van Eyke ‘Ghent Altarpiece’ in 100 billion pixels

One of the most famous panel paintings in the world, the Ghent Altarpiece has been digitized and is available in detail on an open source website entitled ‘Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece.’

Consisting of 12 panels (one of which is a copy, the original having been stolen in 1934) and depicting numerous complex theological scenes, the documentation project has rendered the already composite work into 100 billion pixels using the highest resolution photography.  Here is a portion of the panel entitled “Deity Enthroned”:

The documentation process makes use of macrophotography in visible light, macrophotography in infrared light, infrared reflectography and X-radiography — probinbeneath the painted surface to reveal the under-drawings. All are available on the website.

Beautiful art and a wonderful contribution by the team that documented and made it available to the world.

RIP Davy Jones

I grew up on the Monkees.  Sad to see Davy go, but his memory will live on in the great music they did.  Here is one of my favorite Monkees’ tunes, the somewhat obscure 1967 “Daily Nightly”.  Wonderfully psychedelic, it is an early example of the use of synth on a pop recording.  And it uses the word “phantasmagoric”.  Gotta love it.


Darkened rolling figures move through prisms of no color
Hand in hand, they walk the night, but never know each other
Passion cast in neon lights light up the jeweled trav’ler
Who, lost in scenes of smoke-filled dreams
Find questions, but no answers

Startled eyes that sometimes see phantasmagoric splendor
Pirouette down palsied paths with pennies for the vendor
Salvation’s yours for just the time it takes to pay the dancer
Once again, such anxious men find questions but no answers

The night has gone and taken its infraction
While reddened eyes hope there will be a next one

Terror signs look down upon a world that glitters glibly
And mountainsides put arms around the unsuspecting city
Second hands that minds have slowed are moving even faster
Toward bring down someone who’s found
The questions, but no answers

Surf’s Up! Wind Shear turns Clouds into Waves

Here is a photo of an unusual cloud formation shot in Birmingham, Alabama. Called a Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, the formation is caused when the wind is moving at different speeds at different altitudes, creating a shearing effect and resulting in clouds shaped like slow-moving waves across the horizon.

And who’d a thunk it, but there is a website for the Cloud Appreciation Society, which has user contributed photos of clouds from around the world and beyond.

The World’s Lightest Material

Here is a piece of metal sitting on a dandelion. It’s the world’s lightest material, developed by a team of researchers from the University of California at Irvine.  It comprises 99.99% air and is one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam.

The Art of Science

The Art of Science contest at Princeton University aims to show off the startling images produced in the normal course of scientific research.  “Art happens,” says Princeton’s vice-dean of engineering Pablo Debenedetti, in announcing the 2011 winners.  The Art of Science launched in 2005 and has run annually since 2009, giving researchers a greater forum of appreciation for the beauty that lies deep in their work.

The 2011 winner is entitled Chaos and Geomagnetic Reversals, by physicist Christophe Gissinger. It shows a model of geomagnetic reversals, i.e. when the earth’s polarity switches. The image appears as ribbons of bright yellows, reds, pale blues and greens swirled on a black background.

Check out the other entries.  Amazing stuff.

Schrödinger’s Cat Revealed …or not

Here is a thought provoking video on the Shrödinger’s Cat paradox, from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.  According to Wikipedia, Shrödinger’s Cat is a thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the “Copenhagen interpretation” of quantum mechanics when applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat in a closed box that is either alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event that would have killed it … or not.  But it obviously cannot exist in both states.  And yet, this is how quantum mechanics is used to understand atomic structures.

I never really understood the paradox, and am not sure I do even after viewing this video.  The video is very well done, directed by Chris Mullington of the TV Factory.


And for what its worth, there is a new research paper that suggests that the Copenhagen interpretation is wrong.  Who’d a thunk it.

Burning Man Festival 2012

Burning Man is an annual festival where tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City. The festival is dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. Participants depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever. Here are a couple videos of the 2012 event.

The first is an amazing and amusing 20 minute time-lapsed video of the entire event by film maker James Cole.


Here is a link to the video on youtube

The second is an exhibit of animated rowing skeletons, called “Charon” by Peter Hudson. I have posted the night video, which captures the effect. But it is worth looking at the day video to see how the exhibit is put together and animates the skeletons.

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A face only a Hagfish can love

Weird but amazing animal. Hagfish are partway between fish and worms, with a spinal cord but no backbone. They have changed little in at least 300 million years. Hagfish largely scavenge, but have recently been found to hunt as well. When they come across a big carcass, they burrow into it and then eat it from the inside. Uniquely for a vertebrate, in addition to having a gut, they can absorb nutrients through their skin and gills. But feeding inside a decaying corpse, there will be little oxygen in the water and lots of toxic ammonia from the rotting flesh. The hagfish can cope with these adverse conditions, no problem. For hunting and defense, hagfish release a slime that gums up the gills of its predetor or victim, which suffocates it.