Archive for 'Arts and science'

How to trim a tree

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

This video demonstrates an efficient way to trim a tree:

(Thanks to Vaughn Tan for bringing this to our attention.)

Colorful names of bolus material: Superflab

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Investigator Terry Sarnoff writes: “My nomination for your Colorful Names of Bolus Material contest is Superflab.”

Prior to receiving this note from investigator Sarnoff, we were not aware that we have colorful Names of Bolus Material contest. Here is a detail from a promotional flyer for Superflab, sent, along with that note, by investigator Sarnoff:


Can a bird use a human as an artistic tool?

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Can a bird use a human as a tool to express its artistic ideas? Discuss.


This performance is by Compagnie Le Guetteur – Luc Petton.  Thanks to Laura Bassett for bringing it to our attention.

Geotrichum candidum (fungus) might destroy your CDs?

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Many thanks to Dr. Victor Cardenes of the Department Geology and Soil Science at Ugent, Belgium, who provides us with a photo of a music CD being colonised by Geotrichum candidum (or a near relative).

CDanterior Whilst working in Belize, Dr. Cardenes noticed that a CD ‘Pieces of Africa’ by the Kronos Quartet, showed mysterious markings that looked distinctly biological in nature. [see bottom left-hand quartile in the photo above].

“At that time I didn’t know what was going on on the CD, I’m a geologist and know little about fungus […]. At the Spanish Museum of Natural History we did some research (mostly SEM). We already realized that the tracks were biological, so we looked for a biologist. The Center of Biotechnology in Madrid took the CD and I didn’t see it any more. They did fungi cultures and fancy experiments that I would never understand.”

The results of the experiments were documented in a 2001 paper for the journal Naturwissenschaften, 88(8):351-4, entitled: ‘Fungal bioturbation paths in a compact disk’ [full paper with more photos]. The research team noted implications for those involved in data archiving based on CDs or DVDs :

“The fact that intense biodeterioration in CDs, destroying the information pits, has been caused by a common fungus (a species close to G. candidum) leads to speculation on the future of compact disks as a secure persistent storage medium for sound, image and computer files.”

BONUS Dr Cardenes alerts us to Stanislaw Lem‘s science-fictional world described in his novel ‘Memoirs Found in a Bathtub’ in which a virus, begins destroying paper on Earth, reducing (almost) all human records to mounds of grey, powdery ash.

Question [optional] If CDs can be attacked by fungi, might other polycarbonate items also be at risk – riot shields, ocarinas, and/or iPhone 5c cases etc.?

A Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of the Pokémon

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

Pokémon scholarship reached its height with the study “A Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of the Pokémon“,  by Matan Shelomi, Andrew Richards, Ivana Li, and Yukinari Okido, which was published in the Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 18, no 4, June/July 2012. Here’s a bit of detail from that study (click on the image to see the entire study):


Aggie TV interviewed three of the researchers:

Their institution, The University of California, Davis, wrote about the study and its impact.

Pokémon is the latest once-obscure academic topic to become wildly popular (thanks in this case to the Pokémon Go app) with the public.

Thanks to the Pokémon Go app, Pokémon characters now inhabit many academic institutions. Here is an action photo taken this week at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam (the institution famed for its role in Dead Duck Day):