November 2010

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Caleb Charland shows off more of his work for Wired:

His latest endeavor (working title: Node Project) focuses on those points on a plant from which leaves and branches sprout. “Each of the little nodes—they just felt like they could be an armature for an image,” he says. To create the effect shown here, Charland spray-painted a shrub black, then highlighted each node with glow-in-the-dark paint. Next, he stuck the plant in a ceramic pot and rotated it under a black light, exposing a sheet of 4 x 5 film to an illuminated pattern of potential growth. As Charland puts it, “I like the idea of taking something simple and ordinary and making it mesmerizing.”

The full article with more photos is here.

Here’s a proof-of-concept we threw together for a segment about the naming of genes. The background: fruit fly geneticists display signs of humor by sometimes come up with joke names for the genes they discover. A gene that increases the lifespan of a fly, for example, is called the INDY gene (short for I’m Not Dead Yet – an almost quote from Monty Python’s Holy Grail) and a gene that produces fruit flies without external genitalia: “Ken and Barbie.” We thought this would make a great vaudeville act (yes, we know, it’s way too hard hitting and in-depth for a science segment).  Some people find that gene jokes are not as funny as we did. The NPR segment makes this clear. We still think genes are funny. Genes. Heh.

If you’re a lobster, death can come in many ways. You might, for example, get eaten by an octopus, smashed into rocks, or get caught by humans and pressurized to death in the Big Mother Shucker. One thing you don’t have to worry about, though, is dying of old age. Apparently, lobsters show no signs of aging; their metabolisms don’t slow down, they don’t get weaker, and they don’t lose reproductive ability – they just get bigger and bigger. In fact, the only indication of a lobster’s age is it’s size. So in theory, there could be a HUGE lobster that has survived simply by being careful enough to live a long, happy life, uninterrupted by sudden death. In theory he could then share his wisdom through song, and, in theory, be called Leroy. Here’s the NPR piece featuring the song and here’s a totally anticlimactic video of a lobster molting (molting of course being THE KEY to getting really big).

Table Scraps I: B-Flat

If you were wondering what’s missing from the original B-Flat song, then this is probably what you’re thinking, “I wonder what’s missing from the original B-Flat song?” Well here’s a short list: all the bits that are missing. These missing bits are generally referred to as “everything that’s missing from the bit that made it on NPR.” Not everything makes it into the final radio piece. Here is some of what we had left over, unredacted. Enjoy.

Caleb Charland is an awesome/badass photographer who takes a bunch of totally unrelated stuff like: a camera, some nails, string, and a magnet to create excellent illustrations of otherwise-invisible magnetic fields. Here’s a smattering of examples.


The enigmatically-named Wooden Box with Horseshoe Magnet.


A slight twist on the lemon battery. This is a pile of limes.


This illustration of soap bubble formation is excellent. The image is mid action, but looks at first glance like a still set up.


Here’s another simple illustration of magnetism or as we prefer to call it: THE INSANELY HIDDEN FORCES OF MAGNETISM! Also featured in Discover Magazine.


Like oil and water, the saying goes, and nearly as equally clichéd is the usual image of oil droplets floating atop a container of water. Here instead, are drops of water sinking steadily to the bottom of a full jar of oil.


A simple illustration of why dry ice is dry. The balloon fills with carbon dioxide gas, evaporated directly from the frozen solid chunk of it in the jar. In going directly from a solid to a gas, skipping the liquid phase of matter, carbon dioxide proves itself once again to be the insufferable miscreant we all know it is.

Water on the other hand, plays by the rules.


Here Caleb has captured spacetime. In addition to the three spatial dimensions of a cube that we usually see in photographs, this image has captured the fourth dimension – time. Each edge of the cube we see IS the length of time required to move a single light source through space. It’s a very elegant way of capturing a fourth dimensional object in a two dimensional image.