Archive for February 3rd, 2011

February 3, 2011

Kinetic Photography

camera toss

Kinetic photography is an experimental technique such as holding and shaking the wrist strap of the camera, dropping the camera, throwing or spinning the camera up in the air, or rigorously moving the camera while taking a picture. As the photographer has surrendered control over the camera to physical forces, this technique tends to produce abstract, random or blurred-motion photographs.

Perhaps the most risky field of kinetic photography is that of camera tossing, in which the photographer literally throws their equipment into the air in hopes of producing an artistic looking image. Many camera tosses take place at night, when the camera is able to capture light with a long exposure, resulting in streaks of hypnotizing light patterns. The pioneer of camera tossing, Ryan Gallagher, hosts a blog on the subject.

February 3, 2011

Light Painting

Light painting, also known as light graffiti, is a photographic technique in which exposures are made usually at night or in a darkened room by moving a hand-held light source or by moving the camera. In many cases the light source itself does not have to appear in the image. The first known photographer to use this technique was Man Ray in his series ‘Space Writing’ created in 1935.

In 1949 Pablo Picasso was visited by Gjon Mili, known photographer and lighting innovator, who introduced him to some of his photographs of ice skaters with lights attached to their skates. Immediately Picasso started making images in the air with a small flashlight in a dark room. This series of photos became known as Picasso’s ‘light drawings.’ Of these photos, the most celebrated and famous is known as ‘Picasso draws a centaur in the air.’

February 3, 2011

Magic Smoke

Magic Blue Smoke Monster

Magic smoke (also called factory smoke or blue smoke) is a tongue in cheek reference to smoke produced by malfunctioning electronic circuits. Smoke is frequently observed to come out of electronic components when overheated. According to the joke, manufacturers put a portion of magic smoke into every electronic component, and the device functions normally so long as the smoke does not escape.

The origins of the magic smoke have become a running joke that started among electrical engineers and technicians before it was more recently adopted by computer programmers. The actual origin of blue smoke is the black plastic epoxy material that is used to package most common semiconductor devices such as transistors and integrated circuits, which produces a bluish colored smoke during combustion.

February 3, 2011

Prince Rupert’s Drop

prince ruperts drops

Prince Rupert’s Drops (also known as Rupert’s Balls or Dutch tears) are a glass curiosity created by dripping hot molten glass into cold water. The glass cools into a tadpole-shaped droplet with a long, thin, tail. The water rapidly cools the molten glass on the outside of the drop, while the inner portion of the drop remains hot. When the glass on the inside eventually cools, it contracts inside the already-solid outer part. This contraction sets up very large compressive stresses on the exterior, while the core of the drop is in a state of tensile stress. It can be said to be a kind of tempered glass.

The very high residual stress within the drop gives rise to unusual qualities, such as the ability to withstand a blow from a hammer on the bulbous end without breaking, while the drops will disintegrate explosively if the tail end is even slightly damaged. When the tail end is damaged, the large amount of potential energy stored in the drop’s crystalline or amorphous atomic structure is released, causing fractures to propagate through the material at very high speeds. Due to glass’s inherent transparency, the internal stress within these objects can be demonstrated by viewing them through polarizing filters.

February 3, 2011

Bang Snaps

bang snaps

Bang snaps are a type of small novelty firework sold as a trick noisemaker. They consist of a small amount of gravel or coarse sand impregnated with a minute quantity (~.08 milligrams) of silver fulminate high explosive and twisted in a cigarette paper to produce a shape resembling a teardrop with a tail. When stepped on, ignited, or thrown on a hard surface, the friction-sensitive silver fulminate detonates, producing a sharp salute similar to that of a cap gun. Despite producing a legitimate (albeit tiny) high-explosive detonation, the extremely high mass ratio of gravel to explosive acts as a buffer to ensure that the devices produce only the audible ‘crack’ of the supersonic shock wave.

They are incapable of producing physical damage, even if discharged directly against skin, and the detonation frequently fails to even break the thin paper holding the ingredients. The explosion is also too weak to propel the gravel any distance, which usually falls to the ground. This makes them safe for use as a children’s toy, for which purpose they have been widely sold across the world since the 1950s. Currently the only US jurisdiction which restricts the use and sale of bang snaps is the state of New Jersey, which bans all forms of consumer pyrotechnics including sparklers. Other states impose the same age restrictions on purchasing bang snaps as that of permitted fireworks, usually 17 or 18.

February 3, 2011



Petrichor [peh-truh-kuhr] is the name of the scent of rain on dry earth. The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature. In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, producing the distinctive scent. In a follow-up paper, Bear and Thomas (1965) showed that the oil retards seed germination and early plant growth.

February 3, 2011


dining in the dark

Eigengrau [eye-gen-graw] (German for ‘intrinsic gray’), also called eigenlicht (‘intrinsic light’), dark light, or brain gray, is the color seen by the eye in perfect darkness. Even in the absence of light, some action potentials are still sent along the optic nerve, causing the sensation of a uniform dark gray color. Eigengrau is perceived as lighter than a black object in normal lighting conditions, because contrast is more important to the visual system than absolute brightness. For example, the night sky looks darker than eigengrau because of the contrast provided by the stars.

February 3, 2011

Dürer’s Rhinoceros

durers rhino

Dürer’s [door-ersRhinoceros is the name commonly given to a woodcut created by German painter and printmaker Albrecht Dürer in 1515. The image was based on a written description and brief sketch by an unknown artist of an Indian rhinoceros that had arrived in Lisbon earlier that year. Dürer never saw the actual rhinoceros, which was the first living example in Europe since Roman times. In late 1515, the King of Portugal, Manuel I, sent the animal as a gift for Pope Leo X, but it died in a shipwreck off the coast of Italy in early 1516. A live rhinoceros was not seen again in Europe until a second specimen arrived from India at the court of Sebastian of Portugal in 1577, being later inherited by Philip II of Spain around 1580.

Dürer’s woodcut is not an entirely accurate representation of a rhinoceros. He depicts an animal with hard plates that cover its body like sheets of armor, with a gorget at the throat, a solid-looking breastplate, and rivets along the seams; he also places a small twisted horn on its back, and gives it scaly legs and saw-like rear quarters. Despite these anatomical inaccuracies, it was a very popular woodcut in Europe and was copied many times in the following three centuries. It was regarded as a true representation of a rhinoceros into the late 18th century, when it was supplanted by more realistic drawings and paintings, particularly those of Clara the rhinoceros, who toured Europe in the 1740s and 1750s.

February 3, 2011


ouija by norman rockwell

Ouija [wee-jee] is a commercial trademark for a ‘talking board,’ which is a device marked with letters, numbers, and other symbols, supposedly used to communicate with spirits. It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood) to indicate the spirit’s message by spelling it out on the board during a séance. The fingers of the séance participants are placed on the planchette, which then moves about the board to spell out words or become physically manifested as a result of the ideomotor effect (a psychological phenomenon wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously).

Following its commercial introduction by businessman Elijah Bond in the late 1890s, the Ouija board was regarded as a harmless parlor game unrelated to the occult until American Spiritualist Pearl Curran popularized its use as a divining tool during World War I. Some mainstream Christian religions have associated use of the Ouija board with the threat of demonic possession, as have certain Occultist movements.

February 3, 2011

I Ching


The I Ching [ee jing], also known as the Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. The book contains a divination system comparable to Western geomancy or the West African Ifá system; in Western cultures and modern East Asia, it is still widely used for this purpose. The earliest extant version of the text, written on bamboo slips, albeit incomplete, is the Chujian Zhouyi, and dates to the mid 4th to early 3rd century BC. It centers on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.

February 3, 2011



Divination [div-uh-ney-shuhn] (from Latin divinare ‘to foresee,’ or ‘to be inspired by a god’) is an attempt to get information through rituals, omens or supernatural things. Divining the outcome of things has been done by many different methods, such as astrology, which attempts to predict the future based on the movement of celestial bodies. Divination is not supported by empirical evidence and is dismissed by the scientific community, as mere superstition.

In ancient Rome augers divined the future by the flight patterns of birds. Tarot and other forms of cartomancy divine cards. Palmistry is palm reading. Extispicy is a particularly old tradition where the future is divined from the entrails of scarified animals. Graphology makes predictions based on handwriting analysis, and numerology analyses number systems. Phrenology is a bygone system of ‘reading’ the shape of a person’s head.

February 3, 2011



Vice is a free magazine and media conglomerate founded in Montreal and currently based in New York City. It is available in 19 countries. It supports itself primarily through advertising. Founded by Suroosh Alvi, Shane Smith, and Gavin McInnes, it was launched as the ‘Voice of Montreal’ in 1994 with government funding to provide work and a community service. When the editors wanted to break free of their commitments with the original publisher, Alix Laurent, they bought him out and changed the name to ‘Vice’ in 1996.

Vice’s content has shifted from dealing mostly with independent arts and pop cultural matters to covering more serious news topics, although both are often treated with the same spirit of blithe and caustic irreverence. Vice has championed the ‘Immersionist’ school of journalism, which it regards as something of a DIY antithesis to the big-office methods practiced by traditional news outlets. There have been issues dedicated to concerns facing Iraqi people, Native Americans, Russian people, people with mental disorders, and people with mental disabilities.