Courtesy Mark RyanDo you like fossils? Do you like to draw or take photographs? Then you should know that the 4th annual National Fossil Day Art and Photography Contest is now accepting submissions. The contest runs until next autumn (submissions must be postmarked by October 4th) when judges will select the winning entries. It's all part of the many celebrations of fossils that take place across the country on and around the official National Fossil Day on October 16, 2013. The celebration is a combined effort by the National Park Service along with several federal and state agencies, and earth science related organizations.
There are four age categories: ages 5-8, 9-13, 14-18, and for us old-timers, 19 and up. You can find all the information you need here on the official National Fossil Day contest site.
This year's contest theme is: "Your nomination for our National Fossil". Maybe you think it's should be a dinosaur, or a trilobite, or one of the famous fossil fish found in the Green River shales of the western USA? Whatever you think, get out your pencils, pens, paints, or cameras and make your case for our national fossil.
By the way, Minnesota is one of 10 states in the union lacking an official state fossil. That needs to be remedied. Do you have a favorite fossil found in Minnesota? Maybe you found one yourself at one of the fossil collecting sites around the Twin Cities. If so, let us know in the comments.
Courtesy Fabian OefnerEver wonder what adding watercolor to ferrofluid might look like? Yeah, me neither. But photographer Fabian Oefner did, and this is the result – cool, psychedelic, maze-like images!
Ferrofluid is a colloidal liquid that’s made up of nanoparticles of iron, suspended in a fluid (usually water). Because it’s basically liquid iron, it becomes magnetized when exposed to a magnetic field, and ends up looking like a spiky mound. What Fabian did to create these cool images was to inject watercolors into a magnetized puddle of ferrofluid. The nanoparticles of iron then rearrange themselves into channels and pools to accommodate the paint, creating these colorful labyrinths. I highly recommend watching the video that demonstrates this process – it’s mesmerizing!
Courtesy Mark RyanI'm not sure why this showed up on Facebook today, but it's kind of interesting. It's an old story from 2008 about a poll taken of 220,000 university students in Great Britain concerning just how satisfied they were with their courses. The results surprised everyone because geology students came out as most happy with their coursework than other students, especially those poor kids slogging through photography and cinema courses. You'd think taking pictures or watching movies or reading about taking pictures or about movies you've watched would be more fun than looking at rocks. Outside. In the rain. With bugs. And wet socks. But I guess that isn't the case. You can read the story, if you want, to find out why that is. I have neither a degree in geology nor in photography but love both subjects, and really like taking pictures of rocks, so I don't care.
Check out L.A. graphic artist Darren Pearson's set of amazing light drawings of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures on Flickr. They're all created in-camera with light and long exposures. I sure wish I could draw like that. Click here for an added bonus of one of his incredible non-dinosaur images.
See photographs of the Japan earthquake/tsunami damage on Gigapan. (You can zoom and pan to explore each image.)
Courtesy Eadweard Muybridge
Scientists who study animal behavior have always had their work cut out for them. For one thing, animal behavior is complex, often involving tiny movements that are not visible to the naked eye. When studying the behavior of animals in groups, this can become even more complicated. Where do you begin to look for patterns? How do you make sense of what you see?
Another difficultly of studying animal behavior comes in designing research tools and experiments that don't interfere with the animal's natural environment. If you've ever tried to walk up to a bird or a squirrel, you know how hard it can be to get close enough to take a good look. The slightest movement or sound, even smells that humans can't smell, can put animals on edge, which might alter the way that they behave.
Over the years, recording equipment and new technologies have made it possible to study animal behavior in new ways. From the invention of photography, which allowed researchers to "freeze" animals and then to set those images in motion, studying how animals move - to newer kinds of imaging techniques that allow today's scientists to observe animal behavior in difficult situations, studying imperceptible changes in their bodies and brains as they move.
This article from The Scientist magazine details how a few researchers have overcome obstacles to studying animal behavior, including the story of a researcher who uses infrared heat-sensing cameras to study the flight trajectories of bats in Brazil. Using ordinary cameras, the necessary lights would disturb the natural behavior of the bats, but infrared cameras give researchers a glimpse of how a very large group of bats behaves at night.
This technology can also be used to study the collective group behavior of other creatures, from very large elephants, to butterflies. Check out the video below to see what bat researchers in Brazil saw when they put these cameras inside a cave.
Courtesy andrewomerknappHave you ever tried to photograph lightning? I have and the results are usually disappointing. But with some new high speed video technology, researchers are able to slow down what's going on with lightning when it strikes. It all looks really cool.
ZT Research in South Dakota is one of the leaders in this effort. Here's a link to its website with some great video and still photos of lightning captured at high speeds and slowed down. USA Today also features a story today about high-speed filming of lightning strikes.
Courtesy US Dept. of Defense (not Mark Ryan)Click here and look at the photograph accompanying the story. Agence France-Presse claims the image was obtained from a website of the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The photo makes it look like the Iranians are flexing their military muscle during a recent missile test launch, but in reality they seem to be merely flexing their Clone Stamp Tool in their (probably illegal) copy of Adobe Photoshop.
Now look at the stock photo on the right. This is a minuteman test done by the US military over the Pacific Ocean. I swear to God I have not manipulated this image in any way whatsoever. Not at all. Not one single pixel has been changed in this original photograph. Really.
Well, okay, actually I may have enhanced it just a bit, but only to make a point.
Photo tampering has been around since the earliest days of photography. It was (and still is) a practice used often in advertising, propaganda, magazine covers, and even news (where it is gravely frowned upon). So this kind of thing is nothing new. But advances in digital photography and computer software that allows for pixel-level image manipulation has really created an atmosphere ripe for extreme skepticism of any kind of photograph you see out there nowadays. And the Internet is full of such “real photographs”; stuff like the guy who keeps his dead wife encased in a coffee-table, paratroopers coming in over a lake full of hungry alligators, or president Bush having a good time in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans. All lies!!
When I published a composite photo in a magazine some years ago, the publisher credited it as a “photo illustration” rather than photograph. And I had no problem with that. I’ve also sold (as photographs) images that were extensively manipulated by the addition and removal of elements to enhance the composition. Since I wasn’t trying to make any kind of editorial statement, I have no problem doing that. I look at it more as painting with pixels than tampering with photography. But it does raise the issue of photo ethics. Evidently, it’s okay when used in some ways (such as advertising where everybody expects everything to be a lie), but not okay in other ways (such as news photos).
If done correctly, and with a good deal of thought and meticulous attention to detail, a remarkable “photograph” can be created that even the experts will have difficulty determining whether it’s been doctored or not. Such as my fine illustrative example above. If I hadn’t told you otherwise, I’m sure you would have thought it was an actual photograph of multiple launches. People can be so gullible.
So, perhaps you want to join the Photo Tampering Bandwagon and learn the finer points of image manipulation, but you just don’t have the time to invest in reading the manual that came with your copy of Photoshop. Who can blame you? The thing is massive! I don’t even like reading it. But now, fortunately, there’s a wonderful series on YouTube called “You Suck at Photoshop”, which makes learning the ins and outs of what truly is a complicated program both fun and educational (especially if your current relationship is on shaky ground).
And, lastly, for those of you insisting on some sort of “science” angle to these posts, go here for that.
Calling all Science Museum of Minnesota staff and volunteers: do you have a photo of the museum you really love? In honor of the Museum’s 100th anniversary, Science Buzz is holding a behind-the-scenes photo contest. We’re looking for all the really juicy stuff that our visitors don’t get a chance to see, like the towboat being hoisted into place, or fossil crocodiles under plastic before being put on exhibit, or the light filtering into the atrium just so…you get the idea.
Submit your photo before January 1, 2008. All images will appear here, under this post, where people all over the world will be able to see them. Buzz staffers (and maybe Ethan Lebovics, who had the idea for this contest—are you reading, Ethan?) will pick the winning photo on the basis of relevance, artistry, and all-around coolness, and the winning photographer will win an as-yet-undetermined prize. And bragging rights.
Here’s how to enter (it’s probably good to open another window, and follow the steps there so you can still read the instructions without flipping back and forth):
You're done! Good luck to everyone that enters. Can't wait to see the photos.