Archive for March 24th, 2011

March 24, 2011

Flat Earth

Most ancient cultures had conceptions of a Flat Earth, including Greece until the fifth century BCE, the Near East until fourth century BCE, India until the fourth century CE. In ancient China, the prevailing belief was that the Earth was flat and square, while the heavens were round, an assumption virtually unquestioned until the introduction of European astronomy in the 17th century. It was also typically held in the aboriginal cultures of the Americas, and a flat Earth domed by the firmament in the shape of an inverted bowl is common in pre-scientific societies.

The paradigm of a spherical Earth was developed in Greek astronomy, beginning with Pythagoras (6th century BCE), although most Pre-Socratics retained the flat Earth model. Aristotle accepted the spherical shape of the Earth on empirical grounds around 330 BCE, and knowledge of the spherical Earth gradually began to spread beyond the Hellenistic world from then on. The misconception that educated people at the time of Columbus believed in a flat Earth, and that his voyages refuted that belief, has been referred to as ‘The Myth of the Flat Earth.’

March 24, 2011

Prez

lester young

Lester Young (1909 – 1959), nicknamed ‘Prez,’ was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He also played clarinet, trumpet, violin, and drums. Coming to prominence while a member of Count Basie’s orchestra, Young was one of the most influential players on his instrument, playing with a cool tone and using sophisticated harmonies. He invented or popularized much of the hipster ethos which came to be associated with the music. He is said to have popularized the term ‘cool’ as slang for something fashionable.

Another slang term he reputedly coined was the term ‘bread’ for money. He would ask ‘How does the bread smell?’ when asking how much a gig was going to pay. Young’s playing style influenced many other tenor saxophonists. Perhaps the most famous and successful of these were Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon, but he also influenced many in the cool movement such as Zoot Sims. Lester Young also had a direct influence on young Charlie Parker (‘Bird’), and thus the entire be-bop movement.

March 24, 2011

Buffalo Jump

Buffalo Jump

A buffalo jump is a cliff formation which North American Indians historically used in mass killings of plains bison. Hunters herded the bison and drove them over the cliff, breaking their legs and rendering them immobile. Tribe members waiting below closed in with spears and bows to finish the kills. The Blackfeet Indians called the buffalo jumps ‘pishkun,’ which loosely translates as ‘deep blood kettle.’

This type of hunting was a communal event which occurred as early as 12,000 years ago and lasted until at least 1500 CE, around the time of the introduction of horses. Buffalo jump sites are often identified by rock cairns, which were markers designating ‘drive lanes,’ by which bison would be funneled over the cliff. These drive lanes would often stretch for several miles.

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March 24, 2011

Photogram

photogram

A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a photo-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. The result is a negative shadow image varying in tone, depending on the transparency of the objects used. Areas of the paper that have received no light appear white; those exposed through transparent or semi-transparent objects appear grey.

Artistic cameraless photography, as the technique producing photograms is usually known, is perhaps most prominently associated with Man Ray and his exploration of ‘rayographs.’ Others who have experimented with the technique include László Moholy-Nagy, Christian Schad (who called them ‘Schadographs’), Imogen Cunningham and even Pablo Picasso.

March 24, 2011

Kinetic Art

rotoreliefs

Kinetic art is art that contains moving parts or depends on motion for its effect. The moving parts are generally powered by wind, a motor or the observer. ‘Bicycle Wheel’ (1913) by Marcel Duchamp, is said to be the first kinetic sculpture. Besides being an example of kinetic art it is also an example of a readymade, a type of art of which Duchamp made a number of varieties throughout his life.

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March 24, 2011

Man Ray

Object to be destroyed

Man Ray (1890 – 1976), born Emmanuel Radnitzky, was an American artist who spent most of his career in Paris, France. Perhaps best described simply as a modernist, he was a significant contributor to both the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal.

Best known in the art world for his avant-garde photography, Man Ray produced major works in a variety of media and considered himself a painter above all. He was also a renowned fashion and portrait photographer. He is noted for his photograms (images made without a camera by placing objects directly onto photographic paper, which he renamed ‘rayographs’ after himself.

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March 24, 2011

Ralph Steadman

perseus

Ralph Steadman (b. 1936) is a British cartoonist and caricaturist who is perhaps best known for his work with American author Hunter S., drawing pictures for several of his articles and books. He accompanied Thompson to the Kentucky Derby for an article for ‘Scanlan’s,’ to the Honolulu Marathon for the ‘Running,’ and illustrated both ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.’

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March 24, 2011

Aurora

magnetosphere

An aurora [uh-rawr-uh] is a flickering light caused by the sun’s radiation interacting with an atmosphere, usually found near the poles (Aurora borealis – Dawn of the North, or Aurora australis – Dawn of the South). They come in red, green and occasionally blue, and can sometimes resemble fire, and can be seen for a long way, many hundreds of kilometers or miles. Auroras can occur during the daytime, but are not visible to the naked eye.

The Sun emits a flow of charged particles into space called ‘solar wind.’ The Earth is shielded from these particles by its magnetosphere, a protective electromagnetic bubble created by the planet’s molten iron, outer core. The magnetic field is weakest at the cold areas, so at the poles some particles hit the atmosphere. They discharge their energy on impact, giving off light. An aurora can also happen in a coronal mass ejection, when charged particles are expelled so forcefully they that can penetrate electromagnetic fields.

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March 24, 2011

Pareidolia

Jesus Toast

Pareidolia [pare-eye-doh-lee-uh] is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia (seeing meaningful patterns in random data).

Carl Sagan hypothesized that as a survival technique, human beings are ‘hard-wired’ from birth to identify the human face. This allows people to use only minimal details to recognize faces from a distance and in poor visibility but can also lead them to interpret random images or patterns of light and shade as being faces.

March 24, 2011

Apophenia

beautiful mind

Apophenia [ap-uh-fee-nee-uh] is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by German neurologist and psychiatrist Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the ‘unmotivated seeing of connections’ accompanied by a ‘specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness.’

Conrad originally described this phenomenon in relation to the distortion of reality present in psychosis, but it has become more widely used to describe this tendency in healthy individuals without necessarily implying the presence of neurological differences or mental illness.

March 24, 2011

Synchronicity

scarab

Synchronicity [sin-kro-nis-uh-tee] is the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s. The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by their meaning.

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