Category Archives: science

art and science.

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Opera house performs first post-lockdown concert for an all-plant audience

Next week, Barcelona’s Liceu opera house will emerge from its lockdown-induced siesta by throwing a concert to a rather unusual audience. The attendees will not need masks or gloves, nor will they be required to follow physical distancing rules.

However, they might like to take along a nice comfy pot and some water to prevent their roots from drying out as a string quartet serenades them, fittingly, with Puccini’s Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums).

A total of 2,292 plants will occupy the venue’s seats and listen to the opera house’s first post-lockdown concert when it reopens next Monday. Non-vegetal music fans will also be able to enjoy the performance as it will be live-streamed.

According to the Liceu’s artistic director Víctor García de Gomar, the Concert for the Biocene, played the by Uceli quartet, is intended to help us ponder the current state of the human condition and how, in lockdown, we have become “an audience deprived of the possibility of being an audience”.

For Eugenio Ampudia, the conceptual artist behind the concert, the project will serve to reflect what has happened across Spain and around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to retreat from shared public areas.

“At a time when an important part of humankind has shut itself up in enclosed spaces and been obliged to relinquish movement, nature has crept forward to occupy the spaces we have ceded,” said Ampudia.

After the concert, the plants will find themselves in a new home, with each one of them being donated to 2,292 health workers as thank you for their efforts over recent months.

“the first rule of opera is the first rule in life:

see to everything yourself.”

-nellie melba

 

photo and story credits: the optimist daily

300 club.

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Membership to one of the most exclusive clubs in the world takes place around a short red and white striped pole in Antarctica. Only those who endure an atmospheric difference of 300 degrees Fahrenheit are granted entry.

To join the elite 300 Club, residents at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, where on winter days the outside temperature dips below -100 degrees, must bare it all. It’s an odd tradition, one that comes with a high risk of frostbite in rather sensitive, traditionally clothed areas.

To join the exclusive group, the scientists must first spend time in the station’s 200-degree sauna. Once they’re fully cooked, they dash outside (at a brisk walk, because running is dangerous) wearing nothing but shoes and an optional neck gaiter to circle the ceremonial South Pole marker, which is hundreds of feet from the station. They then get back into the steamy sauna, which helps thaw their outsides while a bit of alcohol warms them up inside. Those who complete the challenge even earn a commemorative patch.

Though the thought of a naked scientist racing across the ice in dangerously cold temperatures to circle a pole may seem simply absurd, it’s actually a beloved ritual. The temperature only gets low enough a handful of days each year, giving the wacky tradition an almost ceremonial feel. Participants are usually cheered on by bystanders who use flashlights to guide them to the pole during the perpetual winter blackness.

The marker isn’t even the true location of the South Pole. Antarctica is blanketed by massive chunks of moving ice sheets that move about 30 feet each year. The ice’s inability to sit still makes pinpointing the world’s most southern spot with permanent precision impossible.

Finding and marking the accurate geographic South Pole is an annual (fully clothed) New Year’s Day tradition for those staying at the station. Every year since 1959, South Pole residents erect a new temporary marker at the spot and retire the old one into a display case inside the station. The ceremonial South Pole remains where it is, flanked by the flags, awaiting the next group of winter scientists hoping to join one of the world’s weirdest clubs.

“we take to the breeze, we go as we please.” 

― E.B. White

 

story credits: Atlas obscura, kerry wolf

photo credits:  martin wolf – national science foundation,

craig knott – national science foundation, alan light

universe.

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On an eight-day flight aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992, AAAS member Mae Carol Jemison became the first African American woman to travel in space. Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

Mae C. Jemison, born on this day in 1956, has a few firsts to her name: She was the first woman of color in space, as well as the only real astronaut to have served on the U.S.S. Enterprise, where she portrayed a lieutenant on an episode of Star Trek: TNG.

“we inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.”

-desmond tutu

 

time travel.

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grandie m

shared his formula

for time travel

with me

but has not come up 

with a return formula

as of yet.

he even made me my very own copy.

i love the cover

and hopefully

everyone’s copy looks like this. 

 

“the truth is, time travel is hard, and people are lazy.”

-margaret person haddix, Redeemed

smithsonian.

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Happy Birthday, Smithsonian!

The Smithsonian was officially created on August 10, 1846,

and one of the first things on the to-do list was constructing a building.

The 1850 glass lantern slide above

is the earliest-known photo of the Smithsonian Institution Building,

known as the Castle, and the only image of it under construction.

Smithsonian Explorers, c. 1862-63, Smithsonian Institution Archives

From the enchanting to the eccentric, the Smithsonian has an extremely rich past. There was even a group of rowdy scientists who used to live in the Smithsonian Castle. In 1857, a zoologist named William Stimpson formed a club of young naturalists aiming to build the Smithsonian’s collection. Their meetings were held in the Smithsonian Castle, and many of the members lived there.

Stimpson named the group the Megatherium Club, after the giant extinct sloth that once roamed South America. Over the years, the club developed somewhat of a rambunctious reputation among neighbors (they were known to drink beer late at night, and had sack races down the Castle halls). They called themselves “great beasts,” much like the sloth that they named themselves after.

Despite their mischief, these men were a dedicated group of naturalists, and we owe them a great deal for contribution their descriptions, classifications and specimens to American science, the Smithsonian, and many other institutions in the U.S.

 

“science doesn’t have all the answers,

but it is good at spotting the important questions

when they are camouflaged against a background of common sense.”

-richard dawkins

 

 credits: smithsonian museums, smithsonian institution archives, smithsonian magazine