RIP: Jonathan Miller (1934-2019)

Jonathan Miller (1934-2019) was an English theatre and opera director, actor, author, television presenter, humorist and medical doctor. After training in medicine and specializing in neurology in the late 1950s, he came to prominence in the early 1960s in the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. He died 27 November 2019 at the age of 85. Obituary here.

At the age of 12, at the St. Paul’s School, his lifelong friendship with Dr. Oliver Sacks began. Indeed, the neurologist’s journey to international fame began when Mr. Miller showed the original manuscript of Dr. Sacks’s book “Awakenings” to a London publisher.

Another noteworthy interdisciplinary project was in 1983 with “States of Mind.” He interviewed the art historian Ernst Gombrich, the philosopher and scientist Daniel Dennett and others about consciousness and the brain.

In 1978 he presented “The Body in Question,” a 13-part BBC series about human biology during which he performed an autopsy on a dead vagrant. The book from that series, The Body in Question, is available here.

Nature Essay: 150 years of scientific illustration by Geoffrey Belknap

Image-making, research and visual technologies have shaped each other over the past century and a half, argues Geoffrey Belknap, marking Nature’s anniversary. here

From the essay:

“Over the years, Nature adapted through its succession of editors, with, in recent decades, ‘sister’ journals carving out their own space in increasingly specialized scientific disciplines. Images remained central throughout. For instance, in 1896, Nature published physicist Wilhelm Röntgen’s first X-ray plates1; in the 1920s, maps to debate Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift2; and in 1968, the graphs that described astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s discovery of pulsars.”

Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle

Reviewed by Amy Ione

As I began Phillip Thurtle’s well-researched Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life, I wondered how his “envisioning of life” would intersect with the abundant evidence that a complex array of grids have served as a foundational element in art, architecture, and design production throughout history. A few examples that quickly come to mind include those used to construct perfectly proportioned Egyptian and Aztec temples, Islamic and Buddhist art, Chuck Close’s stylized portraits, and the layout of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Rosalind Krauss’ 1978 statement that the surfacing of the grid in early twentieth century modernist art was an announcement of “modern art’s will to silence, its hostility to literature, to narrative, to discourse” [1] is also a part of the grid litany, although one that gives a negative cast to how we use grids to engage with objects in our world.

As it turns out, Biology in the Grid moves along a markedly different track. Despite his integration of graphic design, the entertainment industry, advertising, and cultural theory, the book is largely orthogonal to the long art and design trajectory. Thurtle sees grids as a framework within a biopolitical circumstance and makes the point that “living in the grid’ does not equalize us because all lives are not treated similarly despite the seeming uniformity of the form. In his words: Continue reading “Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle”

Lecture: Was Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map the First to Name America?

Was Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map the First to Name America?

by: Christopher W. Tyler, Ph.D., D.Sc.  –  Saturday Sept 28 @ 3:00 PM

Christopher Tyler’s scientific interests are in visual perception and visual neuroscience. With regards to Leonardo da Vinci, Tyler’s interests extend from his youthful activities as an extempore singer and artist’s model in Florence to his architectural and anamorphic influences in the Court of Renaissance France.

image+%281%29.jpgIn addition to his better known artistic, scientific and engineering talents, Leonardo da Vinci has an extensive reputation as a cartographer, drawing maps for a wide range of hydro-engineering projects for the rulers of Florence, Milan, Arezzo and the Vatican, amongst others. However, he is not generally acknowledged as authoring a world map (or mappamundi) spanning the globe, which was the domain of a few specialized cartographers of the era. Nevertheless, there is a world map among his papers in the Royal Library, Windsor, which has the correct overall configuration of the continents, including an ocean at the north pole and a continent at the south pole. Moreover, it has a unique cartographic projection onto eight spherical-geometry triangles that provide close to isometric projection throughout the globe.

This quincentennial anniversary year of his death in 1519 is an appropriate moment for a reappraisal of this contribution to global cartography. Although the authenticity of this world map has been questioned, there is an obscure page of his notebooks in the Codex Atlanticus containing a sketch of this precise form of global projection, tying him securely to its genesis. Moreover, the same notebook page contains sketches of eight other global projections known at that time (early C16th), from the Roman Ptolemaic conic section projection to Rosselli’s (1508) oval planispheric projection. This paper reassesses the dating of Da Vinci’s unique mappamundi to suggest that it predates that of Waldseemüller (1507), and may thus have been the first map in history to name both America and Florida.

Now Available: Eye centring in selfies posted on Instagram

Abstract
Earlier work by one of us examined a historical corpus of portraits and found that artists often paint the subject such that one eye is centred horizontally. If due to psychological mechanisms constraining artistic composition, this eye-centring bias should be detectable also in portraits by non-professionals. However, this finding has been questioned both on theoretical and empirical grounds. Here we tested eye-centring in a larger (N ~ = 4000) and more representative set of selfies spontaneously posted on Instagram from six world cities. In contrast with previous selfie results, the distribution of the most-centred eye position peaked almost exactly at the horizontal centre of the image and was statistically different from predictions based on realistic Monte-Carlo predictions. In addition, we observed a small but statistically reliable pseudoneglect effect as well as a preference for centring the left-eye. An eye-centring tendency appears to exist in self-portraits by non-artists.

Authors: Nicola BrunoID1*, Marco Bertamini2*, Christopher W. Tyler
PLoS ONE14(7): e0218663.
PDF

1 DiMeC, Università di Parma, Parma, Italy,

2 Department of Psychological Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom,

3 Division of Optometry and Vision Sciences, School of Health Sciences, City University of London, London, United Kingdom

* M.Bertamini@liverpool.ac.uk (MB); nicola.bruno@unipr.it (NB)

(Also see MedicalResearch.com interview here and articles)

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Book cover. Artful AnimalsTerry, Colleen M. Artful Animals. 2013. ISBN: 9780884011385. Unmarked text. Very Good in very good dust jacket. Hardcover. (#30476) $14.00

Beautiful color plates. Artists include John James Audubon, Chokha (attributed to), Durer, Rupert Garcia, Heinrich Kley and Wes Wilson, Picasso, Ed Ruscha, Takeuchi Seiho, Wayne Thiebaud, Beth Van Hoesen, Walt Disney Studios, Andrew Wyeth, and others. 79p.

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CFP: “Weather the Weather,” a group exhibition by SciArt Center

A group exhibition by SciArt Center at the New York Hall of Science
September 10th, 2019 – January 10th, 2020

Deadline to submit: June 3rd, 11:59pm EST
More information

The weather is ever-present, often dramatic, and always uncontrollable. SciArt welcomes submissions surrounding the topics of studying, understanding, and experiencing the weather.​

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SYMPOSIUM: Changing By Degrees: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Climate Change

A symposium organized by Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs, Friday, May 3, 2019, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Rather than an academic conference with speakers presenting formal papers, this symposium will provide a framework for understanding climate issues and engaging in a conversation with a range of climate leaders, including:

  • Dr. Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History (morning keynote)
  • Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland (closing keynote)
    Angela Fritz, meteorologist, and deputy editor at the Washington Post (panel facilitator and discussion leader)
  • Martin Dahinden, Swiss ambassador to the United States
    Kate Brown, executive director, Global Island Partnership
  • Dr. John Cook, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University
  • Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, senior climate scientist and director of climate science, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Thomas Peterson, director of the Center for Climate Strategies, Johns Hopkins University

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WORKSHOP: Scientific Polyphony: How Scientific Narratives Configure Many ‘Voices’

Workshop organised by Dr Kim M. Hajek and Prof. Mary S. Morgan
3 June 2019, London School of Economics and Political Science
www.narrative-science.org

In the history of science, especially of the human and observational sciences, it has often been the case that knowledge-making activities drew upon many ‘voices’—accounts of a storm given by different observers; patient voices incorporated into a psychological case history; myths transcribed by an anthropologist. What many of these examples share is that the information provided by different voices takes narrative form in its own right. Yet scientists have also organised them into related groupings or broader narratives, as a way to elucidate particular research problems.

This workshop asks how narrative has helped scientists to configure extended chunks of information, and ultimately to manage a multiplicity of voices in their enquiry. Using case studies from across a range of fields, workshop participants explore the roles played by narrative forms of explanation both within and across the contributions of multiple voices to science. Of particular concern are the ways that narrative serves to order polyphonic material into a larger epistemic scheme, and reciprocally, how narrative valorises or suppresses particular voices, or indeed shapes what counts as a ‘voice’ at all.

For more information on the project, please see: www.narrative-science.org

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Exhibition: “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty”

Exhibition: “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty
April 30-August 3rd, 2019

Marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Combines works from Houghton’s history of science collections, including first editions of Copernicus, Newton, and Galileo, with highlights on loan from a private spaceflight collection, including materials used in the Apollo mission and on the lunar surface.

The exhibition is accompanied by a commemorative catalog which focuses on the loaned items only and is also available for free online here.

Continue reading “Exhibition: “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty””