Biomimicry, engineering, and design

Biomimicry, engineering, and design

Biomimicry is about mimicking nature. Humans have tried for thousands of years to conquer and control nature. But we tend to do this in a very heavy-handed way: pour concrete over it, set up miles and miles of fencing, and if we cannot fence nature in, we erect walls around ourselves to keep nature out ...
New species of 2016

New species of 2016

2016 has been an absolutely shait year, so I am not going to do a list of main events. I think we better get seriously drunk and forget the sorry business. However! As every year, new species are discovered, and not all of them tiny bacteria, gray mushrooms, or minuscule fish from lake Malawi. I ...
Theodor Kittelsen – a Norwegian bestiary

Theodor Kittelsen – a Norwegian bestiary

Theodor Kittelsen was a Norwegian painter and book illustrator (1857-1914). He illustrated the Scandinavian bestiary of legend and fairy tales, and his work has scared countless children (myself included). He drew and painted trolls, the black death, sea monsters, nøkken ("water spirit"), and anthropomorphised natural phenomena such as the echo. His work can be rather ...
Walking with cats: Eurasian lynx

Walking with cats: Eurasian lynx

The Eurasian lynx is a medium-sized cat, native to Siberia, Central, East, and Southern Asia, North, Central and Eastern Europe. It lives in the wild close to where I live, but after decades of hanging out in the woods, I have never seen anything but a set of footprints in the snow. Once. They are extremely ...
iNaturalist: citizen science in your backyard

iNaturalist: citizen science in your backyard

I was going to write an article about the Encyclopedia of Life. It is a phenomenal undertaking, its goal is to create one web page for every living species. Right now they have 1,322,989 pages. That is 1.3 million living things. It is a herculean effort, and it takes the biggest institutions and the best ...
Bonsai: noob with scissors

Bonsai: noob with scissors

Bonsai: noob and scissors. I know nothing about bonsai. Or rather, practically nothing. Should this stop me? NoooOO! Bonsai is, of course, an impossible world. It is full of technical stuff about soil composition, tree shapes, cutting, snipping, wiring, not wiring, clipping. What kind of wire, foil, raffia, string, cutters. And aesthetics and zen. Frontal ...
Darwin: murdering a fox, not helping a frog

Darwin: murdering a fox, not helping a frog

“A fox (Canis fulvipes (Lycalopex fulvipes)), of a kind said to be peculiar to the island, and very rare in it, and which is a new species, was sitting on the rocks. He was so intently absorbed in watching the work of the officers, that I was able, by quietly walking up behind, to knock ...
Ressurecting the naturalist

Ressurecting the naturalist

Scientists don't pick flowers. They collect specimens. – myself :) Resurrecting the naturalist: Few people will identify with the term "naturalist". A lot of people love nature, go for walks, strolls, hike; do a little gardening. Gawking at majestic scenery; snowcapped mountains, endless deserts, dense rainforests. Munching on strawberries. Strawberries are not berries, by the way. Coffee ...
Luidia sarsi: sea star magic

Luidia sarsi: sea star magic

Here you are, minding your own business, and you come across a sea star (marine biologists will stab you in the hand with a fork for calling it a starfish). An orangy-white, five-armed rather unremarkable fellow, you might think. And you would be so, soooo wrong. Luidia sarsi turns sexual reproduction upside down. You might think: mammy-sea star, ...
Collective delusions: pareidolia, religion and invisible pink unicorns

Collective delusions: pareidolia, religion and invisible pink unicorns

This site is pretty much dedicated to the things we see, touch, record and create. But there are plenty of things people "see" that are not there. In troubled individuals, we call it delusions, hallucinations and we medicate. If enough people "see it" (and construct elaborate narratives around it) we call it religion. To see the face ...
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 she was ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 inexplicable ...
Air

Air

Air. Invisible, and as exoplanets, we cannot see it, only the result of it. All images by self.  Water ...
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 ...
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 had no ...
Chickenosaurus

Chickenosaurus

Jack Horner is a paleo-dude of the purest water. He is funny, knowledgeable and loves dinosaurs so much he wants to build one. And it is actually feasible. Chickens are basically altered dinosaurs, and fiddling with switching on and off genes will give you a chickenosaurus. See the TED talk. Best dude around ...
W. B. Gould: artist and convict

W. B. Gould: artist and convict

William Buelow Gould (1801 – 1853) was an English artist convicted for stealing a coat and was sentenced to seven years of labour in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). He constantly got into trouble, also in the penal colonies, and was regularly punished for offences such as drunkenness, petty theft and forgery. His talent, however, got him assigned as a house ...
Hoatzin bird

Living evolution: archaeopteryx, pterodactyl, hoatzin

I am going to skip over the arguments against the imbeciles who believe that the world is 6000 years old. Richard Dawkins are nobly taking that task upon himself. About 150 million years ago, the pterodactyl roamed the skies (pterodaktulos, meaning "winged finger"). There is something about that shape (and size!) that seems to still take ...
tree of life

Tree of life – custom drawing

Tree of life – custom drawing: This is the third post in the series of my custom drawings. This time, it was a custom "tree of life" for my sister. She had a whole spare wall in the cabin up in the mountains... Again, as in all custom drawings I do, there are some elements ...
Wilton dipthych

The colour blue – the devil, the virgin and the red dyers’ bribes

Today, blue is probably the most popular colour around. We associate good things with it, it represents all sorts of positive things: air, sea, freshness, calm, and a few not so; feeling blue, blue monday. At least in this day and age, blue get a good deal of attention. But it was not always so. Prehistory ...
Black & white

Black & white

The world looks different in black and white. I think it might sharpen some parts of the visual processing, to see the world in ebony and ivory ...
Mechanical owls – custom drawing

Mechanical owls – custom drawing

Mechanical owls: I am not the quickest with xmas presents. On the other hand, people will get a custom piece of art. I have just finished this for a friend, and his general guideline was "mechanical owls". The rest is just me in free flight. It is a large-ish drawing (21x58cm), and working my way from ...
Kingdom: mineral

Kingdom: mineral

(According to Linnaean taxonomy, there are three kingdoms: vegetable, animal, mineral) After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains. – Walt Whitman The ultimate inspiration. Nature, the largest multivariate network there is ...
Diego Mazzeo: mechanical animals

Diego Mazzeo: mechanical animals

Green with envy, I present Diego Mazzeo and his wonderful mechanical animals. I am speechless; they are absolutely stunning and perfect in detail. I am particularly fond of the insert heart on the dragon, with the magnification in the corner. Inspired! ...
Water

Water

Dangerous, beautiful and essential for life. H2O is a very odd substance; it is gas, liquid and solid in very odd temperature ranges. Think about it; by some mysterious intermolecular forces, two gasses becomes liquid below 100C and solid below 0C ...
Kingdom: animal

Kingdom: animal

(According to Linnaean taxonomy, there are three kingdoms: vegetable, animal, mineral) After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains. – Walt Whitman The ultimate inspiration. Nature, the largest multivariate network there is. all images ...
Kingdom: vegetable

Kingdom: vegetable

(According to Linnaean taxonomy, there are three kingdoms: vegetable, animal, mineral) After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains. – Walt Whitman The ultimate inspiration. Nature, the largest multivariate network there is. All images ...