Good Question: “But Really, Can You Stand In Front Of The Microwave?”

We all, working in our studios all day (and certain nights of course), may use a microwave oven to heat up a noodle soup or some sweet potatoes. While some of my caring friends insist I should not, I enjoy the convenience. But is it really save!?

After reading “But Really, Can You Stand In Front Of The Microwave?” I can pass the all-clear on microwave ovens on to you. That is: If you ensure the oven is truly intact and clean at the door so no radiation may reach you!

This quote from the article got the artist in me: “people tend to be more worried about man-made types of radiation rather than cosmic radiation from space or radon from the soil”. :)

Electrical Discharge on Photographic Film

"The word electricity is thought to derive from the ancient Greek elektron, meaning “amber.” When subject to friction, materials such as amber and fur produce an effect that we now know as static electricity. Related phenomena were studied in the eighteenth century, most notably by Benjamin Franklin. To test his theory that lightning is electricity, in 1752 Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm. He conducted the experiment at great danger to himself; in fact, other researchers were electrocuted while conducting similar experiments. He not only proved his hypothesis, but also that electricity has positive and negative charges. In 1831, Michael Faraday’s formulation of the law of electromagnetic induction led to the invention of electric generators and transformers, which dramatically changed the quality of human life. Far less well-known is that Faraday’s colleague, William Fox Talbot, was the father of calotype photography. Fox Talbot’s momentous discovery of the photosensitive properties of silver alloys led to the development of positive-negative photographic imaging. The idea of observing the effects of electrical discharges on photographic dry plates reflects my desire to re-create the major discoveries of these scientific pioneers in the darkroom and verify them with my own eyes."
Horshi Sugimoto

The following two images are contemporary artworks (2008) by Hiroshi Sugimoto, using static electricity and photographic film.



Already in 1897 Thomas Burton Kinraide, a Boston electrician and the inventor of a high-frequency x-ray coil, "made images with his x-ray apparatus that were both scientifically didactic and aesthetically beautiful. He placed glass plate negatives in the path of the spark gap between the two poles of his coil, recording the different phases of electrical discharges. The positive phase of the discharge created a branching and fern-like design that Kinraide called “filiciform,” while the negative phase showed a soft feathery appearance that he called 'plumous'.” 



Glass plate negative of electrical discharges by Thomas Burton Kinraide

Via Linda Matney Gallery 

The Great Art of Light and Shadow

Illustration by Athanasius Kircher from his book Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (The Great Art of Light and Shadow).

"In 1646, Kircher published Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, on the subject of the display of images on a screen using an apparatus similar to the magic lantern as developed byChristiaan Huygens and others. Kircher described the construction of a "catotrophic lamp" that used reflection to project images on the wall of a darkened room. Although Kircher did not invent the device, he made improvements over previous models, and suggested methods by which exhibitors could use his device. Much of the significance of his work arises from Kircher's rational approach towards the demystification of projected images.

For most of his professional life, Kircher was one of the scientific stars of his world: according to historian Paula Findlen, he was "the first scholar with a global reputation". His importance was twofold: to the results of his own experiments and research he added information gleaned from his correspondence with over 760 scientists, physicians and above all his fellow Jesuits in all parts of the globe. The Encyclopædia Britannica calls him a "one-man intellectual clearing house". His works, illustrated to his orders, were extremely popular, and he was the first scientist to be able to support himself through the sale of his books. Towards the end of his life his stock fell, as the rationalist Cartesian approach began to dominate (Descartes himself described Kircher as "more quacksalver than savant")."



Popular Science Books Everyone Should Read

by Johnny Webber

"1. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking — A book in which Hawking attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology to the non-specialist reader.

2. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson — The history of science through the stories of the people who made the discoveries.

3. The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan — An explanation of the scientific method for laypeople.

4. Cosmos by Carl Sagan — Sagan explores 15 billion years of cosmic evolution and the development of science and civilization

5. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins — A look at evolution from the viewpoint of genes.

6. Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman — Six simplified chapters that explain the forces of the universe.

7. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene — A non-technical assessment of string and superstring theory and some of its shortcomings.

8. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre — A look at how people bend science to fit their agendas. 

9. The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins — A look at the flaws of intelligent design and why natural selection is the only reality.

10. Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan — A vision of the human future in space.

11. Physics of the Impossible by Dr. Michio Kaku — Kaku discusses speculative technologies to introduce topics of fundamental physics.

12. A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman — A look at how the different senses work and the varied means by which different cultures have sought to stimulate them.

13. Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter — Learn how concepts in mathematics, symmetry, and intelligence are connected."


Electricity from Magnetism

"On the 29th August 1831 Michael Faraday achieved one of his greatest successes, discovering how to make electricity from magnetism.

Faraday’s first ‘Electromagnetic Induction Ring' is made from 2 sections of wire insulated with cotton and then coiled around opposite sides of an iron ring. When Faraday passed an electric current through one coil he induced an electric current in the other coil, which flowed for a very brief period of time and caused the needle on a galvanometer to move.

He wrote in his scientific notebook:

 Aug 29th 1831 

1. Expts on the production of Electricity from Magnetism, etc. etc.

2. Have had an iron ring made (soft iron), iron round and 7/8 inches thick and ring 6 inches in external diameter. Wound many coils of copper wire round one half, the coils being separated by twine and calico – there were 3 lengths of wire each about 24 feet long and they could be connected as one length or used as separate lengths. By trial with a trough each was insulated from the other. Will call this side of the ring A. On the other side but separated by an interval was wound wire in two pieces together amounting to about 60 feet in length, the direction being as with the former coils; this side call B.

3. Charged a battery of 10 pr. plates 4 inches square. Made the coil on B side one coil and connected its extremities by a copper wire passing to a distance and just over a magnetic needle (3 feet from iron ring). Then connected the ends of one of the pieces on A side with battery; immediately a sensible effect on needle. It oscillated and settled at last in original position. On breaking connection of A side with Battery again a disturbance of the needle.

4. Made all the wires on A side one coil and sent current from battery through the whole. Effect on needle much stronger than before.

5. The effect on the needle then but a very small part of that which the wire communicating directly with the battery could produce.

 From this experiment Faraday would go on to develop the first ever generator a few months later.

Faraday’s Ring and scientific notebook can be found within the museum and archival collections of the Ri."

Via Royal Institution


Map of Scientific Collaboration Between Researchers

Looks like a meteor shower!
Here is some background information:

"Using data from Science-Metrix, a bibliometric consulting firm that licenses data from journal aggregators like Elsevier's Scopus and Thomson Reuter's Web of Science, Olivier Beauchesne build an intricate map of scientific collaborations between cities all over the world, between 2005 and 2009.

As Olivier explains: "…if a UCLA researcher published a paper with a colleague at the University of Tokyo, this would create an instance of collaboration between Los Angeles and Tokyo. The result of this process is a very long list of city pairs, like Los Angeles-Tokyo, and the number of instances of scientific collaboration between them."

The brightness of the lines is a function of the logarithm of the number of collaborations betweena pair of cities and the logarithm of the distance between those same two cities."


Descartes’ Rainbow

"In his Discourse on Meteorology, Descartes includes this image of the mathematics of stargazing.  The Discourse can be read as a work in scientific aesthetics.  Descartes opens with the remark that people are naturally prone to wonder when looking upward at the heavens.  In his final book, Descartes would later say that wonder is the most fundamental emotion, and his analysis of wonder can be read as a precursor to Kantian aesthetics.  We are drawn to sensory experiences that defy easy comprehension."