Wise Old Owls or Crazy, Nasty-ass Honey Badgers Who Just Don’t Care?

Suppose your institution has suffered quite a drubbing in the press. Maybe you run a university or a hospital or a labour union or an industrial standards regulatory board — something that provides an important service to a community and has a role to play in that community’s continued well-being. But something terrible has happened. There has been one or more ugly scandals, and your institution’s reputation has suffered.

You need to do some damage control because, damn it, people deserve industrial standards regulation or access to medical care or collective bargaining, etc. I mean, this isn’t about selling widgets, by God. Your institution is important, and it’s really getting it in the slats these days.

So, naturally, you write a children’s book.

[Needle Scratching Across a Record] Well, that’s what Canada’s “house of sober second thought” thought. See, The Senate, an appointed body of 105 more-or-less esteemed Canadians whose primary function is to ensure fair regional representation in legislation, is an essential part of the Canadian parliamentary system, but recently some issues have come to light that reflect poorly on the nation’s Upper House. Because senators hold their jobs until the age of 75, those issues have the potential to persist in the public imagination for decades. Unless, that is, the Senate itself deals with its issues directly.

Well, how bad can it be? Suppose the union leader is skimming from the treasury; a lab tech has been diluting medicine & selling it on the black market; the University’s dean is dating a student in his class at a local motel. That’s the sort of trouble the Senate is in. All of those. At the same time. From Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright and teen-dating Don Meredith to (my personal fave) Senator “Residential Schools Weren’t So Bad” Lyn Beyak, the Upper House is looking a little low these days.

I know what you’re thinking: so plug the hole. Impeach the union leader; fire the lab tech; promote the Assistant Dean and send the creepy Dean on sabbatical until his term ends. That’s how other worthy institutions handle stuff like this. But not the Canadian Senate.

They reach out not to the news-reading adults whose taxes have funded their debacles, but to the children of those tax payers. Check it out: you can download a free pdf of The Wise Owls and read it with your toddler to teach them what the Senate is supposed to do. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing! Kids ought to learn about how government works if they’re going to grow up to be contributing citizens. But you’re going to get a little extra propaganda with that lesson.


What a bunch of rubes these forest creatures (Canadian voters & their elected reps) are!

As a delivery mechanism for a lesson in how government works, it’s it’s a bit of a blunt instrument: “people are whimsically malleable; they elect reps for all the wrong reasons.” But as a propaganda tool for dissuading young minds from ever questioning the role of the ruling class in the state’s private affairs, it’s also a disappointment. And that’s not just because of the concept. The art’s kinda bad, too.

The compositions seem rushed and uneven; some of the characters are more detailed than others for reasons unrelated to the story. And I don’t understand the illustrator’s aesthetic choices (those textures look like masked drop-ins and unfinished at that). But, hey. I get it: they didn’t write it for me. It’s for the kids. Or is it?


Quiet? QUIET? It’s a safe bet most Canadians wish they could forget the Senate was there. We would gladly do so but for their prolonged, incessant disruptions involving $90,000.00 cheques, teenage girlfriends in tax-payer-funded hotel rooms, and pondering of the good that might very well have come from schools that kept an electric chair for blasting the nativeness out of native kids. Oh, it’s many things “up in the trees” of the Red Chamber, but “quiet” ain’t one of them.

The further you get into The Wise Owls, the harder it is to read it as an educative children’s story rather than an imperative alternate reality — one in which the Senate functions like The Providers in a SciFi dystopia. It becomes a sort of inverse Animal Farm where the allegory works to diminish the local forest creatures who are incapable of governing themselves because they suffer from the sort of self-interested shortsightedness that makes scorpions sting the frog they’re floating on.

But there’s good news, kids. A crowned lioness appears from abroad [unlike the other forest creatures, we don’t get lions in Canada] and “roars her [royal?] assent” (pg 20) to an Upper House of Alpha Owls. These magnificent creatures will watch over the miserably deluded average rodents (i.e., Canadian voters and the Members of Parliament they vote for) from a great height with the permission of their colonial master, The Lioness.


The elected animals are totally not qualified to govern. They got their jobs not because they’re good at them, but because they’re “tall” or “sly” or, generally “popular” (pg 7). I mean, why even bother voting? So it’s just a good thing for them there’s a lioness from away who knows how to get things done in a forest. Conversely, the “guardian class” owls have no individuality beyond what the artist gives them: they lack any differentiating features in the script, further removing them from the plane of mundane electoral politics. They are inscrutable and untouchable.

The result is more than a little condescending. If your toddler doesn’t ask what makes the Owls so damn infallible, they’re not toddling right. And when the book peters out in a glitchy, illegible graphic/text collision (pg 22), the reader may be forgiven for wondering if the committee responsible for The Wise Owls wasn’t actually interested in teaching or impressing anybody with this project.


It’s like they just don’t give a damn. “We’re ancient, omniscient, our authority is a metaphysical imperative, and you miserable lot will do as we damn well please” is the closest to a happy ending you’re going to get in The Wise Owls. What can you say about an institution that should play a pivotal role in the equal distribution of justice in your country when it tolerates corruption, cronyism, racism, and more from its members while crafting a book to tell your kids about how awesomely untouchable it is?

No, this is not the act of some Wise Owls. This book is the work of some bad ass, crazy nastyass Honey Badger Senators who are crazy and just don’t give a shit and take what they want.

Charting without prejudice: is it even possible?

As if it ain’t hard enough to slog through a wet, cold & gritty Canadian early Spring, Maclean’s Magazine published Cary Wu and Rima Wilkes’ article, “The stats bear it out: In Quebec, trust is low” on March 30th of 2017 just to bum us all out even further. Well, that, and to present statistically defensible quantification of Andrew Potter’s incendiary assertion, in an earlier Maclean’s article, that “Quebec is an almost pathologically alienated and low-trust society, deficient in many of the most basic forms of social capital that other Canadians take for granted.”

That’s pretty strong stuff. It remains to be seen what will become of Potter’s career at McGill, but I’m less concerned with the message of the article or its veracity than I am with the graphics that accompanied it initially and, rather conspicuously, the graphics which hastily replaced them. Below, the dreary picture of pathological Francophone hyper-vigilance with which the article was initially published. When asked, “Who do you trust?” Canadians responded:


Note the vertical scale. All of the data is presented in percentiles, of course, but the actual range of each graph varies. Some start at the absolute bottom of 0% and go to 25%, while others pick up halfway and terminate at 75%. The reason, or rather, the reason I’m assuming the graphic artist would cite for laying out the data this way, is to feature the relative difference between the Rest Of Canada (ROC) and Quebec rather than featuring the absolute difference between all or none. While the former is pertinent to the question of comparing Canadians, the latter means defining a scale between…

  1. a hypothetical, idiotically gullible rube who trusts everybody all the time, and
  2. a hypothetical, cripplingly paranoid hermit.

I mean, that’s what “100%” and “0%” would represent on an absolute scale, and such naifs / Tolkienian Gollums are not pertinent to the point the authors want to make. At least, that’s how I’d have made this mistake.

And I would be mistaken because there are in this story characters other (and more important) than the those hypothetical extremes described above. In the graph presented as above, the ROC positively towers over Quebec’s trust-score in all but the “members of family” category. Why, just look at that great, amicable red stripe of mostly English-speaking friendliness dwarfing those tiny, paranoid blue stubs of Quebec. As you might expect, people complained.

Maclean'sGraphTweet(Les Perreaux)
And the magazine reacted. They replaced the relative-scale graph with one which showed the same data in an absolute scale:


Well, that puts things in a different light. Even the printer can see this is a fairer representation just by looking at the ink reservoirs when the job finishes.

What can we learn from this? Was the first chart an attempt to deceive or obfuscate the facts? Edward Tufte sagely observed that “data graphics are no different from words [in so far as] any means of communication can be used to deceive.” Indeed, he cites as an example of such deception a graph using non-zero Y-axis values in Visual Display of Quantitative Information (2001), but he does so because the graph at issue compares quanta from two dissimilar Y-axis starting points (dirty pool!). More to the point, he laments later in the chapter that he finds it “particularly disheartening […] that the reported perception of something as clear and simple as line length depends on the context and what other people have already said about the lines.” Or, as Donald Rumsfeld famously put it, even the most elemental data visualization is subject to distortion from “that which we don’t know we don’t know.”

So: know. That’s the lesson. Know, or know that if you don’t know, somebody smarter than you will let you know. I don’t believe the graphic designer who produced the initial graph for Maclean’s was “deceptive,” nor intentionally trying to dwarf Quebec with cloying Anglophonic bonhomie. But the fact that the graph had to be replaced shows they did that anyway, which must have been mortifying, and for which they have my deepest sympathies.

But with the article already hot like a hot potato in the world of Canadian letters (having just got Andrew Potter dealt the Spanish Archer* at McGill), the editor should have known that their position just might be read graphically as a bit defensive concerning their accuracy in assessing how trusting are Quebeckers relative to the rest of Canada vs. Quebeckers relative to Tolkein’s Gollum.

If they didn’t, it’s safe to say they do now.

*El Bow

Legibility and order; style and chaos

I get a little nervous when I look at a page of text in a layout program like InDesign; how ought it to be arranged, I wonder, and how (pardon the pun) shall I justify my arrangement?

Take leading and font size, f’rinstance: determining how much is enough of one changes the other, and both are subject to multiple forces acting upon them like the shape of the page, the colour (and the color) of the text block, the length of the line and, not least among many others, the intended function of the text. If you’re writing instructions for the operation of a hand grenade, clarity ought probably to trump style definitively.

But suppose you’re not writing instructions for hand grenades. Suppose it’s a thesis for your graphic design diploma. How far apart and how big ought the letters to be? Fortunately, Joseph Muller-Brockmann  thought this through decades ago.

It's hard to trump Muller-Brockmann for cool, rational clarity in the explication of graphical complexity.
Muller-Brockmann: cool, rational clarity in the explication of graphical complexity.

In Grid Systems in Graphic Design, Muller-Brockmann lays out the law in no uncertain terms. You don’t have to do it his way, but know that if there does exist one way in which to do it that is the right way, it’s probably the way he says it is.

I’m particularly grateful for his treatment of the subject of leading. From page 34 of this crimson tome:

“Too open a pattern disrupts the cohesion of the text, the lines appear isolated and figure as independent elements. […] [When] the lines are set too close together… the lines forfeit their optical clarity and restfulness. The eye is overtaxed and incapable of reading the individual lines […].”

So how do you get it right? I’m always a little skeptical of entirely subjective judgements about things like leading. If only there were some repeatable system or formula for working it out….

Well of course there is. Muller-Brockmann gives us this example worth quoting at length as did Moses the commandments:

“Let us assume that in our draft the column is 57 lines deep. We want 4 grid fields in a column, i.e., the column is to be divided into 4 grid fields of equal size, there being a space between the fields. For this intervening distance we choose the space occupied by one line of text. This space is known as an ’empty line’, i.e., the space in which a line of text could stand remains empty.

“From the 57 lines making up the depth of the column of text we subtract 3 lines which are needed for the spaces between the grid fields. We are now left with 54 lines which are to fill 4 grid fields. We divide the number of lines 54 by 4 and obtain 13.5 lines per field. As there are no half lines in typography, we look for the next smallest number which is divisible by 4 If each of the 4 fields contains 13 lines, we now have, including the 3 empty lines, a column depth of 55 lines, 4 X 13 + 3 = 55. We make the necessary adjustments to our draft. We now proceed a step further and determine the number of columns. If we choose 2 columns, each column has 55 lines or 4 grid fields. The grid fields are intended for the illustrations.

“The corrected column with 55 lines fits precisely with 4 grid fields of 13 lines, each field being separated from the next by 1 line. The depth of the column is now 54 ciceros and 8 points or 24.7 cm” (Muller-Brockmann 57-59).

This arrangement has the added attraction of keeping all elements on the page (not just the text) lined up in an orderly manner: “…the upper and lower edges of the picture always align with the ascenders and descenders of the lines of text.”

In his preface Muller-Brockmann credits his exegesis to the typographers of antiquity, but it ain’t likely they every laid the rules down with such lightning bolt certainty.

I see your illuminated strawberry…

…and I raise you a lightning-struck blackberry!

You will recall in my previous post I was lamenting a phenomenon scientists call “simultaneous discovery,” wherein two researchers arrive independently at the same discovery at about the same time. Both Newton and Leibniz dreamed up Calculus simultaneously, as did Scheele, Priestly and Lavoisier notice oxygen. Ever heard of Alfred Russel Wallace? He came up with a little thing called “evolution” at about the same time Darwin was tickling breadfruit aboard the SS Beagle.

So when I found that Romanian photographer Radu Zaciu was experimenting with the installation of luminous sources within fruit and veg (which I too had done), I knew I was in good (if obscure) company: sometimes people get the same idea at the same time because good ideas are, ultimately, hard to resist. And secreting tiny LEDs inside of berries is indubitably a good idea, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

But what about grounding berries (that is, wiring their moist little bodies to the ground terminal of a wall socket) and then blasting them with the electrostatic discharge from a Violet Ray device?

This obsolete medical electrotherapeutic appliance has fallen out of favor in the last eighty years or so -- not the least because it doesn't work.
This obsolete medical electrotherapeutic appliance has fallen out of favor in the last eighty years or so — not the least because it doesn’t work.

Anybody else had that idea yet? No? So I’m the first then, am I?

Thought so.

Here’s what you get when you put a blackberry between the power of Nikola Tesla and the earth.

I ate this electrified blackberry, and now I am a superman.
I ate this electrified blackberry, and now I am a superman.

Hey! That’s my idea.

Don’t cha hate it when you get a totally hot idea and some other dude has the same idea at about the same time?

Recall my post of October 6, 2014 in which I discuss the subject of experimental photography as a direction for my design thesis? I introduced the subject with an image of a raspberry with a tiny white LED installed within it.

This is what happens when you build a tiny LED into a nice ripe raspberry and then take nine carefully measured exposures of it and combine them in Photoshop's HDR plugin. Cool, huh?
This is what happens when you build a tiny LED into a nice ripe raspberry and then take nine carefully measured exposures of it and combine them in Photoshop’s HDR plugin. Cool, huh?

Well Romanian photographer Radu Zaciu has recently taken to installing lights inside of fruits and veg in order to cause them to glow from within. Check out his lovely glowing strawberry, taken January 24, 2015.

Look, I’m not complaining or accusing anybody of anything, and God knows there’s enough fruit in the world for both of us to illuminate, but it really cheeses me off when good ideas turn out not to be my exclusive purview. Dang!

Slit scan = mind blown

Years ago, in the back pages of Esquire or Harper’s Bazaar something, I saw a photograph that really bent my soul. Some clever fellow had photographed a woman performing tai-chi in such a way that the camera seemed to map her motion rather than just capture her position in space. I never saw anything like it again for years, but the image haunted me. I can’t describe to you how this single colour image seemed to show the movements of a very graceful person without the usual smeary shaping that comes from prolonged exposure; it looked a bit like the demented imagery one produces by moving an original across the glass of a photocopier while the machine is working, but really, really pretty.

I intuited that it had something to do with shifting a long, thin aperature across the film plane while the shutter was open, but beyond that I hadn’t a clue. I didn’t even know what to call it, or I’d have looked it up. Well, today, in researching a phenomenon camera buffs call “rolling shutter syndrome” (about which more later) I stumbled across the thing again — and now I even know what to call it: Slit scan.

Here’s my first bashful whack at it:

A slit scan self-portrait. Note the Cyrano de Bergerac
A slit scan self-portrait. Note the Cyrano de Bergerac

Pretty cool, huh? More soon

Little planets: space compression you can get behind.

After our last encounter you came away kicking at an imaginary pebble and muttering sheepishly that I had killed your dreams of awesome 3d cinema. My apologies. Let me make amends by introducing you to AWESOMEview, my patented 3d film delivery system. Here’s how it works.

1) Audience members are seated only in alternating rows; every second row of seats in the theater are marked “reserved.”

2) Specially trained “AWESOMEview” technicians (each wearing a black velvet ninja suit) quietly file into the unoccupied rows after the film has started.

3) At precisely the moment when something big gets closer to the camera, my specially trained technicians tickle the left elbow of the theater patron in front of them with a carefully chosen ostrich feather; when something big moves away from the camera, they rub that elbow with a cube of frozen distilled water.

4) After a while, most of the audience members have learned to associate the tickle/cold sensations at their left elbow with the depth of field as it is represented on the screen. Some of them just aren’t ticklish; none of them have ever had this sensation associated with the comprehension of the positions of objects in space prior to “AWESOMEview.” Everybody pays extra to experience it.

Ninja-clad AWESOMEview technician expert at simulating depth perception through artificial means.
A Ninja-clad AWESOMEview technician: expert at simulating depth perception. Kinda.

Are we getting it yet? The 3d effect which you may so enjoy (ten percent of humans don’t get it at all) is an artificial phenomenon that has little to do with the way in which we normally perceive depth in the real world. So what would the world look like if our eyes weren’t jammed together on the front of our heads?

Langstone Harbour Entrance, Portsmouth (Mike Ashton, photographer)
Langstone Harbour Entrance, Portsmouth (Mike Ashton, photographer)

Here’s an exciting technique I’ve discovered (others discovered before me in some abundance) that simulates just that. It’s sometimes called “little planet panorama,” and is so popular that there is, as they say, “an app for that.” Not that you should expect results like these from using the app alone: this takes some skill.

Consider this little planet that may be more familiar to Canadians like myself, Planet Parliament in Ottawa…

Photo credit: Matthew Blackett and Justin Van Leeuwen
Photo credit: Matthew Blackett and Justin Van Leeuwen

The process, while time-consuming, is not secret. Google “little planet panorama” and you’ll get some good starter info. See what you you gain when you give up stereoscopy? The hell with fancy goggles and flickering screens; give me eyes that orbit my head!

Space: compression. Because stereoscopy just isn’t worth the sacrifice.

Let’s consider what can be handled in a book about vision (intended to function as my design thesis) without causing radiation burns (see previous entry). Consider what you give up to enjoy the faint pleasure of stereoscopic perception.

Animals less concerned about stereoscopic vision enjoy a panoramic view of the world all the time: they keep their eyes on opposite sides of their heads and thus have access to a much wider field of vision than do we humans. I really envy them this, especially because we humans don’t really get much out of having our eyes close together on the fronts of our heads.

“Nuh-uh!” I hear you complain, “I get stereo vision because my eyes triangulate the positions of things in front of me!” While this is technically true, it’s not very useful despite what the marketers of fancy 3-d goggles and in-yer-face blockbusting movies would have you believe. I’ve heard it said (usually be agog fanboys fresh out of a screening of Avatar or films like it) that “3d cinema is still in its infancy” and will one day “get it right.” If so, it’s been an extremely prolonged gestation.

A page from Popular Science, 1930.
A page from Popular Science, 1930. If the 85 years that separate this idea from Spongebob 3d are any indication of the pace of progress in this arena, we might have to wait a very long time for “true 3d.” Or –here’s a thought!– maybe there just ain’t no such thing!

Why 3d is a crock:

It’s been about seventy years since western cinema began it’s torrid love affair with three dimensional representation. Not once in all that time have movie makers actually succeeded in making the sort of sea change that other new formats have enjoyed — such as Technicolor, wide-screen format, panoramic sound, etc. The problem, in a nutshell, is that human beings keep their eyes too close together.

Unless you’re some kind of mutant, your irises are only about three inches apart. That means that objects more than nine feet away are more likely to be “depth ranked” according to perceptual criteria like context, size, overlap and shading differentiation rather than stereoscopic discrepancy. That’s because the triangle describing the relationship between the subject’s eyes and the object’s position is just too long and skinny (too close to a single line, that is) to provide useful data to the part of the occipital lobe that processes depth in vision.

So the dimensions of the object (factored against their proximity to the observer) play a big part in determining the efficacy of three dimensional representation: things with minor distances between their front-most visible surface and their back-most look pretty much the same (beyond a certain distance) in two dimensions as they do in three. One can use stereoscopic differentiation across an isolated, one-eye-per-monitor system to make objects depicted less than nine feet away appear depth ranked by the proprioceptive relation of the amount of tension across the lenses of the eyes and parallactic geometry of their position alone, but beyond this distance the effect is not a simulation of perception as it occurs in the real world, but rather an artifact interpreting that perception as overlaid on another subject altogether.

So you can induce a reaction in the occipital lobe that mimics depth perception beyond the natural range of depth perception, but then, you can induce a lot of sensations artificially. Is cinema evolving into the orgasmatron? Yes. Yes it is.

Next week: how to compact the wide world into a narrow sample.


Forget x-rays.

In our last episode, I was humming and hawing re: x-rays and how best to demonstrate, in my Design Thesis (a book about vision and the limits of evolution) the world as it would appear if we could see through it. Since then, I have learned from the example of Thomas Edison’s inventor/employee Clarence Daly to just not mess with that stuff, period.

“Don’t talk to me about X-rays,” Edison famously said, after he learned of Daly’s sacrifice in the name of science. “I am afraid of them.” And well he might be, as soon after his man Daly fashioned a Roentgen-style fluorescent x-ray emitting apparatus in the workshop and began testing it, Daly began to show the signs of radiation poisoning. Undeterred by the loss of all his hair and the swelling up of his left hand, Daly switched to testing the apparatus on his right hand instead. He slept, we are told, “with both hands in water to alleviate the burning.”
The medical applications of the device were obvious to all, however, and though Edison was always interested in commercializing his “mucker’s inventions, he left the X-ray machine to others to develop.

Thomas Edison looking right through Clarence Dally's hand.
Thomas Edison looking right through Clarence Dally’s hand.

Edison had paid for his lessons in physics with his own eyesight: exposure to Daly’s machine had knocked his vision about “a foot out of focus” from continuous exposure to the ionizing radiation, which, along with Daly’s slowly advancing cancers (he died nine years after starting work on the project) lead Edison to conclude he “did not want to know anything more about X-rays.”

The sacrifices of Daly and others to the advancement of what came to be known as Radiology are celebrated today, but I’m not about to emulate them. I’m leaving that stuff to the experts. Chaps like Nick Veasey seem to be doing just fine without me.

Showing the invisible

If you’ve been following along, you know that this is the story of a fellow ordering his thoughts about perception, beauty, evolution, art and especially photography into a tangible, salable object the likes of which persons of good taste will yearn to possess. It’s my graduating thesis for Graphic Design school: design and construct an attractive, coffee-table grade book of experimental photography.

The subject has been discussed at some length in entries previous to this one in which the visible spectrum was set to be wrung free of every last juicy photon through a variety of twists and turns of photographic chicanery. But there remains all of that energy beyond the visible spectrum: the radio waves beneath it and mysterious hazards that vibrate above. Dare I tackle ionizing radiations?

No, frankly. I don’t think I do (because death rays). But who can say where the project may take me? You could pick up a pretty cool digital handheld dental x-ray machine on ebay for just a couple of Bordens.

Get your wireless handheld digital x-ray machine today!
Get your wireless handheld digital x-ray machine today!

Look, man, radiation is dangerous. But if ever there was a case of mother nature cruelly conspiring to limit my perceptive envelope, it’s the fact that she made a great many things utterly, perfectly opaque to me. Why can’t I see right through stuff?

Oh yeah, because it’s “solid.” Folks haven’t always been so squeamish about penetrating matter. Consider the shoe-fitting fluoroscope.

If you were buying shoes in the big city in the 1920s, you might like to examine those wing tips in the machine shown above: in its base, beneath the wee foot hole, is a powerful x-ray producing tube. There’s no film to develop: it works in “real time” because above the foot hole a sheet of fluorescent paint-treated glass absorbs some of the rays produced from below–save those which have been absorbed by your feet and new shoes. Most of the remaining radiation is absorbed by the users’ heads, which would be right over the peep holes at the top of the box during use.

Remember, this ain’t no fancy scientist stuff; this thing is for selling shoes (and for giving people cancer of the feet and eyes, obviously). I’d love to be as plucky as some flapper picking flats for a night of Lindying, but I’m still… you know: death ray.

Here’s the thing: when I presented this thesis idea to the class, one chap noted in the Q & A afterward that where each of my previous categories seemed to resolve neatly into some manner of generative binary (expansion / contraction, above / below, time / space), there didn’t appear to be a similar correlate for the area beyond the visible spectrum. It’s a matter of balance. The thing seemed so neatly paired, but beneath the infra red and above the ultra violet, things get really strange and / or dangerous. I wasn’t sure how to proceed.

And then I met the work of Berenice Abbott, whose  fascinating collection of technical / beautiful photographs is called Documenting Science. In it, Ms. Abbott departs from the style that made her famous (documenting the urban tumult of New York in the thirties) to apply her delicate, minimalist aesthetic to matters of scientific exposition. The results are stunning.

bereniceabbott_documentingscience10 bereniceabbott_documentingscience9 bereniceabbott_documentingscience15

In her studies of interference, magnetism and waves, respectively above, Ms. Abbott does precisely the thing I wanted to do first (but isn’t that always the way?): show the invisible patterns of energy moving outside the visible spectrum. Worse, she did it, like, fifty years ago. Dang.

But there’s hope. Ms. Abbott would have rolled back on her heels whistling through her teeth had there been such a thing in 1950 as ferrofluids. And I got a jug of that stuff. Check it out:


So that’s where things stand. A photojournalist turned science glamor photographer of the 1950s and shoe salesmen of the 1920s have bookended the visible spectrum long before I was even born. But new materials have made the zone beneath the visible spectrum rather attractive. In the name of balance, therefor, I must discover some safe means of exploring the zone above, too.

Death rays. Dang!