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January 27, 2020

The Memories of Saints — René Magritte


January 27, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to ID wildflowers while driving on the highway


From Atlas Obscura:

Let's say you're cruising down a highway in Nebraska at the speed limit of 70 miles per hour.

Out of the corner of your eye, you notice a purple-pink blur by the side of the road.

You'd crane your neck or take a picture, but you have to keep your hands on the wheel.

So you drive onward, haunted by a question: What wildflower did you see?

Worry no more.

Chris Helzer, the creator of The Prairie Ecologist blog and director of science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska, has written "a practical guide" for identifying flowers without so much as getting off the highway.

"Most wildflower field guides are nearly useless for roadside flower viewing, written for the eccentric botanical enthusiast who wanders slowly through prairies, stooping low to determine whether the sepals of a flower are hispid or hirsute," Helzer writes in the guide, using the technical terms for hair-like structures found on plants. His tongue-in-cheek blog post continues: "But what about the silent majority who prefer to experience wildflowers the way General Motors intended–by whizzing past them in a fast, comfortable automobile?"

The resulting e-booklet, "A Field Guide to Roadside Wildflowers at Full Speed," blurrily documents the different species of wildflowers one might encounter near highways in the central Great Plains, which includes states such as Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

Butterfly milkweed (top), a beautiful orange flower with delicate pom-poms of florets, appears as an undulating orange smear against shades of green.

Black-eyed Susans (below),


the yellow, daisy-like flower with a dark center, also look like a smear, only this time brown and yellow, like a wayward bumblebee that got caught in a windshield wiper.

And repeating bands of purple-pink are none other than the stick-like flower gayfeather, also known as blazing star (though bands of a darker pink could also be purple loosestrife; below).


Each flower is accompanied with accurate descriptions of the species' bloom times, habitat, and similar species.

"Technically there's nothing untrue in the book," Helzer says. "And 99 percent of people understand that it's a joke."

Helzer, who is also a photographer, came up with the project over 10 years ago, but only finished it when he was bored over the winter holidays.

"I started out by just making a couple of images, taking good wildflower photos and smearing them in Photoshop to look blurry," he says. "The more I got into it, I figured I might as well make the whole book."

He admits the edited images are exaggerated, as most people hoping to see wildflowers out the window would likely focus on one spot as they drove by. "But if you turned your head sideways and just kind of focus in one direction, they look just like blurs of color," he says.

Though Helzer had no grand agenda for the project, he's been surprised by people's reactions.

"I did not expect this stupid field guide idea to blow up," he says. "But I'm glad it has, and I'm hoping a side effect is that it convinces people there's something else to see in prairies besides just something to drive through to get to the mountains or the ocean."

In his job at The Nature Conservancy, Helzer spends much of his time wandering the grasslands at more like three miles per hour.

He manages prairies with prescribed fire, helps ranchers manage their lands for grazing livestock, and monitors biodiversity.

"The guide is pretty facetious about how you'd have to be crazy to go around and wander and just stare at flowers," he says. "But I guess that's my actual job."

January 27, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gentle Reader — Josephine Jacobsen

Late in the night when I should be asleep
under the city stars in a small room
I read a poet. A poet: not
a versifier. Not a hot–shot
ethic–monger, laying about
him; not a diary of lying
about in cruel cruel beds, crying.
A poet, dangerous and steep.

O God, it peels me, juices me like a press;
this poetry drinks me, eats me, gut and marrow
until I exist in its jester's sorrow,
until my juices feed a savage sight
that runs along the lines, bright
as beasts' eyes. The rubble splays to dust:
city, book, bed, leaving my ear's lust
saying like Molly, yes, yes, yes O yes.




January 27, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Photograph of a single atom


From Big Think:

Ever think you'd see a single atom?

Oxford physicist David Nadlinger has won the top prize in the fifth annual Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's national science photography competition for his image (above) "Single Atom in an Ion Trap," which indeed does the incredible: it makes a single atom visible to the human eye.

Captured on an ordinary digital camera, the image shows an atom of strontium suspended by electric fields emanating from the metal electrodes of an ion trap — those electrodes are about 2mm apart.

Nadlinger shot the photo through the window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap, which is used to explore the potential of laser-cooled atomic ions in new applications such as highly accurate atomic clocks and sensors, and quantum computing.

Strontium is a soft, silvery metal that burns in air and reacts with water.

It's best known for giving fireworks and flares their brilliant red glow, and for being one of the key ingredients in "glow-in-the-dark" paints and plastics, as it can absorb light and re-emit it slowly.

Which is exactly what happened in this photograph.

In the photo caption, Nadlinger explains: "When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet color, the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph."

The strontium atom appears larger than its true size because it was emitting light, and was oscillating slightly, over the course of the long exposure.

Of his inspiration for the winning photo, he says:

"The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the miniscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot."

The photo was captured on August 7th, 2017, using a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens, extension tubes, and two flash units with color gels.

January 27, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Britain and Ireland Explainer Tea Towel

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 10.45.10 AM

From the website:

Ever found yourself struggling to explain the difference between Great Britain (the landmass plus northern isles) and the United Kingdom (the country)?

Or maybe you didn't even realise there was a difference!

This handy tea towel explains all.

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 10.45.16 AM

Features and Details:

• Machine washable

• 100% cotton

• 27" x 18"

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 10.45.22 AM


January 27, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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