Microphotograph of a dendrite star snowflake
from Science Friday
Negative 332, from “Studies among the snow crystals during the winter of 1901-2 with additional data collected during previous winters and twenty-two half-tone plates,” Monthly Weather Review. Credit: Wilson A. Bentley
You can thank Wilson Bentley for the old saying: No two snowflakes are alike. Bentley was a Vermont farmer who found such splendor in the snow that he wanted to capture it for everyone. In his desire to document each flake, he pioneered a technique called photomicrography, which uses a camera to capture images viewed through a microscope.
Bentley’s obsession with snowflakes began in 1880, when he was 15. His mother was a teacher and had a microscope, which he used to study snowflakes under its objective. The pleasure was fleeting—he could barely sketch their intricate designs before the crystals melted away.
A few years later, Bentley decided to try photomicrography, a field still in its infancy. Bending the microscope’s body back from the base at a right angle enabled him to attach a camera bellows. He removed the eyepiece from the microscope and relied on the objective lens, swapping out different magnifications to see the snow crystal close up.
Science & Art
STEM knowledge is so last century! It’s missing the “A”, for ART! STEM is now STEAM!
From Science Friday:
Ancient Beauty Throughout the Universe
The cosmos is a swirling soup of stardust. Every day, approximately 60 tons of dust from asteroids, comets, and other celestial bodies fall to the Earth. These tiny metallic, alien stones of various shapes, textures, and colors—known as micrometeorites—are some of the oldest pieces of matter in the solar system.
Even though micrometeorites blanket the Earth, scientists have generally only been able to discover them in remote places devoid of human presence, such as Antarctic ice, desolate deserts, and deep-sea sediments. Scientists began searching for micrometeorites in the 1960s, and they predominantly thought the extraterrestrial dust would be impossible to find in urban environments. The conventional wisdom held that densely populated areas had too much man-made sediment that camouflaged the tiny space particles.
But Jon Larsen, a Norwegian jazz musician and creator of Project Stardust, has shown that it is possible to find micrometeorites in more populated areas. He and his colleagues catalogued more than 500 lustrous micrometeorites (and counting), all recovered from rooftops in urban areas.
“It is possible to find the most exotic, small rocks in the entire universe in your roof’s rain gutter,” Larsen says.
Learn more here about how to hunt for micrometeorites on your own roof.
Hybrid Basketry: interweaving digital practice within contemporary craft
3D Printing + natural fibers
Views From Aloft: The Art of Space Photography
Astronaut Don Pettit took the millionth photo from the International Space Station. He also took hundreds of thousands of other photos. Many of them were routine photos taken during safety checks and engineering troubleshooting. But he shot a trove of others while off-duty, from the seven-windowed Cupola of the Space Station, capturing scenes both celestial and terrestrial.
“True Violins” created by Carleen Hutchins
Carleen Hutchins must have seemed like an unlikely candidate to upend the world of violin-making. Not only was this New Jersey mother only an amateur at viola, she already had a day job as a grade school science teacher. Nevertheless, between 1948 and 2009, Hutchins crafted nearly 500 instruments and published more than 100 technical papers, bringing new scientific rigor to the art of violin-making. Furthermore, Hutchins fulfilled a centuries-old dream of luthiers—she crafted a set of instruments that maintain the timbre of the violin over its entire range, thereby creating a true violin family.
Hutchins testing a plate in her basement lab on October 25, 1963. Credit: H. Grossman
It was composer Henry Brant who challenged Carleen Hutchins to create a family of violins that could span the tonal range of a piano. When Hutchins delivered with her violin octet, Brant composed “Consort for True Violins” to showcase the possibilities of her new violin family.
Carleen Hutchins’ violin octet: a family of eight violins spanning the tonal range of a piano. Courtesy of the Hutchins estate
Click on the images for more of the story, and a recording of “Consort for True Violins”, by Henry Brant.
(this article is from Science Friday)
Reimagining the Astronomical Objects of Messier
An artist finds inspiration in the celestial frustrations of astronomer Charles Messier.
For her latest exhibition, called “Deep Sky Companion,” artist Lia Halloran was inspired not by the accomplishments, but by the frustrations, of a celebrated astronomer. Charles Messier was an 18th-century Frenchman who became known in his lifetime for meticulously recording a catalog of 110 celestial features found in the night sky. The thing is, he considered those features distractions from his main pursuit: comets.
“In those days, the way you [astronomers] got really famous was if you discovered a comet—you would get it named after you. And England and France were competing over whose astronomers could find the most comets,” says E. Sterl Phinney, a professor of theoretical astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where Halloran’s exhibit is on display. Messier thought finding a comet would help him secure a respectable job in astronomy, Phinney says.
Using ART to Explain Science
Actor Alan Alda realized that scientists often used words and methods that non-scientists could not understand when explaining scientific principles. So he created the Flame Challenge Contest to help solve this issue.
In the contest which puts forward one question each year, scientists are tasked with explaining the answer to 11 year olds. Thousands of 11 yr. olds across the world, judge the scientists’ answers.
It’s a very cool way to explain scientific principles to adults as well as 11 year old tweens.
Click here to see how scientist Ben Ames, the first Flame Challenge winner (2012) used science, visual art, videography and music to answer the question “What is a flame?”
Click here to learn more about the Flame Challenge, to see subsequent winners as well as the question for 2017, to register as a scientist and to register your classroom of 11 year old students to judge the entries.