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Heroes

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Van Gogh never got to enjoy his own historic success as an artist (even though we've been able to imagine what that moment might have looked like). But it turns out that those of us who have appreciated his work have been missing out on some critical details for more than 100 years.

I'm not easily impressed, OK?

I know Van Gogh was a genius. If the point of this were "Van Gogh was a mad genius," I would not be sharing this with you.

But I found this and I thought, "Oh, what a vaguely interesting thing." And then I got to the part about the Hubble Space Telescope, and, let me tell you: Mind. Blown.

We've got the set up here, but you have to watch the video for the full effect. It's all the way at the bottom.

Get this: Van Gogh was a pretty cool artist (duh), but as it turns out...

painting, science, psychotic

What’s the truth behind when you take off an ear?

assets.rebelmouse.io

...he was also A SCIENTIST!*

*Pretty much.

Here's the story.

While Van Gogh was in an asylum in France, after he mutilated his ear during a psychotic episode*...

(*Or, and I'd like to thank the entire Internet for pointing this out, there's a theory that his friend Paul Gauguin actually cut off his ear, in a drunken sword fight, in the dark. The more you know!)

science, premonition, predictions

Animated a thinking one-eared Van Gogh.

All Van Gogh GIFs via TED-Ed.

...he was able to capture one of science's most elusive concepts:

~~~TURBULENCE~~~

research, studied, proof, genius

Animated "Starry Night."

assets.rebelmouse.io

turbulence, fluid dynamics, energy cascade

Turbulence expressed through art.

assets.rebelmouse.io

Although it's hard to understand with math (like, REALLY HARD), it turns out that art makes it easy to depict how it LOOKS.

So what is turbulence?

Turbulence, or turbulent flow, is a concept of fluid dynamics where fluid movements are "self-similar" when there's an energy cascade — so basically, big eddies make smaller eddies, and those make even smaller ones ... and so on and so forth.

It looks like this:

figures, explanation, education, community

Pictures explain science.

assets.rebelmouse.io

See? It's easier to look at pictures to understand it.

Thing is, scientists are pretty much *just* starting to figure this stuff out.

reference, research, wisdom

Animation of referencing art to science.

assets.rebelmouse.io

Then you've got Van Gogh, 100 years earlier, in his asylum, with a mutilated ear, who totally nailed it!

illumination, luminance, pulsing

Science studying Van Gogh.

assets.rebelmouse.io

The folks who noticed Van Gogh's ability to capture turbulence checked to see whether other artists did the same. Most impressionists achieved " luminance" with their art (which is the sort-of *pulsing* you see when you look at their paintings that really shows what light looks like).

But did other artists depict turbulence the way Van Gogh did?

NOPE.

The Scream, historical, popular, famous

Animated “The Scream."

assets.rebelmouse.io

Not even "The Scream" could hold a candle to Van Gogh!

technology, star turbulence, sky, astronomy

Capturing concepts of nature.

assets.rebelmouse.io

Even in his darkest time, Van Gogh was able to capture — eerily accurately — one of nature's most complex and confusing concepts ... 100 years before scientists had the technology to observe actual star turbulence and realize its similarity to fluid turbulence mathematics as well as Van Gogh's swirling sky. Cool, huh?

Watch the video below to learn even more:

This article originally appeared on 11.14.24

Photo from Pixabay

The aurora borealis at night in the Arctic.

True
Sierra Club

Professor Jørgen Berge always thought animals, like people, preferred to spend their winters dormant.

Berge is a marine biologist and zoologist at the Arctic University of Norway and the University Centre in Svalbard, which means he's used to those long, dark winters where the sun literally does not rise for anywhere from 23 to 176 days.

This phenomenon is known as a "polar night," which means that no part of the sun's disc is visible on the horizon, and it occurs everywhere above the 67° latitude line, including parts of Alaska, the Yukon, the Denmark Strait, and parts of Greenland and Russia.


That might be a good environment for a nasty coven of evil vampires to feast on Arctic townsfolk, but it's probably less good for non-undead organisms that thrive on sunlight and warmth.

...right?

Winnie the Pooh, polar nights, arctic ocean, organisms

And I thought my winter ennui was bad.

media.giphy.com

As it turns out, those cold polar nights are a hotbed of activity — particularly in the Arctic Ocean.

"We have basically assumed that when it is dark, there is no primary production and there is no activity. The system is just waiting for the light to return," Berge said in a recently published article in the Journal of Cellular Biology.

But he and his fellow researchers were inspired to take a second look after a chance encounter in a Svalbard fjord in the winter of 2013.

"Above us was a starry, winter night and below us were countless blue-green 'stars' in the deep produced by bioluminescent organisms. The beauty of it was stunning, and the fact that so many organisms were producing light was a strong indication that the system was not in a resting mode," he explained.

polar night, under the sea, bioluminescence, nature

Giant jellyfish swim under the ice of the Arctic.

Photo from Pixabay


A team of nearly 100 scientists from seven different nations cataloged the lives of some surprisingly active Arctic animals.

Over three winters, the team led by Professor Berge embarked on underwater filming, biodiversity counts, and analyses of the stomach contents of seabirds and fish.

"Instead of an ecosystem that has entered a resting state, we document a system with high activity levels and biological interactions across most trophic levels," he said.

This activity included:

  • scallops and shellfish feeding on the floor;
  • krill and zooplankton and other tiny critters all spawning like rabbits in the springtime;
  • and auks and guillemots who resisted the urge to head south for the winter and somehow managed to stalk their deep-sea prey in absolute darkness.

"They are not individuals that are left behind and about to die," Berge told the BBC. "They are doing well, they find their food in the dark. Many of them had very full stomachs."

Pretty amazing, right? And all they had to do was look in the one place that no one thought to look before!

And in defense of every other scientist ever, I completely understand not wanting to leave your bed in the middle of a pitch-black Arctic winter to dive through the ice on the off chance that you might find some surprising aquatic activity.

Dr. Who, pitch black Arctic, winter, scientist

Working at night in the Arctic can be challenging.

media.giphy.com

Unless ... maybe this overactive polar night is actually something new?

For better or for worse, Berge and his team would not have been able to conduct their research if it hadn't been for the rapidly rising global temperatures.

"If you go back 10 years, the fjords would freeze up at that time of year, and this wouldn't have been possible at all," Berge said. "At the same time, there has been warming. We have less sea ice, we have more influence of warmer Atlantic water masses — and that will also have influenced the system."

Could it be that this influx of activity is actually the result of climate change and the melting polar ice caps?

Well ... maybe.

We can't actually know for sure because there's simply not enough research yet to prove the theory. As far as Berge's team members are concerned, it really could go either way.

"It's surprising to see that the rates are so high — that the level of activity is comparable to what's there in the summer. That is impressive," said Dr. Donatella Zona, an Arctic ecologist at the University of Sheffield. "But it's not very surprising that there is activity during the cold period. The main problem is that there are so few data. It's very hard to quantify, because we are relying on so few measurements."

Granted, correlation is not causation. But climate change is still a serious concern, and it would stand to reason that it might have something to do with this newly discovered aquatic Arctic dance party.

One thing is certain: Climate change is affecting everything from animals to humans to the earth itself.

Regardless of whether climate change has a direct impact (yet) on animal activity in the Arctic Ocean, I think we can all agree that the Arctic environment is a unique and wonderful place full of mystery and life that should be explored.

But things like Arctic drilling are chipping away at that ecosystem at increasingly alarming rates.

environment, nature, responsibility, Arctic, oil companies

Pretty much our relationship with the planet right now

Photo from Pixabay

Let's put a stop to the arrogant actions that threaten to destroy our planet so that we might live to discover more of the wonders our world holds.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Artist Jill Pelto says more than you think in her paintings.

Jill Pelto's world is made up a rich blues, ochres, and a sky that looks like something out of an old mariner's chart.

But when you start to look closer, little details start to pop out. You notice a number here or there. Or a series of points marching down the top of a glacier. Or ... is that an x-axis?


Wait, are all of these charts?! This is data! Wooah!

The artwork, you see, isn't just beautiful. While each piece starts as a simple line graph of mass or temperature, Pelto — a graduate student at the University of Maine — transforms them into something more.

Pelto has spent the past years creating this astounding series of paintings, all based on scientific data.

She was first inspired by a research trip back in 2015.

science, nature, ice cores, artist

Painting depicts scientist coring ice to reveal climate history.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Since she was 16, Pelto's been going on research trips with her father, glaciologist Mauri Pelto. In 2015, she joined her father in the field to study the glaciers in Washington state's North Cascade National Park.

On the trip, Pelto saw how the glaciers, while beautiful, had also lost much of their mass. Inspired, saddened, and packing her watercolors, Pelto decided to try to use her art to communicate what she was seeing.

The mass of glaciers in the North Cascades from 1980 to 2014. Data available here.

glaciers, arctic, study, science

A painting depicting a study in glacial mass.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Since then, Pelto has continued the project, turning not just glacial mass but many other variables into brilliant works of art.

Within the deep purples and reds of a forest on fire hides a global temperatures trend.

forest fire, temperature change, global, studies

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Global temperature data, obtained from Climate Central, becomes the backdrop to an incredible forest fire. Rising temperatures and drought conditions could increase the future risk of forest fires.

Aquamarine-colored salmon intertwine with waves made from their population numbers.

salmon, ocean, rivers, art, climate

Coho salmon face declining rivers and climate change.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Washington state has been hit by a number of droughts in the last few decades. Many rivers run low, affecting the coho salmon that spawn there.

Lifelike Arctic foxes hide amid a line graph that shows dwindling ice sheets.

arctic, foxes, science, nature, warming of poles

Arctic foxes face warming poles and climate change depicting in artist painting.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

The graph tracks the loss of Arctic sea ice from 1980 to the present. Arctic foxes are well-equipped to survive the chilly polar weather, but as the poles get warmer, larger species may invade and outcompete them.

This beautiful swaying reef exists in an increasingly acidic ocean.

coral reefs, warming seas, acidic ocean, science

Clown fish swim on a coral reef in a painting showing data of the oceans becoming more acidic.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

As more carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere, the ocean is slowly becoming more acidic. Many species could be affected, including clownfish.

A tiger struggles against it's shrinking jungle habitat.

tiger, habitat, nature, environment

Painting showing the decline in tiger habitat area.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

This line graph is based on the decline in tiger habit area from 1970 to 2010.

Here, four different trends combine into a complex, ethereal landscape.

fossil fuel, sea levels, glacial decline, science

Artist Jill Pelto offers detailed information on climate change in artistic form.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

In this piece, called "Landscape of Change," Pelto combined data on sea levels, glacial decline, temperatures, and fossil fuel usage.

Pelto plans to continue painting once she completes her master's degree.

Science is an important tool for understanding our changing world, but even the most passionate scientist will admit it can be pretty dry at times. Getting people excited about trend lines or statistical analyses is no easy feat.

But art touches us on an emotional level. We get art. Seeing something that can combine the two disciplines, and hopefully inspire something inside us, is pretty dang cool.

You can see more of Pelto's artwork at her website.

This article originally appeared on 03.03.17

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

such a beautful planet killer.

It's fun to make glittery holiday cards with the kids. Or without the kids. I don't know. Don't judge me.

But if you've ever worked with glitter, you know cleanup can be a mess. If it gets on your hands, it can take ages (or some fancy tricks) to wash it all off.


But once it's finally off your hands, where does that glitter go? Down the drain, probably. And some scientists aren't very happy about that.

Not very happy about that at all.

"I think all glitter should be banned," Trisia Farrelly of New Zealand's Massey University told CBS.

The problem? "It's microplastic," says Farrelly.

"Microplastic" is the name for the tiny, virtually indestructible pieces of plastic pollution that often find their way into our lakes, oceans, and even our drinking water.

And once they get into the water supply, they can choke or poison sea life. Even tiny plankton have been found nibbling on them.

glitter, biodegradable, fun, shiny, responsibility

Besides arts and crafts, glitter is also found in many cosmetics, such as nail polish or shampoos.

Photo from Pixabay

Glitter isn't the only source of microplastics. The majority come from larger plastic objects breaking down into smaller pieces. They can also come from the microbeads found in many body washes and shampoos. In fact, the United States has a partial ban on microbeads — manufacturers were supposed to stop putting them in rinse-off cosmetics.

Now that microbeads are getting the boot, it makes sense that people are giving glitter some side-eye. A handful of nurseries in the United Kingdom have already made the stuff verboten.

The good news is that if your heart is really set on that shimmery holiday card or looking fierce on New Year's, there are already non-micro-plasticky options open to you. Yes, biodegradable glitter is a thing.

Listen, glitter is amazing. No one is denying that. But with great shiny power, comes great shiny responsibility. Sparkle safely.

This article originally appeared on 12.01.17