Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Spike’s Air Dancers @ Opening Ceremony

Published May 4, 2010 by Graham

Taking the already rad concept of fan-powered dancing balloons to a new level of mind-boggling aesthetic awesomeness, Spike’s glorious Air Dancers made their debut at L.A.’s Opening Ceremony last weekend.

Dan Bina

Published April 19, 2010 by Molly



Science lesson!

The term “fluorescence”was coined by one George Gabriel Stokes in an 1852 paper for the Royal Society of London titled “On the Change of Refrangibility of Light”. Chemically speaking, fluorescence occurs when an orbital electron relaxes to its ground state after being excited to a higher quantum state by some kind of energy. Then it gets really complicated.

Fluorescent lights, on the other hand, were first brought to the public at the 1939 World’s Fair, and we can thank that event for eventually precipitating glow sticks and highlighter pens. At the very end of this long stream of influences lies Dan Bina, an artist who creates images that often incorporate hints of fluorescence. The paintings are magical—check ‘em out at Dan’s blog. Deploy shades if your eyes are sensitive.

Peter Nencini

Published April 12, 2010 by Molly

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Peter Nencini’s Hand Werk boxes are sets of materials and forms designed for abstract play. The components—made of wood, plastic, ceramic, rubber and fabric— are “mostly designed and cut to combine with counterparts sourced from school science lab suppliers for example, have a character that sits somewhere between board game bits, measurement tools, ambiguous accessories for clothing, for eating.”

The object of the sets is to encourage truly imaginative play; that is, play free of rules, goals, guidelines or restrictions. Nencini provides forms that beg to be touched and stacked and rearranged, then lets viewers do the rest. Each kit is boxed in a plain brown container and comes without instructions. Brilliant.

The Bill Tracy Project

Published April 2, 2010 by Molly

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Apropos of our post on the Theme Park Maps archive, WLYS reader Hugh kindly pointed us in the direction of the Bill Tracy Project. Reader, if you are interested in spelunking down into your most fearful childhood memories, we’d recommend you start paying attention right now.

According to its manifesto, the Bill Tracy Project is a website founded in order to “consolidate all known Bill Tracy information into one dedicated resource, thus, creating the largest official source of information pertaining to this subject in existence.” Um…who is the Bill Tracy to whom we owe such a fervent resource? Good question!

As for an answer, hmm. Where to begin. Tracy was a master of dark rides—theme park rides, that is, designed to convey guests through an indoor space. Early dark ride technology centered around things like ultraviolet lights and fluorescent paint and moved onto mechanically complex systems designed to give the illusion of, say, a female victim being severed in two by a circular saw.

Tracy’s hallmarks included complex facades and detail-oriented creepiness, and some of his most famous rides included the Whacky Shack at Joyland Amusement Park in Wichita, Kansas and The Haunted House at Trimper’s Amusements in Ocean City, Maryland. Check out the site’s insanely comprehensive biography as well as the section full of rad concept drawings and ride layouts. Spectacular!

Dan Murphy

Published March 15, 2010 by Molly

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The great thing about zines is that they encourage the dissemination of unusual enthusiasms. Or collections of unusual enthusiasms. Dan Murphy is an Illinois-based enthusiast of horticulture and music and biking who is currently in grad school studying green roof technology (COOL!) and produces a steady stream of zines, our favorite of which is his recent issue of The Juniper.

Issue #12 includes writings on happiness, a recipe, discourses on microbes and emergency preparedness and bike-riding. And more! If you ever wanted to get a closer read on the type of person who knows the difference between Mad-Dog Skullcap and Baikal Skullcap, here’s your chance.


Published March 10, 2010 by Molly

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If you were able to magically return to your ten-year-old self and make a list of all the things that fascinated you, it would probably look like a diagram of Radio-Guy’s obsessions. We mean this as the highest possible compliment.

Radio-Guy is Steve Erenberg, who collects and displays old anatomical models of the brain, dental mpression tray wall hanging displays, portable operating chair circa World War I, old radio batteries, vintage space-age looking televisions, steam engines, salesman samples, old x-ray tubes and tons of other stuff. Oh, the best part? YOU CAN BUY IT ALL! The result would look like the dream bedroom of a very precocious and science-minded 19th-century kiddo.

If the phrase “nickel-plated” revs your engine, consider a tour through the site. And start saving your pennies.


Published February 18, 2010 by Molly




The word “nostalgia” is a compound from ancient Greek consisting of νόστος, or nóstos (”returning home”) and ἄλγος or álgos (”ache”). Etymologies don’t get much more beautiful than that. In 1688 a Swiss doctor identified nostalgia as a medical disease— a kind of hypochondria of the heart. For the next couple of centuries people went on suffering and being diagnosed with this beautiful disease.

A professor of Slavic languages at Harvard named Svetlana Boym spent years studying various manifestations of nostalgia, and determined that there were two distinct types of the sensation. One she called “reflective nostalgia”, which consisted of longing for the past without denying the present. The second type she called “restorative nostalgia”, which involves inventing a tradition to make the past more coherent.

We thought of these things when confronted with Hollis Brown Thornton’s work. With its circuit boards, snow monsters, and stacked VHS tapes, Thornton’s images are nothing if not material evocations of that peculiar sweet-sour nostalgia feeling. The reflective kind, to be precise.

Adventures in Human Anatomy

Published January 8, 2010 by Molly

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Like the concept of infinity or the size of an XL fountain drink purchased at a movie theater, the human body is one of those entities that provokes thoughts of awe and astonishment whenever one stops to dwell upon it. It’s fortunate, then, that a book exists to satisfy our curiosity about the mechanics and mysteries of human anatomy (with lotsa pictures, naturally).

Human Anatomy: From the Renaissance to the Digital Age covers the history of anatomical illustration over five centuries from Leonardo da Vinci to Vesalius to Bernard Siegfried Albinus to Charles Estienne. It even includes illustrations considered too crazeballs for their own time, including Thomas Eakins’ The Gross Clinic (you can google that one; FYI it is gross.)

If the images are occasionally nauseating (many of them owe their fine detail to cadavers dissected for the purpose of drawing), they’re also never less than immaculately prepared. Nice to know that there were 16th century doctors sawing corpses in half so that we could all know exactly what was inside us, no? Thanks, guys.

Jeff Caramagna

Published December 28, 2009 by Molly


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Jeff Caramagna’s work “endeavors to inspire the dwarfing of the individual witness both visually and metaphysically”, and if that’s not a damn good way to begin an artist’s statement, we don’t know what is.

Caramagna combines classic figure painting techniques with an intricate visual mapping system to produce the final works, which are so vivid they almost appear to generate their own light. The paintings will remind the average viewer of sunbursts and orange groves and beach bunnies—nothing dark in evidence here, though the paintings are far from simplistic or uninteresting.

Don’t miss the “PROCESS” section of Caramagna’s site, which includes images culled mid-painting of half-finished works and jars of shining pigment. How often, after all, do we get a privileged glimpse into the working style of an imposingly talented artist? It’s like a studio visit condensed for the purposes of the internets.

Nigel Peake for the RHS

Published December 10, 2009 by Molly

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Check out Nigel Peake’s beautiful horticultural drawings commissioned for Wisley Gardens, the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society.

What’s the RHS, you ask? Why, Britain’s premiere gardening charity, founded in 1804 by John Wedgwood and the explorer Sir Joseph Banks and devoted to excellence in horticulture—that’s what!