At an Intersection of Art and Science

Detail of image showing 3D model by Klaus Leitl, ca. 2014.

Perhaps it is simply best to say click the link, or even the picture above.

Suffice to say, what you are looking at is not a real photograph of a real organism, but, rather, a real photograph of a real model created using 3D printing technology.

It is easy enough to forget that the intersection of science and art is hardly rare. While the art of science might seem somewhat elusive, the science of art is everywhere. The work of Klaus Leitl just happens to be a spectacular intersection.

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Alec. “Austrian artist creates life-like insect models using a Form1+ 3D printer”. 3ders.org. 15 October 2014.

Stephanie L. Kwolek, 1923-2014

Stephanie L. Kwolek

Stephanie L. KwolekIt is with sadness that we note the passing of Stephanie Kwolek, widely praised as a pioneer among women in science, and best known as the inventor of Kevlar.

“I knew that I had made a discovery,” Kwolek said in an interview several years ago. “I didn’t shout ‘Eureka,’ but I was very excited, as was the whole laboratory excited, and management was excited because we were looking for something new, something different, and this was it.”

(BBC)

The synthetic fiber is widely used in everything from tires to airplanes to bulletproof vests to mobile phones, but in truth Stephanie L. Kwolek’s incredible innovation was always most apparent to me because the stuff makes awesome sails.

Yes, really.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation—yes, there is such a thing—notes:

Kwolek has received many awards for her invention of the technology behind Kevlar fiber, including induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994 as only the fourth woman member of 113. In 1996 she received the National Medal of Technology, and in 1997 the Perkin Medal, presented by the American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry—both honors rarely awarded to women. She has served as a mentor for other women scientists and participated in programs that introduce young children to science. One of Kwolek’s most cited papers, written with Paul W. Morgan, is “The Nylon Rope Trick” (Journal of Chemical Education, April 1959, 36:182–184). It describes how to demonstrate condensation polymerization in a beaker at atmospheric pressure and room temperature—a demonstration now common in classrooms across the nation.

Stephanie Kwolek was 90 when she passed away in June.

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British Broadcasting Corporation. “Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek dies”. 21 June 2014.

Roberts, Rich. “Sailcloth of the Future”. Sailing World. May, 2000.

Chemical Heritage Foundation. “Stephanie L. Kwolek”. 2014.

Kevlar sail

When Nature Strikes … No, Really

Hyland, 2014 - Yellowstone Lightning

Absolutely fantastic: Via CNN and by way of KXTV comes video footage from one Bruce Hyland that must be seen to be believed.

Frames from video by Bruce Hyland

Bruce HylandUp close and personal, indeed. It should probably be noted that it should probably go without saying that actually seeking out such footage would be unwise.

Oh, right. Anyway, that said, it really is pretty cool.

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Image credits: Bruce Hyland (top, middle), CNN (bottom).

Linkadelica

Animal armory

• The legend of rocket cats.

• How does the internet get from here to there?

• Two words to brighten your day: beekeeping donkey.

• It turns out your teeth can teach scientists about how to make glass stronger by cracking it.

• Study well, and one day you, too, can unlock the secrets of the Universe.

• Space is really, really big, right? Contemplate our solar system with interactive models from BBC Future and Josh Worth.

• The name of your next band? Try earthquake lights.

• It’s not all in the wrist; the “flat loop” rope trick is also in the thumb and forefinger.

Linkadelic Mess

Molloy, 'Burning Cotton Candy' (detail)
Given that year-end lists are something of a useless cliché, we figure it works just as well to do a junkpile and clear out a bunch of links waiting for some more useful deployment than sitting in a badly-punned directory (URLenmeyer) on the desktop. Thus, in no particular order:pH scale

Timestacking.

• Why certain Chinese cat fossils are so fascinating.

Synaptogenesis is a word you will start hearing more often in the near future.

• Sure, it’s a bit old, but A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding and Monitoring Lakes and Streams, from the Washington Department of Ecology, is still relevant.

• There really is a holy grail for dystopic, embittered, supervillainous math geeks.

• Suffice to say, the link file for this one was actually a bad casserole joke. No, really.

• Celebrate the saola, a Vietnamese ox confirmed to still exist after fifteen years out of sight.

• We all heard the cool news about India shooting for Mars?

• The tortoise and the Lego, that’s all you need to know.

• Dinosaurs are human, too. Er, I mean … ah … right. Something about a clumsy dinosaur.

• Apparently, the Milky Way wobbles and flutters. (If you like the technical stuff, the arXiv file is available.)

Ultraviolet … Imaging … Spectrograph; maybe not a band name, but certainly worthy of being an album cover. Vinyl. Twelve inch.

Spiders. Might as well get used to ’em.

• Have you met Juno?

• Ice, water, steam … how about plasma? And no, plasma water is not a sports drink … yet.

• Here there be monsters.Uranus Trojan Lagrange

Uranus Trojan Lagrange is not a band name. It’s something even cooler.

• Then again, Martian eclipse would be a good band name, too.

xkcd on ice.

Teller talks Tim’s Vermeer.

• Various processes more complicated than explanations are worth keep bringing to mind an old episode of Radiolab, about laughter.

Detail of PIA050760

Whistler’s Mother Nature

xkcd 1259 (Bee Orchid; detail)Time out for a picture break.

Actually, what happens is that a reserve folder gets overstuffed with links to post, though sometimes it seems hard to imagine what one was thinking when pulling this or that from the net.

Not so in this case. One really needs no excuse for xkcd.

Words as filler, so the picture doesn’t look so lonely. Go ahead. Click. It won’t bite. Hopefully, it will make your day.

(And, yes, Ophrys apifera is real.)

Scale and Perspective: Challenging the Future

Todd Moss observes:

Moss: Africa vs FridgeI know I live an energy-intensive lifestyle. Americans on average use 13,395 kWh/year (IEA data for 2010), which is nearly three times what the typical South African uses and 100 times the average Nigerian. But I was still pretty shocked to see how my new single-family fridge compares with an average citizen in the six Power Africa countries.

There is an intersection, here, of politics and science; Moss, a senior fellow and vice president for programs at the Center for Global Development, is reflecting on Power Africa, a White House initiative to help African nations pursue universal access to electricity in under twenty years.

Setting aside the politics, though, Moss’ musing does present a rather striking point. And perhaps for the younger generations, the point is not to feel so guilty about first-world privilege, but to look forward to extending that life quality around the globe.

Nothing to See Here, Just NASA Doing What it Does

Yes, that NASA:

NASA logoNASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) has made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps).

LLCD is NASA’s first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.

“LLCD is the first step on our roadmap toward building the next generation of space communication capability,” said Badri Younes, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation (SCaN) in Washington. “We are encouraged by the results of the demonstration to this point, and we are confident we are on the right path to introduce this new capability into operational service soon.”

Since NASA first ventured into space, it has relied on radio frequency (RF) communication. However, RF is reaching its limit as demand for more data capacity continues to increase. The development and deployment of laser communications will enable NASA to extend communication capabilities such as increased image resolution and 3-D video transmission from deep space.

“The goal of LLCD is to validate and build confidence in this technology so that future missions will consider using it,” said Don Cornwell, LLCD manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This unique ability developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory has incredible application possibilities.”

LLCD is a short-duration experiment and the precursor to NASA’s long-duration demonstration, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). LCRD is a part of the agency’s Technology Demonstration Missions Program, which is working to develop crosscutting technology capable of operating in the rigors of space. It is scheduled to launch in 2017.

Detail of Jeff Berkes via APoDHeh. And here you thought the cool part of LADEE was the launch.

Reminder: When juxtaposing the insanely cool stuff NASA pulls off as a matter of routine in the course of being a public agency that regularly does its job just fine against the proposition of showing up to work in the morning and not making a special effort to completely botch the job, the notion arises that perhaps we should put the agency eggheads on the task of building a Congress that actually functions properly.

I mean, you know ….

They will get to that, I’m certain, right after they achieve faster-than-light travel while accidentally proving that God is a Buddhist hedgehog running a pâtisserie in Ballard.

In exchange for which … well, right. Congress will just … er … cut their budget.

Because, you know.