Blasphemous Theories About the First Americans

Blasphemous Theories About the First Americans

The ice bridge through which the first American settlers came from Asia was neither made of ice nor a bridge. And according to new evidence, it might have not been the only way in which the continent was populated. Previously dismissed blasphemous theories about the first Americans are enjoying a come-back, and it's finally time ...
The Great Exhibition of 1851

The Great Exhibition of 1851

I was once walking around Crystal Palace Park, waiting for a movie festival to begin, when a man approached me and my friend and asked us if we had seen the dinosaurs. We were confused at first, but he quickly pointed at some massive and frankly strange-looking sculptures that were spread around the park. Only ...
A creationist's toybox: The Acámbaro figures

A creationist’s toybox: The Acámbaro figures

In July 1944, a German merchant named Waldemar Julsrud announced he had discovered several thousands ceramic figurines in Mexico, representing everything from supposed dinosaurs to peoples from all over the world. Julsrud had an impressive collection: Over 32,000 original pieces. You can see a few of them here: When I read about this story, I was instantly ...
Celebration of Snails

Celebration of Snails

This article title is absolutely on point. About a year ago, I started a post but just filled in the headline. Naturally, I completely forgot about it until Bente asked me about the draft. What I didn't tell her was that by then I had no idea what the original intention had been, but I was pretty sure it wasn't ...
The art, design and architecture of birds

The art, design and architecture of birds

What is architecture? What is design? What is art? Conscious choices. Some kind of cognitive processes that says "naaah. that doesn't work" or "fabfunfantastic!" That is what bowerbirds do. I came across them for the first time as a child. A newspaper we subscribed to used to run a small "interesting-facts from the natural-world" section in a hidden ...
Maria Sibylla Merian: illustrating the natural world

Maria Sibylla Merian: illustrating the natural world

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717) was a remarkable woman in many ways. She was a very talented scientific illustrator and had a passion for insects. According to David Attenborough, she contributed immensely to taxonomy in entomology and the understanding of metamorphosis, and she was the first person who travelled on purely scientific grounds. Though ...
Gorgeous ammonites

Gorgeous ammonites

Ammonites are amongst the most popular fossil, and they have every right to do so. These beautiful spiral creatures are somewhat related to octupuses and squids, the only difference being that they went extinct 75 million years ago, along with the dinosaurs. When ammonites originated, they were planktonic and tiny. Less than 1mm tiny. As they ...
Elin's bubbles

Elin’s bubbles

My friend Elin is turning out to be quite the photographer. To my delight, her work is turning increasingly abstract, and her latest batch is of frozen bubbles. What fascinates me is the sense of spindrift in the crystalline structures. And the ephemeral nature of it; of ice, water, air. Delicately frozen in time, frozen in ...
Human Evolution Infographic

Human Evolution Infographic

I made this infographic to show the (current state of things for) human evolution. Or quite current, because there have been some new discoveries, but they are still being debated. Feel free to download, distribute and change it, but please don't crop my name off it as it took me a long time to make it! Licence ...
Doodling maths: Visualising prime numbers

Doodling maths: Visualising prime numbers

Prime numbers are a cryptographer's dream: It's easy to take two very large prime numbers and multiply them, but it's extremely hard to do the opposite. There is no fast algorithm (yet) to factorize an integer into its prime factors, if you try to factor a large prime number you'll have to try every possible number between 2 ...
Ultraviolet Flowers, Infrared Trees

Ultraviolet Flowers, Infrared Trees

As humans, we have a very reduced visual spectrum. We can only catch light within certain frequencies, as Newton demonstrated this by dividing light using a prism (a beam of light contains the colors of the rainbow, because colours are wavelengths - the longer wave we can see is red, followed by orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and violet, the shortest wave. Whatever falls outside ...
Games that do science

Games that do science

When the internet was fairly new, a project without precedent set itself to push the limits of what seemed then inconceivable for both science and technology.  It was called SETI@Home, and it marked the beginning of a completely new era. SETI's goal was to detect intelligent life outside Earth. To do so, the project collected a ...
The New Tangram Book

The New Tangram Book

Puzzles have always fascinated me. Language puzzles, escape rooms, logic problems. When I code, I tend to see the coding problem as a puzzle that I need to solve. Especially CSS feels like that lots of the time. Recently, I dove into my parent's bookcase and fished up this old jewel: This 70s book is ...
Hostile architecture – how dare you be homeless?

Hostile architecture – how dare you be homeless?

This is an old post once posted elsewhere: brought it here when Twitter user @olebjarkoy took a pic of spikes outside a hotel in Norway, tagged it with #hostile. The hotel replied, on Twitter asking him to remove the hostile tag, as it was negative. Does not take a genius to figure how that went ...
My geologic timeline in the magazine Science & Vie!

My geologic timeline in the magazine Science & Vie!

A long time ago I made a geologic timeline as a (vector) brush in Illustrator, with .ai and .eps files free for anyone to use. The only thing I ask is that if you use it, let me see the result. Making the timeline was incredibly time-consuming and ludicrously fiddly. So, a while ago I got ...
Historic photos of New Zealand's Kauri wood bloom

Historic photos of New Zealand’s Kauri wood bloom

When I was living in New Zealand, one of my favourite walks was just up the road, to one of Auckland's many natural reserves. You only needed ten or fifteen minutes to get to the top of a small hill. On it, a beautiful Kauri tree solemnly awaited. The sight was impressive, a giant among its normal-sized ...
Here be Dragons

Here be Dragons

You have probably heard the expression, and most likely associate it with images of old maps covered in drawings of sea serpents and other mythological creatures. But what are exactly those creatures living on the margins, and how did they get there? Pack your bags and jump on board. But aware, though, for Here be Dragons. Despite its popularity, there ...
Sensory homonculus

Sensory homonculus

Sensory homonculus: of all nonsensical stuff I have made, this sensory homonculus is up there. Stoneware clay, watercolour, acrylic paint. Sensory homonculus Sensory homonculus Sensory homonculus Sensory homonculus Sensory homonculus Sensory homonculus Sensory homonculus Sensory homonculus ...
The tree house dwellers of Papua

The tree house dwellers of Papua

The Korowai people, inhabitants of Guinea, have become famous for three reasons. First, there are no records of the group having contact with Westeners until 1974, when anthropologist Peter Van Arsdale and a group of researchers led and expedition to the south bank of the Upper Eilanden River. Second, the Korowai have been reported to practice ritual cannibalism, although there are suspicions this ...
Thomassons: extinct architecture

Thomassons: extinct architecture

The 99% invisible is a brilliant podcast. I was alerted to the so-called Thomassons. These are architectural artefacts who have lost their function, but, and this is crucial: are still being maintained. For – essentially – no reason whatsoever. It is surprisingly hard to find images that exemplifies it. What I find fascinating, is the ...
Islamic art and the patterns of the infinite

Islamic art and the patterns of the infinite

It's difficult, if not impossible, to determine what exactly encompasses Islamic art. The term is not specific to a religion, place, time or even a field, and instead spans over 1400 years and receives influences from Roman, early Christian, Byzantine and even Chinese art. Although some think Islamic art is a false concept, the similarities between pieces of the Islamic world ...
Medieval menagerie: the battle between knight and snail

Medieval menagerie: the battle between knight and snail

In a lot of medieval manuscripts, there are depictions of knights fighting snails. No one seems to know why this is. There are some theories, but so far nothing really conclusive. It might look like some sort of insider thing, maybe among scribes or illuminators. I love that sort of thing: mysteries in plain sight ...
You know you want one: science nerd merit badges

You know you want one: science nerd merit badges

Out of the generosity of the Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique I have been allowed to recreate their science nerd merit badges. You can find the indexed list here, or you can go directly to my Cafépress profile. No, this will not in any way make me rich and/or famous, ...
Dress to impress: Sexual selection and birds of paradise

Dress to impress: Sexual selection and birds of paradise

There are an estimated 42 species of bird of paradise in New Guinea, and they all look completely different. Females choose mates based on the condition and colour of the males’ plumage, so males puff their feathers, vibrate and buzz to attract their attention. Some even transform their bodies into strange, geometrical abstractions. If successful, these aesthetically ...
curiosity..

Squirrely squirrels

I love squirrels. They are cute, funny, playful. They are also quite adept at solving problems and will go to great length to get to the food that is the most nutritious. They collect food for the winter, hence the name of this blog. What I find endearing is that they collect and hide a ...
Dangerous tectonic visualisations

Dangerous tectonic visualisations

Dangerous tectonic visualisations: Visualisations are good things. They should be beautiful to look at, informative and invite discovery. But they can be very dangerous. Visualisations can be used to make decisions, learn something new, connect surprising dots, showing unknown connections. If you want to buy a car, you might find a visualisation that shows the ...
Source: Wikipedia (Agarose gel with UV illumination)

Visualizing DNA

When I was doing my Thesis (population genetics, migration), I spent a fair amount of time extracting DNA from blood samples. The process was fascinating, and a little demanding - precise pipette handling can leave your shoulders in misery! Anyhow, it took us two days to get 'pure' DNA from a blood sample, and day II was always my ...
Ruffen, my childhood sea dragon

Ruffen, my childhood sea dragon

Thore Hansen was one of my childhood heroes. His drawings were magic then, and they are still magic now. The best known of his children's books illustrations are the ones accompanying Thor Åge Bringsværd's stories about Ruffen. Ruffen is a "small" sea dragon, and the books tells the story of his adventures. This post was ...
horrible 3d exploded pie chart

Charts: the horror of three dimensions

We have really cool tools to make information and data visible, I find joy in beautiful visualisation of complex information. I see, I learn. But here is what makes me furious: three-dimensional charts. Never, ever make diagrams and charts 3D. NEVER. Here is why: Graphs, diagrams and maps are tools to ask questions. Sometimes they are ...
J.H. Boot: master of stylisation

J.H. Boot: master of stylisation

I posted about stylisation before, and I'd like to show where I got my inspiration. So without further ado, some of the 'plates' from J.H. Boot's book on how to take some natural object and turn it into something of mathematically precise art. It still amazes me that Boot did not just take the time ...
There is grandeur in this view of life – visualising Darwin

There is grandeur in this view of life – visualising Darwin

If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I had to have to give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. It is not just a wonderful scientific idea; it is a dangerous idea. it overthrows, or at least unsettles, some of the ...
Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Since we are on a roll with old books and manuscripts, I give you the 240-page Voynich manuscript. It is an unsolved enigma: a manuscript found in Italy; the paper has been dated to between 1404-1438. It contains text in an unknown script, unknown language, and illustrations of non-existing plants, constellations and humans apparently doing ...
Prehistoric Art: The Upper Paleolithic Revolution

Prehistoric Art: The Upper Paleolithic Revolution

Yisela The Upper Paleolithic or Late Stone Age begins and ends with a revolution. The first one is what can be considered the 'official' appearance of art, some 50,000 years ago. The second, the invention of agriculture, 40,000 years later. The earliest sample of Paleolithic art is the shells with holes and chipped edge modifications from Ksar Akil. These flakes show regular teeth distributed ...
Twelve-fold symmetry

Twelve-fold symmetry

Little trick in Illustrator. One group of half-transparent objects, mirrored and rotated for a twelve-fold symmetry effect. Change one object, all eleven others follow suit. Goodness ensues ...
Skulls and bones

Skulls and bones

I have a thing about drawing skulls and bones. Not of any morbid fascination (I think), but because they can really be a challenge. The texture and colour of bones are interesting, and the ultimate challenge is to draw a skull first with graphite on white paper, then with white pencil on black paper. This ...
Beatriz Aurora

Beatriz Aurora: The art of the resistance

Beatriz Aurora calls her drawings "painted stories", and her subjects definitely have a lot to tell. The Chilean artist had to exile to Spain during the 70s. She knew she couldn't go back to Chile, but there were other places in Latin America that could use her art, so from Spain she travelled to Nicaragua, then to El Salvador and finally ...
tracing of Tropaeolum majus -- Indian cress

Stylisation a la 1910

Both my father and his father have been interested in art and decoration. Apparently, things like those are in the blood. Recently, my father passed me along scans of a book by one J.H. Boot he found in his archives, which must have belonged to my grandfather. It's a book about stylisation, the art of ...
multicoloured carrots

The colour orange – “bitwixe yelow and reed”

Orange is a tricky colour: when pale, it can be seen as yellow, when dark, it is seen as brown. Bizarrely, orange did not get its English name until 1512. It was named after the fruit, though you could have thought it would have been the other way around. Even in the middle ages, English ...