Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Alan Rickman – RIP: From Obadiah Slope to Severus Snape

January 14, 2016

Alan Rickman has died at 69. RIP.

I had read the Barchester chronicles as a teenager but the whole thing came to life when Alan Rickman brought the Reverend Obadiah Slope to life in 1982. He became an immediate favourite for me and even now, more than 30 years later, the deliciously sneaky, slimy, smarminess he imbued Slope with is difficult to match.

His remarkable voice just one of his many assets. He could denote the depth of evil with a quirk of his eyebrow. Of course he went from strength to strength and Severus Snape was – in a sense a return to Slope. A richer, deeper, darker, more sinister Slope who had been to Dante’s inferno and returned. But you only have to watch Rickman as Slope to see where he brings Snape from. He even brought a depth to Col. Brandon which even Jane Austen had not imagined.

Alan Rickman enriched my life and I shall miss his performances.

But I shall always remember him as Obadiah Slope.

The Rise and Fall of Obadiah Slope


 

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Nikon 2015 Photomicrography winners

October 23, 2015

The winner of the Nikon Small World photomicrography competition is the Eye of a honey bee (Apis mellifera) covered in dandelion pollen (120x) by Australian Ralph Claus Grimm:

Ralph Claus Grimm – Eye of a honey bee

My favourite among the fascinating entries is of a Clam shrimp (Cyzicus mexicanus), live specimen (25x) by Ian Gardiner of Canada which won 10th place.

Ian Gardiner live specimen of a clam shrimp

All the entries can be seen at the Nikon Small World site.

A gas turbine as a higher level of art

August 4, 2015

It all started with the wheel of course. Mechanical engineering became art – or was it the other way around?

13th century stone chariot wheel - Konark

13th century stone chariot wheel – Konark

The “art” of mechanical engineering is not just about beauty of form, it is about a beauty of both form and substance. It is a higher level of art because it must not only be aesthetically pleasing to the eye – look good – it must also function as it was meant to.  Da Vinci’s helicopter sketches are interesting and even look good but they don’t represent anything which ever worked or can work. Lovely things which do nothing or do things badly may be some kind of art, but they are not examples of the “art” of engineering. Even sketches of humble pulleys or levers or gears which actually work are – for me – a higher level of art in that they have both the form and the substance.

gt blades

GT Blades (image Siemens)

The requirement of substance – that some artefact functions as it should – constrains the degrees of freedom available for aesthetic expression or satisfaction. It is easier to design pleasing shapes which don’t also have to work. When things that work have a form which is also aesthetically pleasing, or inspiring or challenging we have the art in engineering. And in the world of mechanical engineering, it is turbines in general (wind , water, steam and gas), and modern heavy duty gas turbines in particular, which represent, for me, an awe-inspiring and almost frightening beauty in the sublime combination of form and function. From windmills to jet engines there is art in the engineering. State-of-the-art gas turbines are art epitomised.

GT Compressor blading

GT Compressor blading (image Stork)

Artefacts of engineering don’t have to be beautiful. Not all engineering is art. Gas turbines don’t have to be pleasing to the eye – but they are. Mathematics and physics and chemistry are combined to satisfy the substance and the resulting form – perhaps not entirely intentionally – becomes beautiful. The beauty lies not only in the shape and profile of the compressor and turbine blades (which are in themselves almost mesmerising in their irregular regularity), but in the sheer cleverness of the whole engine. The concept of how a gas turbine functions is itself beautifully ingenious. It is far more “intelligent design” than the ineffective (99% failure rate), hit and miss of evolution (just a trial of random mutational errors), which requires billions of years and innumerable failures. A compressor is an unnatural animal. The “natural” order of fluid flow from higher to lower pressure is subverted. To conceive of the use of an unnatural machine, the compressor, to create a high pressure stream of air, to burn a suitable fuel and raise the temperature of the gas such that it can be expanded in a turbine which not only provides the power to drive the compressor but produces surplus power, is genius. And then to do all that and drive an electrical generator as well , while the blades are rotating at 3000 or 3600 revolutions per minute, when they are at temperatures where even the best steels have the strength of soft butter, is more than awesome. Fine, powerful stuff.

GE 9HA

The GE 9HA “Harriet” gas turbine

An infinite number of monkeys pounding away at keyboards for an infinite amount of time would surely reproduce the works of Shakespeare.

But they couldn’t produce a gas turbine.

The monkey orchid

March 8, 2015

Seen at Kuriositas

Dracula simia: These wonderful orchids come from the south-eastern Ecuadorian and Peruvian cloud forests from elevations of 1000 to 2000 meters

 

Mathematical images by Yeganeh

January 11, 2015
Yeganeh bird in flight

Yeganeh bird in flight

Hamid Naderi Yeganeh, “A Bird in Flight” (November 2014)

This image is like a bird in flight. It shows 2000 line segments. For each i=1, 2, 3, … , 2000 the endpoints of the i-th line segment are:
(3(sin(2πi/2000)^3), -cos(8πi/2000))
and
((3/2)(sin(2πi/2000)^3), (-1/2)cos(6πi/2000)).

See his gallery of images here.

Hamid Naderi Yeganeh is a Bachelor student of mathematics at the University of Qom. He won gold medal at the 38th Iranian Mathematical Society’s Competition (2014).

A Generalization of Wallis Product by Mahdi Ahmadinia and Hamid Naderi Yeganeh

PlusMaths writes:

…but it’s actually a collection of points in the plane given by a mathematical formula. To be precise, it’s a subset of the complex plane consisting of points of the form

  \[ \lambda A(t)+(1-\lambda )B(t), \]    

where

  \[ A(t)= 3(\sin (t))^{3}- \frac{3i}{4}\cos (4t) \]    

and

  \[ B(t)= \frac{3}{2}(\sin (t))^{5} - \frac{i}{2}\cos (3t) \]    

for $0\leq t \leq 2\pi $ and $0\leq \lambda \leq 1.$

The image was created by Hamid Naderi Yeganeh.

Guardians of Peace -1 Sony + Hollywood – 0

December 18, 2014

Well Sony and the US theatre owners caved in and the release of The Interview has been cancelled for now and put off indefinitely. It will not even be released as a Video on Demand. There is a wave of indignant voices about the attack on “free speech”.

By all accounts the film itself was of little artistic merit. It is apparently the imbecilic, tasteless but clever form of humour that teenagers and tabloids love. But I am no longer a teenager and I am bored by the tabloids. So I feel no great sense of loss with the cancellation of the release. It is not a movie that I would have watched anyway.

HuffPo: Sony Pictures will not release “The Interview” on Christmas Day, and the studio has “no further release plans” for the film, this according to a studio spokesperson. It had been speculated that Sony would consider releasing the film either via on-demand services or in theaters at a later date.

Sony announced “The Interview” will not come out as planned in a statement:

In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.  

Sony’s decision caps a whirlwind day, which saw the nation’s five biggest theater chains cancel plans to screen “The Interview.” Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Cineplex Entertainment and Carmike Cinemas pulled the comedy following a terror threat made Tuesday by hackers who had attacked Sony Pictures.

The indignation is not about the film but about the “spineless caving-in to terrorism”. I am not so sure about that. Big Entertainment, with Sony as a leading light, has been quite ruthless in bullying and killing any move when their music revenues have been threatened by smaller and more innovative players. They have lobbied and obtained extensions of copyright protection to quite unjustifiably long periods. They have brought their clout to bear and cracked down viciously on “piracy” in films and music. Even where the so-called piracy has been quite trivial. Nothing wrong with any of that of course. Any enterprise is justified in protecting its market. But they have relied too much on on their “power” and size. They have used the threat of legal action to terrorise the small entrepreneur who has no possibility of bearing the cost of defending against their big legal guns.

So when a group of hackers brings one of the Entertainment Giants to its knees – mainly because they were complacent and thought thought they were invincible – I may not be moved to cheer but I am inclined to smile quietly. I have a tiny bit of sympathy for the makers of the film but none for Sony. And if the hackers – Guardians of Peace – are really an off-shoot of the North Korean government, it is even more remarkable.

Spider Art

September 28, 2014

Spiders were thought to decorate their webs to stabilise them but this is not accepted any more, even though there is no consensus on the reason for the spiders’ art.

Perhaps it is just the spiders’ aesthetic sense.

spider decoration

image from arkinspace.com

A whole gallery of spider art is at Ark in Space.

The structures are known as web decorations but the more scientific name for one is stabilimentum.  In the plural they are known as stabilimenta and the name came about because of a mistake.  When first studied the decorations were believed to be used in stabilizing the web of a spider – and there you have the term stabilimentum – get it?  However, this theory is generally dismissed these days – although it is obvious to one and all why early scientists may have thought this. …..

…. The truth be told, it is quite likely that the purpose and function of stabilimenta are manifold.  It has been discovered that they evolved independently perhaps as many as ten times.  Some spiders make their decorations purely out of their silk.  Other spiders will make them from this and the remains of their egg sacs, not to mention any detritus that just happens to be close to their webs.  The fact that they evolved independently does seem to point towards different functionality. …… 

Some think that the web decorations afford the spider and extra edge in terms of self protection.  It may make spiders appear larger, as already seen, or make them more camouflaged.  It may be the reverse of camouflage – by making the spider more visible then the web itself will be seen by animals like birds that are then less likely to inadvertently damage the web, partially wrecking or even destroying the painstakingly built structure.  So it could well be a kind of ‘stop sign’ to other animals. …… One more modern idea posited is that the stabilimenta are used in order to attract more prey to the web.  You have all seen insects at night flying towards lights?  Ultraviolet light is often used to attract insects and then there is a sharp noise of insect flesh impacting and exploding under the influence of an electric current.  It is now thought that the web decorations reflect ultraviolet light and this makes them attractive to a large number of insect species.  Unwittingly they fly to their deaths.

Cloud Image wins National Geographic competition

August 26, 2014

See also the clouds at this post.

The Independence day by Marko Korošec 2014 NG Traveler winner

The Independence day by Marko Korošec 2014 NG Traveler winner

First Place Winner: The Independence Day

Photo and caption by Marko Korošec

While on storm chasing expeditions in Tornado Alley in the U.S. I have encountered many photogenic supercell storms. This photograph was taken while we were approaching a storm near Julesburg, Colorado, on May 28, 2013. The storm was tornado warned for more than one hour, but it stayed an LP [low precipitation] storm through all its cycles and never produced a tornado, just occasional brief funnels, large hail, and some rain.

National Geographic Traveler Director of Photography Dan Westergren, one of this year’s judges, shares his thoughts on the first-place winner:

“This winning photo of a supercell over the plains of eastern Colorado stopped the judges in our tracks. When we first saw the picture we guessed that the photographer probably had dedicated quite a bit of time chasing storms to capture such an amazing sight. But what makes the picture particularly strong is that except for the cloud, the rest of the scene is quite ordinary. The crazy UFO-looking shape gives the impression that it’s going to suck up the landscape like a tablecloth into a vacuum cleaner. The unresolved tension in the image makes me want to look at it over and over.”

Location: Julesburg, Colorado, USA

2014 Scientific Art Competition

June 10, 2014

The winner of the 2014 Competition was this image created by Dr. David A. Barrow

“Don’t forget your umbrella”

This digital artwork was created with a fractal software program called Apophysis, which can generate “IFS fractal flames”. IFS stands for Iterated Function System, a relatively new branch of mathematics. Fractal patterns often resemble structures in nature, and many viewers enjoy identifying familiar plants or animals, similar to “cloud watching”. The delicate lines in this image are similar to the vein patterns found in leaves, and are typical of the Apophysis styles “Breach” and “Elliptic Splits”. With skillful and practiced command of the software, the fractal/digital artist can shape and enhance these similarities to approach traditional, representational art.

Don't forget your umbrella by David Barrow

Don’t forget your umbrella by David Barrow

In last years competition David Barrow had an image placed second

Never Neverland

Never Neverland – David Barrow

 

Excellence in illustrations

June 4, 2014

A picture is worth ten thousand words — but only when the picture is the right one. Having been involved with presentations and teaching and lectures I can vouch for that.

With the ubiquitous PowerPoint slides, it is quality and certainly not quantity that counts. Using the “right” illustration is extremely powerful and – above all – enables the speaker/presenter to stay on topic and get the message across. When I first started giving lectures I tended – as most beginners do – to have far too many slides to illustrate my talks. I used to try and have almost as many slides as I had minutes to speak. I tried- as beginners are wont to do – to try and get everything I wanted to say onto my slides. I forgot to focus on the message(s) I wanted to leave in the listener’s head.

But that temptation to broadcast rather than to communicate soon changed and the number of slides quickly reduced. I think I really learned the lesson on a trip to Japan when my baggage didn’t arrive and I was forced to make about 5 presentations – each about an hour long – with no PowerPoint slides and only 2 overhead projector illustrations available to me. Nowadays I tend to have at most one illustration for about 5 – 8 minutes of lecture/presentation time. That puts much greater pressure on selection of the right illustration. Paradoxically the “right” illustration is nearly always simpler, less cluttered and more focused.

There is also a downside. Images are so powerful that even one “wrong” illustration out of very many can completely destroy a lecture or a presentation.

John Hopkins celebrated 100 years of medical illustration a few years ago .

The exhibition will make you marvel at the amazing intricacy of the human body, the enormous talent of medical illustrators, and the trajectory the profession has taken over the past 100 years to produce art for medical science. The collection includes an array of subjects — anatomy, pathologic specimens, surgical techniques, textbook illustrations, magazine covers, and more — created with pen and ink, carbon dust, watercolor, photography, and digitized media.

Dr. Levent Efe specialises in medical illustrations and this pregnant elephant is one of their many fascinating works:

"Pregnant

Pregnant Elephant Image Credit Dr. Levant Efe

h/t: Science is Beauty


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