Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

V.L. – Heezen + Tharp + Berann

January 12, 2010

The scientific advancement that the World Wars introduced, though particularly involving flying, swimming-killing machines, was a catalyst for some of the most productive and important developments of Science with practical implications.

A crucial scientific innovation was the use of sonar-imagery that allowed the depths of the oceans to be mapped, partly hypothetical but significantly visual realisations from Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp – their’s was the first true, scientifically deducted images of the sea bed.

When talking about the depth of water, old language named the units as ‘fathoms’. Essentially two yards or rather the distance between your finger tips outstretched, when Shakespeare says “full fathom five thy father lies” it was to imply that once you are within the fathomless depths (or just 30 feet) of the sea, you are in unchartered territory. Heezen sent Tharp all the data to draw from and first, she drafted in fathoms, then in corrected fathoms, and finally, in the metric system. Realizing no doubt that irony in fathoming the fathoms.

This is her. She used Physiographic* techniques to make a more detailed map of the North Atlantic. Her goal – “to present it as if all the water were drained away”. Unlike contour maps, physiographic maps show the lay of the bed as if they were being seen from a low flying plane.

The eventual map of the whole world was produced in 1977 in collaboration with Heinrich Berann. Master mountain painter. How he came to be part of Team World Ocean Floor in Tharp’s own words –

Inspired by the International Indian Ocean Expedition, the National Geographic Society wanted to commission a map of the Indian Ocean to illustrate an article on it.Some time earlier, National Geographic had received a letter from a little girl in Austria who wrote, “I’ve been looking at your maps and my father can paint better than you can.”Intrigued, National Geographic editors sent their chief topographer to Innsbruck, Austria, to meet the girl’s artist father, Heinrich Berann.

The most excellent mountain painter of all time say I. Some context to expand on at a later date –

The use of rays or emmisions outside of our sensory range to generate visual images opens up the possibility of mapping phenomena which do not lie within the physical aspect of ‘seeable’ form and space.

Martin Kemp in Seen, Unseen.

He said this in context of creating maps, derived from scientific tools or methods of deduction that may relate to forms and structures but which are not, strictly speaking, records of them.

Anyway, Kemp described the use of sonar imagery as a quinntessencially 20th century. Along with many other discoveries that replaced our human capabilty for seeing, like electron microscopy, the high frequency sound waves and electron beams have become an analogy for light its self.  When applied they deal with the reading of things that cannot be seen. He puts it better when he says that the imagery “relies upon transmission other than the visible wavelengths of light that we normally use for looking at the world”.

It would probably be worth talking here about a point made in my notes concerning the earlier notion of visual thought –

The number of instances in science where a set of images derived from the world of sense perception has been replaced by ‘artificial visual images, and even more so by models, which go on to generate their own reality’ … geological maps, at a macroscopic level… have come to exert extraordinary explanatory power precisely because they are easier to deal with than nature itself.


Richard Feynman, Art

January 1, 2010

Will be miny case studying Richard Feynman. Whilst researching came across his art. I’m not talking specifically about art and science in my dissertation, though it has cropped up during my reading. There are many examples of artists working wit scuentific phenomen. I think I concentrated on some during my inital postings re: the diss. Anyway, Feyman is featuring in the “magnum opus” and initially I think his sensibilities towards the depiction of physics to the layman is unique, but he has a real rennaisance style attitude towards art which I think is  just as unique. First a weird screen grab of him talking about his art

And now his equations/sketches which remind me of the lists I make, minus the quantum mechanics –

This is a oil study of his artist friend Jirayr Zorthian who taught him to draw (and who he is talking to in the text bit above) –

He’s not the best artist, I just like his way of seeing the world, and i like him.

Robert Fludd and some Context etc.

December 10, 2009

S’incredible how many scanned in books there are on the interweb. Really, very useful. Above image by Robert Fludd.

This is something I wrote last year for an essay about my working practice in comparison to scientific theory –

Pythagoras* and his Golden Ratio, the application of which helped establish the concept for Microcosm and Macrocosm as a unifying theory, first recognised that by understanding the same traits/characteristics that appear in one entity, this knowledge can be applied to other entities of different sizes. Therefore, by using the Golden Ratio, everything can be considered in the same context.

Robert Fludd was one such man to recognise this theory in his work. A Mathematician and an Astrologer, he wrote many books on the subject, and was credited as the first person to use Microcosm and Macrocosm to explain the circulation of blood in the body, to pretty accurate effect. The heart, he suggested, was The Sun. Our blood is the equivalent of Planets in constant orbit about the heart/Sun and the Universe is our body. Such illustrative analogies crop up consistently in his most celebrated work, Utrusque Cosmi, Majoris scilicet et Minoris, Metaphysica, Physica, atque tenchnica Historia.

To go back to a definition for each of the terms referenced –

Microcosm and Macrocosm is the seeing of the same patterns in all levels of the cosmos. From a universal level to a metaphysical or sub-atomic level. It was  assumed to have derived during the Rennaisance particularly with the popular use of the Golden Ratio or the Golden Mean or the Fibinacci sequence to aesthetic purposes.

A/M.L. – A Dynamical Theory of The Electromagnetic Field.

December 8, 2009

Will need a strong case for analogical and metaphorically stated theory, will put forward several ideas that will then narrow down to something coherant/not boring.

First, worthy of further reading and research is the theory of Electromagnetism, 1865. From the Trailblazing Royal Society –

Few papers in the history of physics have had the impact of this paper, Maxwell’s great synthesis of the nineteenth century theory of electromagnetism. He extended what was already known about electricity and magnetism with one crucial addition, called the displacement current, where changing electric fields generate magnetic fields. The resulting theory is the first success at unifying forces, as it describes electricity and magnetism as just two different aspects of the same underlying phenomenon. However, it goes far beyond that, as Maxwell also showed that light consists of electromagnetic waves, explaining, in one leap, all of classical optics. His theory is one of the pillars of classical physics, but it also contains hints of the theory of special relativity, and therefore the seed of the modern physics revolution that was to follow.

David Wark, Department of Physics, Imperial College London.

READ THIS, from the Philosophical Journal. This is James Clarke Maxwell, he’s Scottish and enjoys Frisbee.

But this is his official lonely hearts ad –

Portrait of the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). Maxwell graduated in mathematics in 1850 at Trinity College, Cambridge. He applied his mathematical skills to various physical problems, arriving at the formulation of Maxwell’s equations in 1864. With these, Maxwell unified all the different phenomena of electricity and magnetism binding them together in the new electro-magnetic theory. He also worked out, at the same time but independently from Boltzmann, the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution of velocities for the molecules of a gas, discovering how it depends on the temperature of the gas.

V.I. – Newton Update

December 8, 2009

Just read on Wired 1671: “A Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton, Professor of the Mathematicks in the University of Cambridge; Containing His New Theory about Light and Colors” –

In one of the most famous experiments ever, Newton used a glass prism to spread a beam of light into a rainbow spectrum, demonstrating that colors were a property of light’s refraction. Not mentioned, however, is Newton’s earlier studies of light, in which he stuck a needle into his eye and recorded how colors changed as he pressed his retina into different shapes.

Irrelavent, but good to know.

V.I. – Will Burtin

December 6, 2009

Not sure how this will fit in, but Will Burtin’s work is an incredible example of public scientific art. He also stressed the importance of design within science.

From an article in Creative Review, Rick Poyner wrote –

In 1957, after conducting some careful preliminary research, Burtin proposed to Upjohn that he build them a gigantic model of a human cell (above), then the focus of great scientific and public interest. Upjohn took a gamble and accepted his plan, and it was here, observe Remington and Fripp, “that the modern concept of scientific visualization was born”.

On the book Design as Science, The Life and Work of Will Burtin by Roger Remington and Robert S.P. Fripp –

It has been said that Will Burtin (1908–1972) was to graphic design what Albert Einstein was to physics.

Burtin pioneered important contributions to international typography and visual design. He is best known as the world leader in using design to interpret science; as a proponent of ‘clean’, uncluttered sans-serif typography; and for his large-scale three-dimensional models, which carried the craft and the art of display to new heights. His walk-through models included a human blood cell (1958) and brain functions (1960). His major achievement, his clarity and ingenuity with models and graphics made complex information easy to assimilate.

An extract from the book about the above image of Burtin’s “Brain” –

In order to represent time accurately, Burtin rapidly abandoned – or never considered – the possibility that the Upjohn Brain would resemble the human brain itself. The Cell was a scaled-up simulacrum of a cell – it resembled what it represented. But it was more important for the Brain to demonstrate mental function than to resemble the actual organ. Burtin wrote: “In studying the anatomy of the brain some years back, while working on a lead article of ‘Scope’ with Dr. Macleod, I found that the concern over anatomical details prevented or made very difficult an understanding of operational principles on which consciousness – the essential product of the brain – is based.” For that reason the present authors refrain from calling the Upjohn Brain a model. Better to use Burtin’s term, “exhibit sculpture”; or Remington’s, “The presentation was, in effect, a schematic of a functioning brain.”

V.I. – Kees Boeke

December 6, 2009

Previous post Powers of Ten (illiteration?) was based on an educational book by Kees Boeke called Cosmic View. While I am focusing on the Eames interpretation as a casestudy, the only real difference is in the title, location and some of the wording. But I’ll refer to that when it crops up in The Diss. This a selection of images accompanied by original text purely chosen because they’re my favourites and are only to scale if you click on them –

“The first picture, from which we start, is as we said already one of a child sitting in front of the school, with a cat on her lap. It is drawn on a scale of 1 to 10. This means that a centimeter on the drawing is in reality 10 centimeters. A centimeter (abbreviated “cm.”) is the hundredth part of a meter, which corresponds to the yard as a unit of length. To be precise, a meter is 3.37 inches longer than 1 yard. One centimeter is therefore nearly 0.4 inch. In both length and height, the picture measures 15 centimeters, or nearly 6 inches. An arrow shows the direction of north.”

“We have now jumped to a height of 50,000 meters or 50 kilometers, that is more than 30 miles, and we notice a second effect of our jumps: not only are all lengths we see reduced tenfold each time, but the area which comes into our field of vision increases a hundredfold. So the above illustration covers a square 15 kilometers on a side, and we see Bilthoven (1) as a suburb of Utrecht (2). A dotted wavy line symbolizes a radio wave of 298 meters wave length reaching Bilthoven from the transmitter southwest of Utrecht, called “Hilversum” after the town (3) where its studios are. The 1.5-centimeter square in the middle gives again, as it has done each time, a reduced representation of the preceding illustration. As this illustration contains a photograph of a detailed plan of Bilthoven, it just shows the houses, though very minutely.”

“The earth, which reached nearly to the large square on the previous page, now fits into the small square. The distance we have had to travel straight up, to get its size thus reduced, is tremendous: according to our reckoning in drawings 4 and 5, we should be now 500,000 kilometers up, or about 312,500 miles – more than the distance to the moon. From here we see the earth as a planet spinning counterclockwise in the empty, dark, surrounding space. The sun, in the south, makes it shed its shadow toward the north. Two faint dotted lines mark the limits of this “umbra” (1). Another dotted line (2) gives the path along which the earth moves, from right to left. Many faraway stars would be visible, but these are left out in this drawing and others that follow, to concentrate attention on our “immediate surroundings”.”

“The whole solar system is now in view. The sun and the planets nearest it – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars – have together been reduced to a tiny circle (1), but the other planets and their wider orbits are clearly seen; Jupiter (2), Saturn (3), Uranus (4), Neptune (5), and Pluto (6). The latter’s orbit at one place comes inside Neptune’s. The whole orbit of Halley’s Comet is here; also its position in 1951 (7). It will be near the earth again in 1986. The elliptic nature of the planets’ orbits has been taken into account. In most cases, however, this again means only that the sun is not in the center of an orbit, for the difference of its shape from the circle cannot be seen in any of them except Pluto’s. The inclination of the orbits to the plane of the horizon of Bilthoven has been neglected. Light would on this scale travel about 1 centimeter per hour.”

“Now that our whole local group of galaxies has shrunk to the size of less than 2 millimeters in the center of the small square, we have in the above drawing indicated some of the countless other galaxies and clusters of galaxies which are spread out in all directions. Their distribution is known to be fairly uniform. Naturally the above drawing does not try to be an exact representation. In the two previous ones the galaxies shown were actually placed in the positions they would be in, with reference to our galaxy, if we could look at them from our imaginary point of observation above that place on earth and on that moment when we undertook our fantastic flight. Now, however, all we can do is to sketch a large number of galaxies and groups of galaxies of different sizes and to make their average distance the kind of dimension it is known to be.”

“The living creature portrayed in this drawing is a mosquito, to be exact an anopheles, or malaria mosquito. We can see this from the way it sticks up its hind legs. This is the first strange coincidence, for from the first series of pictures we know that it was in December that the scene occurred, and this insect is rather rare in Holland in winter. We notice that there is a little cut in the girl’s finger. Right in the center of the tiny square in the middle is a minute white spot. It is a grain of salt which stuck to the girl’s hand, having been left there, we may assume, after she ate her lunch. As it is not exactly the thing we would most expect to find there, it will be evident that there is a special reason for choosing it. That reason will appear later.”

“This scale has a magnification of a million. The electron microscope therefore can no longer give us clear images, for at most it can magnify 100,000 times. A more schematic image is therefore unavoidable, that is, a diagram rather than a photographic enlargement. Yet we know that there would still be living creatures. We show the infantile paralysis virus (1), already visible in -5, and one of hoof and mouth disease (2). The latter is about the smallest now known. Apart from the viruses shown there exist several with shapes sharply different from these wholly or nearly spherical forms. The sinusoid (3) shown is of an ultraviolet ray. The dots in the upper left quadrant indicate molecules of the air. The inset has the flagellum composed of three strands as already shown in -5. The height of the salt crystal on this scale would be 500 meters.”

“In this final picture we see the nucleus of the sodium atom. We cannot even guess how the 12 protons and 11 neutrons in it are placed. This nucleus is not painted an even grey; its edge is of a somewhat lighter tone which gradually merges into the darker hue in the center. The meaning of this difference of tone is again different from that in drawings -7 to -11. Here a darker grey denotes greater density of electric charge. As a new element there is a gamma ray, full of astonishingly penetrating power, coming in from the left. Its wave length is only a millionth of an angstrom unit, which itself is a hundred millionth of a centimeter! Looking back on the whole series of 40 pictures we find that in only 10 of them (3 to -6) is life known to exist. In other scales there may, however, be forms of life we do not yet know.”

V.I. and A/M.L. – An Excellent Archive

December 6, 2009

Good timelines. A chronological and thematic database on the history of information and media, in fact.


It’s not massivly visual, but the links and synopsis are concise, and if you know what you’re looking for, it’s fucking gold.

Image from The VisigothicMozarabic Bible of St. Isidore, also known as the Biblia de León was completed in the Monastery of Valeránica, Spain on June 19, 960 by Iberian Christians. Post speculates it as a possible influence on Picasso’s Guernica. Very interesting site, many books I want to eat with my eyes.

V.I. – Opticks

December 6, 2009

In 1704 Isaac Newton publishes Opticks: Or a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of light.  Also Two Treatises of the Species and Magnitude of Curvilinear Figures.

Some words from unnofficial sponsors and mega time-savers HoS

Unlike most of Newton’s works, Opticks was originally published in English, with the Latin version following in 1706.  The work summarized Newton’s discoveries and theories concerning light and color: the spectrum of the sunlight, the degrees of refraction associated with different colors, the color circle (the first in the history of color theory), the invention of the reflecting telescope; the first workable theory of the rainbow, and experiments on what would later be called “interference effects” in conjunction with Newton’s rings.


V.I. – Micrographia

December 6, 2009

Or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon.

HoS‘s post Graphic Portrayal of the Hitherto Unknown Microcosm has this to say –

This was the first book devoted entirely to microscopical observations, and also the first book to pair its microscopic descriptions with profuse and detailed illustrations. This graphic portrayal of the hitherto unknown microcosm had an impact rivalling that of Galileo‘s Sidereus nuncius (1610), which was the first book to include images of the macrocosm shown through the telescope

Authored and Illustrated by Robert Hooke in 1665, of the above Observ. XXIV. Of the surfaces of Rosemary, and other leaves he says –

This which is delineated within the circle of the second Figure of the 14. Scheme, is a small part of the back or under side of a leaf of Rosemary, which I did not therefore make choice of because it had any thing peculiar which was not observable with a Microscope in several other Plants, but because it exhibits at one view…

He then goes on to describe the characteristics and their properties.

HoS is really very gold and shiny.