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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Rat seminipherous tubule

This photo, taken by Alan C. Opsahl of Connecticut is a 40x magnified picture of a rat seminiferous tubule. Who knew rats harboured such beauty?!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

So then the whale said to the octopus...

I'm going away to Brighton for a few days and won't get a chance to post so thought I'd just leave you with a little treat to keep you going

(click it to enlarge)


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Evolution vs. Creationism

Okay, so the title is more of a hook than a descriptor. This post will be about evolution, and creationism, but mostly about the much loved Mr Charles Darwin and artworks inspired by his theories and life's work. I'd like to open with my song-of-the-moment 'Charlie Darwin' by the Low Anthem whose beautiful melodies can soundtrack this post.

If you like the song I suggest you don't read on to find a deeper meaning in it, it's prettier if you don't. However, for those interested, Prystowsky, a band member, said of the song:
'What does love mean if survival of the fittest is actually the way that everything came to be?[...] It’s such a cutting theory to think that maybe our feelings of love and connection to our fellow man are somehow in our own interest, that they’re selfish . . . . That has a significant impact on the art that you make and the way you live your life.'
Moving on. The publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species alongside new discoveries in geology and paleontology forced victorians to realise that the world was far older than the bible ever suggested. This nurtured a fascination with pre-human worlds in a time when most believed in The Creation; and gave birth to an new artistic vision that attempted to deal with the religious consequences of the geological discoveries.

Robert Farrena, An Earlier Dorseta (circa. 1850)
'Evolution' at Burning Man, Nevada
Darwin has inspired such varied artworks as sculptures, like the depiction of the evolution of homosapiens (right), to stencil art (below).
'EVOL-ution', stencil art by KrieBeL

What prompted me to write this post was an oil on canvas called 'Darwin took steps' by Glendon Mellow. I saw it first at the Science Online conference 2010 and something about it really resonated with me. I particularly like his incorporation of Darwin's famous Tree of Life sketch (left) but mostly I just think he's a talented artist and love this piece.

'Darwin took steps', Glendon Mellow
Another artwork in a similar vein is that of Kilrizzy who edited this image together:

'Darwin, "I Think..."',Kilrizzy
I'd like to leave you with a piece of art that a young friend of mine drew for me that is a conglomeration of the ideas expressed in the other artworks I've featured. She expresses her angst at the geological propaganda steering her from her faith yet proclaims her belief in the path she's chosen. I pray you take this in the vein it is in intended.

Rebecca Louise Anne Frost, 11

Monday, 14 February 2011

If Alby says it, it must be true

'After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well'
- Albert Einstein

I came across this quote during some lazy google-ing on the Theory of Relativity and thought I'd share it with you.

Indeed, and as any avid readers (hi Mum) will know, I have long held the notion that the creativity and innovation required of scientists to reach new levels of understanding is that very same required of artists to dominate in their field. This snippet articulates what it is I have so inarticulately and unintelligibly tried to portray through a year's worth of posts on Michelangelo, the Vitruvian man, microwaving CDs, Gunther Von Hagens' Bodyworlds, string theory, Facebook, the brain, tattoos, spirographs and numerous other half-formed meanderings. Einstein's observation takes all the fragments of science, art and sci-art I have come across on the web, wraps them in a parcel, puts a tidy ribbon around them and leaves a note that says: 'friends?'

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Miroslav Holub

Miroslav Holub, 1923-1998
Without a doubt my favourite scientist-poet, Miroslav Holub, was an immunologist by vocation and poet in his spare time. He considered his poetry very much a pastime but I personally find his work exceptional. I thought I would share my favourite poem with you.


To think I might have been dead,
he said to himself, ashamed, as if this were
a curse of the heart, raising a bundle of bones
to a man’s height. As if it were suddenly
forbidden to touch even words that had dropped to the ground.
Besides, he was afraid of finding
his body in a metal press.Embarrassing
down to the capillaries.

the tram stood jammed above him
like an icebreaker’s prow and all that was left of the car
was a grotesque pretzel with a chunk bitten off
by the dentures of a demented angel.
Something dark was dripping on the rails,
and a strikingly pale wind was leafing
through a book still warm.

People were forming a circle and with deaf-mute
sympathy awaited the play’s catharsis,
like maggots emerging from
under the wings of a beheaded chicken.
From afar came the approaching wail of sirens,
congealing in the jinxed air-conditioning of that day
and that minute. Dewdrops were falling
on the back of the neck like remnants of
atmospheric dignity. Embarrassing down to the capillaries.

No, thank you, he said, I’ll wait;
for a silent film had started to run
without subtitles, without colour and without answers.

     And what about the magnetic monopoles
escaping seconds after the Big Bang,
protons violating the irreversibility of the flow of time?

     What about the giant molecular clouds
under the galaxy’s shoulders, conceiving
the embryos of stars?

     What about the loneliness of the first genes
accumulating amino acids in shallow primeval pools
at the expense of entropic usurers?

     What about the desiccated starfish
like proto-eagles’ talons dug into the bed
of a vanishing sea?

     What about the mortal migrations of birds
observing the sun’s inclination
and the roar of sex hormones?

     What about the caged half-crazed
orang-utan who vomits because
he has nothing else to do?

     What about the mice which for a thousand years
have learned to sing and the frogs balancing
on one leg like the thigh
of a beauty queen from Mesopotamia?

     What about poetry, an enterprise
so disorderly it twists the rulers
and increases the squint of school inspectors?

     And what about the little girl
in the leukemia ward who, on the toilet,
tried to show what kind of moustache the kind doctor has,
but as her skinny sticks of hands let go of
the edge of the bowl, she falls in and so
tried again and again?

     And what about the weak-kneed intellectual,
the professor who understood the approximate universe
but forgot the traffic rules?

No, thank you, he said to some uniform,
I don’t need anything. My papers are in my pocket
but I can’t reach there. And he tried
to smile a little at this embarrassment of complicated creation.
It’s all my fault, he said,
thank you.
                 And then he died.

By Miroslav Holub

Another of my favourites is Interferon but it's a weighty tome and this isn't the place to showcase it, however, if you like this little taster of his work I am in no doubt you would enjoy his translations, a particular favourite of mine is the book Poems Before and After: Collected English Translations, it is insanely brilliant.

While we're at it, and if you do nothing else after reading this, may I please recommend you check out Brief Thoughts on Cracks and if you don't like his work after that then I give up my case, please continue you with your day.