030917: Science in America 2017

The know-nothings have won… for now. The soon to be neutered (or dissolved) EPA now no longer refers to “science” on its website. Rather than refer to “science based” standards they now refer to “economically and technologically achievable standards” for their actions. (The new head of EPA, Scott Pruitt, darling of frackers, just today stated that carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming!)

The know-nothings have also set their sights on NASA, an agency that has “played a leading role in researching climate change and educating the public about it.” The plan is to cut funding for “Earth Science” and anything related to “global warming.”

An then there’s Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State and former head of Exxon, and friend of Vladimir Putin. If they are able to get sanctions lifted on Russia the Exxon-Rosfeft joint venture will proceed – a 500 billion dollar deal for oil exploration in the Arctic.

 

The list goes on and on. Whether it is the National Park Service or NOAA or many other government agencies, it is clear that the Trump Administration is at war with science and knowledge. Call your members of Congress and let them know your concerns. They need your vote to keep their jobs. Let them know that.

Today’s images are some random fossil images I couldn’t resist taking as I transported my collection to my new soon-to-be-completed studio. The transition is moving slowly but steadily and I look forward to returning to my work without interruption.

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I finish today with a couple of images unrelated to the fossils – one an odd outdoor vignette from a neighbor’s property and the other from my endless supply of props (soon to be packed).

Thanks for the visit.

021617: Overlooked

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Today’s images come from shooting I did at the Museum of Natural History in Florence. These particular images were originally passed over when I chose my “selects” from this project. This month’s snow and cold allowed me to revisit my photo libraries and “discover” these previously untouched images.

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I normally try to avoid the cliche of “pretty flower” images, but these are very different. They are wax botanical models – wax sculptures, if you will – made during the 18th and 19th Centuries at the waxworks of the Imperial & Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History.

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They currently reside in the collection of the Florence Museum of Natural History in the Botany Section and overseen by the section head, Dr. Chiara Nepi.

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Regular viewers might recall the images I posted this time last year of the collection of fantastical fungi (0310: A Curious Cabinet). Those mushroom sculptures came from that same Botany Section.

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Also, within that section resides an amazing collection of seeds and plant specimens, each of which is more visually stimulating than the other. Below are more samples.

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My deepest thanks to Dr. Nepi for allowing me the opportunity to explore the objects under her care. She has always been so kind and gracious with her time in allowing me to enter her world.  I am always most grateful.

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I’ll finish today with a handful of images from La Specola, another section of the Florence Museum – this time from their Mineralogy collection. I know a bit about fossils and their rock matrices but almost nothing about gems and minerals. I do know, though, that they can be pretty mind blowing and quite something to see!

I hope you agree,

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My thanks again to all those kind, thoughtful, and wonderful folks at the Museum whose kindness I could never repay!

And thanks to you for the visit today.

011217: Thin Ice

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Before I get to the ice let me remind you of the opening of “Fresh,” an interesting show that I will be a part of. It opens this Saturday (the 14th) at the GCCA Gallery on Main Street in Catskill (5-7pm).Today’s opening image is one of four prints, all part of my “Galileo” series, that will be displayed in the show. All the work shown by all the artists involved has been created since October, thus the name “Fresh.” Please join us if you are in the area. The show will run through February 25.

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And now Thin Ice

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Last week, on one of the colder days of the year so far, I accompanied my friend, the enormously talented photographer Moshe Katvan on a hunt for rocks – not just any rocks, mind you, but just the right ones necessary for an upcoming shoot of his.

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So I took him to a few of my favorite spots to find some variety, one of which is a small dry creek bed that has interesting rocks and some extraordinary fossils.

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This particular day it also had pockets of ice where water pooled following the last rain.

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In many cases, the ice was paper thin…

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…with great details…

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…and some wonderful shapes.

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Just another example of the wonders of nature…

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…and the beauty of it all!

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I decided to round out this post with four images from last year’s work I did at La Specola, the Natural History Museum of Florence. I was thinking of delicacy, following the “ice” images, and was drawn to these particular images taken in the Entomology, Enichoderms, and Ornithology Sections.

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These proved to be fun to work on and they allowed for experimenting with some new techniques. What a joy it was to have been given such an opportunity.

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For those interested, from top to bottom – moth, heliaster, bird eggs, butterflies.

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Come say hello on Saturday at GCCA Gallery.

Thanks for the visit.

121516: Year End 2016

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The heat is cranked high in my studio right now. Snow is coming down so thick that it obliterates any view out the windows. And, like a substantial portion of the country, we are bracing for a “deep freeze.” Not unusual, given that its the final days of the year.

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As I normally do at this time, my post includes a selection of images from the entire year past – a sort of review, if you will. In this case they are a variety that reflect on experiences encountered and hints at directions to come.

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The first three images are products of the Maine coast. The shells (above), washed ashore last Summer, made me think of all the many fossils (seen below and 6 to 20 million years old) I encountered earlier at the Museum of Natural History in Florence, Italy.

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Perhaps one of the most exciting experiences of my career was the interaction with that museum and its staff. I could never fully or properly express my gratitude for the opportunity to access many of their vast collections and to meet such an amazing group of dedicated professionals.

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“Captured” is the title of the above image, shot in the storage rooms of the Mammals Section. It is also currently on display for the remainder of the month at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY as part of the 80th Annual Mohawk-Hudson Regional Exhibition.

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From the Ornithology Collection

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Florence street scene (with shrine)

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In the rear of the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence sits this funerary monument of Galileo Galilei. Directly across, on the opposite wall, sits the burial monument of Michelangelo, who died the day that Galileo was born. dsc01037_01print15_lr_12

I have always been fascinated with Galileo and the role he played in both world history and the history of science. This fascination has led to the image above, part of my ongoing  “Galileo” series.

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Fossils and lichen share the spotlight in this image where these deeply grounded objects combine to suggest the astronomical.

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Some fossils.

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Some lichen.                                                                                                                   (currently on view through December at the Woodstock Artist Assocciation and Museum)

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And a trifecta – fossils, lichen, and moss all rolled into one.

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These last two favorites – tree remains.

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With the holidays upon us, I’ll be taking a break and will be back in January. Best wishes to all of you for the upcoming year.

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072816: Abbreviated

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July heat, way too much time spent watching the conventions, and a new project all have played a role in this being a shortened, somewhat abbreviated post this week.The new project, a drawing/mixed media effort, has me pretty excited over possibilities. The opening image, which I have titled “Galileo’s Dream,” builds upon my recent drawing efforts over the past few years. More to come as time goes by.

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I have a handful of new fossil images to fill things out today and start with two versions of a mollusk fossil I found in central New York last year.

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Two brachiopod images.

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And last for today, a pair of crinoid stems from my favorite neighborhood quarry.

Posts might be spotty for the next month or so, what with vacation and drawing competing for my time with the fossil process (finding and photographing). I am most fortunate to have these as my daily options.

Thanks for the visit.

042816 – Simple Design, Simple Minds

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Many of the objects seen here today look like they just got scooped up on a recent trip to the beach. Rather, they are marine invertebrate fossils that, if memory serves me correctly, range in age from six to twenty million years old.

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It seemed like a good idea to present this group (all from the collection of the Museum of Natural History in Florence, Italy) in black and white.

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These wonderful designs of Nature display well in a most simple fashion.

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Last week’s topic on the sophistication of non-human minds drew an interesting variety of response. And with it still fresh in my mind I now keep running into similar types of articles. So let me share a couple of new ones with you.

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“Brain scans of insects appear to indicate that they have the capacity to be conscious and show egocentrico, apparently indicating that they have such a thing as subjective experience.” That’s the finding of study written by Andrew B Barron and Colin Klein, and published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/19/science/honeybees-insects-consciousness-brains.html?_r=0

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And here’s one on slime mold:

“…But that view has been changing in recent years as scientists have been confronted with the astounding abilities of brainless creatures. Take the slime mold, for example. It’s an amoeba-like, single-celled organism filled with multiple nuclei, part of a primitive lineage that’s been munching on bacteria, fungi and other forest detritus for hundreds of millions of years. And yet, this very simple living thing manages all kinds of intellectual feats.”

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-slime-mold-brain-learning-20160426-story.html

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It’s amazing what we continue to learn on the subject.

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And one last note on the general subject of intelligence, the brainiacs over at NASA are celebrating twenty five years of Hubble images with this video. Take a moment to view these astonishing images.

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Thanks as always for the visit.

0421: Anecdotes and Anthropomorphism

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Today’s title comes from a fascinating article in the latest issue of Atlantic Magazine. Entitled “How Animals Think,” the article refers to the work of primatologist Frans de Waal who makes “… a passionate and convincing case for the sophistication of nonhuman minds.” Like many of you, I grew up being taught that the non-human version of thinking was “instinct” and nothing more. And, despite the various anecdotes of animal behavior suggesting otherwise, and despite being told that it was our need sometimes to imagine human traits in animals, there was no truth to any of it.

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Rather, thanks to advances in technology and scientific research, we are beginning to see that “As de Waal recognizes, a better way to think about other creatures would be to ask ourselves how different species have developed different kinds of minds to solve different adaptive problems.”

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In fact, in many cases those particular kinds of minds can be quite astounding. Last Sunday’s NY Times ran an article entitled “A Conversation With Whales,” in which the following statement is made:

Sperm whales’ brains are the largest ever known, around six times the size of humans’. They have an oversize neocortex and a profusion of highly developed neurons called spindle cells that, in humans, govern things like emotional suffering, compassion and speech.

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Times have changed. Most phones these days have video capability, Youtube and Facebook now exist and abound with examples of animal behavior that previously had rarely been seen (those anecdotes that that had been so easily dismissed in the past).

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Whether it be a chimp hugging Jane Goodall goodbye or the mourning rituals of elephants, these and many other examples are helping us to evolve to a greater understanding of the world around us and, perhaps, our own place within it.

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So I had  a mix of emotions when I took these images recently in the back rooms of La Specola, the noted natural history museum in Florence, Italy. It was simultaneously compelling and repelling. While this taxidermy in the pursuit of science and research served its purpose in the past I assume that more enlightened minds now see that such practices are no longer appropriate.

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And, after having spent many Sunday afternoons visiting the Bronx Zoo as a kid, I can hardly approve of the caged displays of animals anymore.

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Despite this long history of misunderstanding, attitudes are changing. Animal sentience has been codified into law in New Zealand and France recently. In August of 2012 an international group of prominent scientists (including Dr. Stephen Hawking) signed “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” declaring animal sentience as real.

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It is certainly something worth considering.

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Let me make a switch now to perhaps the other end of the “consciousness” spectrum – lichen! Not a lot of brain activity around here.  But an interesting organism nonetheless.

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Thanks for the visit.

0407: An Odd Mix

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This time last week I was hurrying to get the blog posted. It was 72 degrees out with a bright sun – easily the best day of this early Spring. The rest of the day was spent at my favorite quarry where I eventually filled the trunk of my car with fossil laden rocks.

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Fresh material to explore and photograph. Material enough, I was sure, to fill several of these posts. Most particularly today’s.

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But two days later, my plans changed when a Spring surprise arrived in the form of six inches of snow. And that pile of rocks sits waiting for me.

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So, in search of a  new topic for today, I decided to browse one of my photo libraries from a few years ago. Often, I can find many images that I had originally passed over (for whatever reason). And, with fresh eyes and a different perspective, they all becomes new material to explore.

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What you see today is this rather odd mix of images that seemed to beckon to me – no criteria other than that.

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This next set of images is from the Florence Museum of Natural History – this time the subject is bones.

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And, finally, a nice piece of news – The image above, which I had shared with you a few weeks ago, has been selected for “Far & Wide”, the 8th Annual Woodstock Regional Exhibition. Entitled “Natural History – Mushrooms,” it was taken at the Botanical Division of the aforementioned museum. Opening and reception is set for May 7 from 4-6 pm.

Thanks for the visit.

0303: Museum Mix

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With the bags just unpacked and the many, many image files uploaded, I have put together a sampler, of sorts, from the wide variety of objects  I photographed at the Florence Museum of Natural History this past month. It was an honor and privilege to be allowed in and one for which I am most grateful.

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Storage rooms in any museum tend to have real visual allure, places where odd juxtapositions often exist behind every door. This museum’s wealth and breadth allowed me to access, for instance, the Mammal collection one day…

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…and Reptiles the next, or Ornithology, or Botany, etc.

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Wonderful things to see : the texture and patterns of the chameleons and the ancient gastropods.

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From the very small, in this case, a mantis (I believe)…

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… to the very large – skull and bones of a whale.

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Echinoderms:

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Ornithology:

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From the Botany Section: models of mushrooms, made of paper mache and resins, from a collection from the 1800s.

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And , last for today, from the Entomology collection, one of their many stunning butterflies.

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More to come.

Thanks for the visit.

0218: Notes From Florence – Nature’s Designs

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Amazing design is everywhere in this fine city, from buildings to manhole covers. Thanks to the folks at the Museum of Natural History, though, I have been able to explore design of a different kind – that of the natural world.

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Back home I explore the natural world in the rocks and fossils around me, the mushrooms (lately), plants, etc. But here I’ve had the most fortunate experience of exploring some of the museum’s aged and treasured collections.

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Of course, I begin with fossils.This one below is an interior section of a sea urchin dating back to the Miocene Epoch some fifteen million years.

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And next, a contemporary sea urchin in close-up.

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From the same collection (echinoderms) come the following two Heliasters, more commonly known as sea stars.

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Next, from the Reptile collection is a detail of a chameleon.

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And from the Entomology collection come the following three images, starting with a mantis

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…followed by a beetle

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…and ending with butterflies.

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I could go on and on with wonders from the museum but I must continue with some of the sights in the streets.

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Seems like turning every corner in Florence brings you to interesting and unusual street art. I hope you like some of these examples.

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And, finally, after walking and walking and walking (this city is all about walking) a relaxing break in a local park provided me with this view. Gray, moody skies dominate Florence this time of year (always so much more interesting for shooting, I think).

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Thanks for the visit.