetched, after all, this is only speculation and Michelangelo’s true ‘meaning’ for painting the neck the way he did; or the brain-shaped shroud just so; died along with him. Some believe that Michelangelo was playing a cruel joke on his paymasters by putting God inside the human brain – the implication being that that is where God resides, as a thought of man only. Is the Sistine Chapel a vast biological puzzle, painted under the nose of Pope Julius II? A jigsaw only just beginning to be pieced together? Or, are we reading too much into this? I mean, I can certainly see the ‘brain’ in the image but at the same time, our clever little brains do 'like’ to make associations between recognisable images and the abstract, but saying that, I have seen quite a few brains in my time and that shape is pretty ‘brainy’.  Sacrilidge or homage? You decide.

For details of all references and image sources please email me.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Green Tea and the Fashionable bacteria

Okay, so this story has been making the rounds on the blogosphere for some time now but for those of you who have not yet cyber-stumbled upon this little fashion revolution, you’re in for a treat!

Suzanne Lee’s BioCouture exhibition at the Science Museum last month brought together years of hard work...fermenting green tea in order to make jackets.  Yes you read that correctly.  Lee, a senior research fellow at Central Saint Martin’s School of Fashion and Textiles, has created garments of eco-friendly, throwaway fashion from the cellulose produced by bacteria.  The process (put somewhat crudely) involves throwing the bacteria in a bath and mixing it up with some sweetened tea and yeast.

Ecouterre explains that, from this, "fibres begin to sprout and propagate, eventually resulting in thin, wet sheet of bacterial cellulose which can be molded” over a manikin into the desired shape.  You can then overlap these sheets which fuse together as the moisture evaporates.  When dried, the fibers develop a “papyrus-like surface” that can easily be stained with vegetable dies to create colours ranging from deep purple (beetroot) to bright yellow (turmeric).

Now, if you’re already searching for your nearest stockist, just hold tight for the next paragraph as I explain to you what one of these sexy little numbers will do in the rain! 

These garments are the firm textile they are because of the evaporated moisture.  Add that moisture back (cue English weather) and you are basically swimming in that same microbial soup it started out in.  The garment will swell considerably before turning into a gooey, cellulose-y mess.

Now, whilst clothing made from the same microbes used to ferment green tea may not be your idea of a staple piece in your capsule wardrobe this season, Lee's work does provoke larger questions about where fashion comes from and, particularly when developed from its nascent stages,  proposes the idea of truly sustainable clothing; fashion that, when worn out, can be tossed in the compost bin with your eggshells and teabags.