Archive by category | Arts

Last Diamonds: portraits of icebergs

Last Diamonds: portraits of icebergs

A frozen menagerie of yawning overhangs, rotting underbellies, humanistic curves, tumbled-over organ pipes confronts you.  Francesco Bosso’s Last Diamonds is a glorious, sombre collection of 25 monochrome ‘portraits’ of icebergs off the coast of Greenland, gingerly treading the boundary between art and science. Each plate, created using a traditional analog photographic process, offers haunting insight into the cryosphere, exploring a grey, often cloudy sky, a shimmering jet-black ocean, and an iceberg traversing the intersection.  Read more

Illustrated books of 2017: the magnificent eight

Illustrated books of 2017: the magnificent eight

There’s something about a collection. We seem to harbour an urge to amass and sort as we build menageries, museums, taxonomies. And the illustrated book is a portable simulacrum, a paper cabinet of curiosities, curated for maximum aesthetic punch.  Read more

Top 20 books: discovering worlds

Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. Kepler-186 system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

In terms of job satisfaction, discovering worlds must take the Sachertorte. Sibling astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, for instance, rejoiced in a haul that included Uranus, eight comets and several moons gleaned from what William called the “luxuriant garden” of the skies. Their final tally of deep-sky objects, with that of William’s gifted son John, numbered in the thousands. I’m sure their minds would be boggled by today’s exoplaneteering exploits — such as the TRAPPIST-1 system of seven Earth-like planets that fully emerged this year.  Read more

Maths and murals: Leiden’s wall formulae

One of Einstein's field equations - part of the Leiden wall formulae project.

Albert Einstein’s field equations from his theory of general relativity combine wonderful scientific intuition with the honed concision of poetry. Yet relatively few of the culturally inclined marvel at the shape of a mathematical equation in the way they might at a line from Shakespeare. Now, however, the Dutch university town of Leiden is giving its citizens a chance to try, through iconic formulae by physicists and astronomers painted on walls throughout the city.  Read more

Machines moved by mind

Machines moved by mind

At Mental Work, an exhibition at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne ArtLab (EPFL), visitors can drive simple machines using the force of their own thoughts. Probing the rapidly changing relationship between humans and technology, these artworks will also generate vast amounts of data that will be shared with researchers around the world. The show is a collaboration between experimental philosopher Jonathan Keats and EPFL neuroengineer José Millán, who develops brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to help people with paralysis. Here, Millán talks pistons, probability and the debate over who or what is in control.  Read more

The impossibility of being known

A model relationship: Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham

Like Copenhagen Michael Frayn’s 1990s blockbuster, Heisenberg: the Uncertainty Principle is a play that takes as its muse a notion at the heart of quantum physics: that it is impossible to know both the exact position and momentum of a particle at once.  Where Frayn imagined physicists’ rarefied debates, playwright Simon Stephens uses the idea to probe the messy world of relationships.  Read more

Blade Runner 2049: a dystopian masterwork

Blade Runner 2049: a dystopian masterwork

If director Denis Villeneuve was daunted by creating a sequel to the 1982 cult noir Blade Runner, it doesn’t show. The themes running through his Blade Runner 2049 feel more poignant than ever, the Los Angeles rain falls even harder, and it packs as much of a cinematic punch.  Read more

Graphic window on a refugee scientist

Graphic window on a refugee scientist

Graphic artist Erik Nelson Rodriguez is an innovative comics journalist. With reporter Darryl Holliday, he began creating nonfiction stories in graphic-novel form at university, covering issues such as gun violence. In 2016, US National Public Radio (NPR) invited Rodriguez to collaborate on an account of Syrian refugee Nedal Said: a trained microbiologist and teacher, Said fled the war in 2013 and is now a researcher in Leipzig. The result, The Scientist Who Escaped Aleppo, is part of NPR’s special series on refugee scientists: a testament to the ordeals endured, and the extraordinary potential offered, by the refugee community.  Read more

Paleoart: painting the deep past

Paleoart: painting the deep past

The term ‘paleoart’ might make many people think of fading ochre sketches of aurochs and other fearsome Ice Age animals in caves such as Lascaux, in southwestern France. That, however, is Palaeolithic art. Paleoart – graphic depictions of long-gone creatures and environments – is an oft-overlooked genre with roots in the early eighteenth century, when the study of extinct animal fossils took off, and both scientists and the public began to imagine a deep past.  Read more