The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

SNOWFLAKES – SCIENCE & ART

Artist Rogan Brown's paper sculptures are many times larger than the organisms that inspire them. Magic Circle Variation 5 is approximately 39 inches wide by 39 inches tall in its entirety. Brown has created multiple versions of Magic Circle, the shape of which alludes to a petri dish and a microscope lens.

Artist Rogan Brown’s paper sculptures are many times larger than the organisms that inspire them. Magic Circle Variation 5 is approximately 39 inches wide by 39 inches tall in its entirety. Brown has created multiple versions of Magic Circle, the shape of which alludes to a petri dish and a microscope lens. Courtesy of Rogan Brown

Do you remember cutting paper snowflakes in school? Artist Rogan Brown has elevated that simple seasonal art form and taken it to science class.

These large-scale paper sculptures may evoke snow, but actually trade on the forms of bacteria and other organisms. The patterns may feel familiar, but also a bit alien. You’re not looking at a replica of a microbe, but an interpretation of one. And that distinction, Brown says, is important.

“Both art and science seek to represent truth but in different ways,” the 49-year-old artist, who lives in France, tells Shots. “It’s the difference between understanding a landscape by looking at a detailed relief map and understanding it by looking at a painting by Cezanne or Van Gogh.”

Brown wants to you to feel something looking at these sculptures.

Last year, he met with a group of microbiologists to plan an exhibition on the human microbiome. He became fascinated by the hidden world of microbes and the strange shapes of pathogens. He was particularly interested in humans’ fear of the invisible microbiological world. That meeting led him to spend four months creating Outbreak entirely by hand.

Outbreak, which is approximately 58 inches long by 31 inches tall, was exhibited in London in 2014.

Outbreak, which is approximately 58 inches long by 31 inches tall, was exhibited in London in 2014. Courtesy of Rogan Brown

Outbreak took four months to cut and build. Brown writes on his website that the slow process of cutting mimics the "long time-based processes that dominate nature: growth and decay."

Outbreak took four months to cut and build. Brown writes on his website that the slow process of cutting mimics the “long time-based processes that dominate nature: growth and decay.” Courtesy of Rogan Brown

A detailed view of Outbreak shows the delicate forms Brown cut by hand. He says he works with paper because it "embodies the paradoxical qualities that we see in nature: its fragility and durability, its strength and delicacy."

A detailed view of Outbreak shows the delicate forms Brown cut by hand. He says he works with paper because it “embodies the paradoxical qualities that we see in nature: its fragility and durability, its strength and delicacy.” Courtesy of Rogan Brown

He starts each construction by sketching detailed designs and then mocking them up in larger pen and ink drawings. Then he begins to think in 3-D. Each structure is composed of layers of paper, which are stacked using foam board spacers. This floating effect allows him to build a complex colony of organisms that appear to grow beyond the confines of their housing.

In Cut Microbe, that growth is chaotic. The whip-like appendages of the creature branch outward in an invasive way. Those legs, Brown writes on his website, were inspired by the flagella of Salmonella and E. coli, tiny appendages that help the bacteria move.

Cut Microbe, left, was cut entirely by hand. The entire sculpture, right, measures approximately 44 inches tall by 35 inches wide. Brown says it was inspired by Salmonella and E. coli.

Cut Microbe, left, was cut entirely by hand. The entire sculpture, right, measures approximately 44 inches tall by 35 inches wide. Brown says it was inspired by Salmonella and E. coli. Courtesy of Rogan Brown

In Magic Circle, the architecture is more constructive, ordered — there are colonies of intricately shaped forms that evoke the collaborative, constructive network of a coral reef. It also evokes microbes and diatoms.

Magic Circle borrows from the forms of bacteria, microbes, diatoms and coral. Brown needed a laser to cut some of the more intricately designed shapes.

Magic Circle borrows from the forms of bacteria, microbes, diatoms and coral. Brown needed a laser to cut some of the more intricately designed shapes. Courtesy of Rogan Brown

Some of Brown’s work is sliced meticulously by hand using a scalpel. Others, like the one above, are also cut using a laser. The end result is a fragile paper sculpture that borrows from what we can see as well as the artistic imagination.

“We live in a world dominated by science,” Brown says. “Art needs to work hard to keep up or use the language and imagery of science for its own ends.”

Source: Meredith Rizzo, Is This Snowy Wonderland Or The World Inside A Petri Dish?, NPR, December 25th 2015

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Filed under: 5►LEARN MORE FROM:, ■ Arts/ Music/ Dance, ■ Biology, ■ Nature, ■ TED

What’s going on under the skin?

This TED-ed series called Getting Under Our Skin is looking at this very topic. Browse through the selection of videos below to learn more about what may interest you. Enjoy the summer, stand up straight, be healthy and get savvier every day!

Filed under: 1►LISTEN▼, ■ Biology, ■ TED

Strong Marks & Tough Characters in the Wild

How do you leave your mark on

the world surrounding you?

SIGHT, TASTE, TOUCH, SMELL,


HEARING?


There are a lot of  signatures in the wild, many more than on paper. That is because animals can sign on wood, earth, even  underground, through air or water, in a nutshell, by channels that may involve any of and all the senses.

The wildlife surrounding us is extraordinary! That’s why I’d like to thank my biology students for the great presentations they had this semester.

This post was inspired by an Animal Planet documentary on the smelliest animals on Earth. Have fun reading it!

Here are some photos of ten of the most odiferous animals. Take a look & choose the top three that can leave the strongest smelliest signatures ever known.

ALASKA ZOO Musk-ox Calf

The musk ox is a large hoofed mammal with up-turned horns, a massive body and a short tail. They live in social groups, where the adults work together to defend and nurture the young. When threatened by a polar bear or wolf, the adults form a protective circle around the younger members of the herd.


Beluga/Baluga

Beluga whales are often found around the Arctic seas, and migrate when the sea freezes over. They often travel in groups, also known as pods, and live mainly in shallow waters which sometimes are barely deep enough to completely cover them.

Beluga whales are almost forty percent blubber which insulates them in the cold Arctic waters. This blubber also helps to streamline their body which enables them to move more quickly through the water. Also, when Beluga whales dive, their blood circulation decreases, allowing them to conserve body heat.

Beluga whales are also known as “sea canaries” because they are very vocal. They make sounds that range from clicks and high pitched whistles to bell-like sounds. These sounds can be heard above water.

Red Fox Cubs

Adult red foxes usually live alone except during the mating season in January and February and when raising young.
Instead of sleeping in a den, an adult fox usually curls up with its fluffy tail over its nose and feet to protect itself from the cold. In the winter, sometimes the snow will cover them in a blanket which insulates them from the wind and cold weather.


Wolverine

Wolverines are fierce and entirely under-estimated predators. Read more on these animals on Deleene’ blog, Wild Muse. I was pleased to discover that this blog was a finalist in the run for the Research Blogging awards 2010, so it’s worth checking if you’re a wild life fan. 🙂

Sockeye-salmon


The North Pacific is home to five species of salmon and steelhead, a migratory form of trout. Each kind of salmon is known by different names: Chinook (king), sockeye (red), coho (silver), chum (dog), and pink (humpback). All are commercially valuable, but the Chinook were the prize of the Columbia River system. On the Water is the site where you can read more about the Columbia river salmon.

Stink-Bug

Stink bugs have 5-segmented antennae and shield-shaped bodies.

Some stink bugs are pests of cultivated plants, and their feeding not only damages the plants, it also damages or disfigures fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and helps spread plant diseases.

Stink bugs get their name because if handled or otherwise disturbed, a stink bug will release a stinky odor from glands on its thorax.

Skunks

Skunks are legendary for their powerful predator-deterrent — a hard-to-remove, horrible-smelling spray. A skunk’s spray is an oily liquid produced by glands under its large tail. To employ this scent bomb, a skunk turns around and blasts its foe with a foul mist that can travel as far as ten feet (three meters).

Skunk spray causes no real damage to its victims, but it sure makes them uncomfortable. It can linger for many days and defy attempts to remove it. As a defensive technique, the spray is very effective. Predators typically give skunks a wide berth unless little other food is available. (Info taken from the National Geographic site)

American Beaver


Beavers are more than intriguing animals with flat tails and lustrous fur. American Indians called the beaver the “sacred center” of the land because this species creates rich habitats for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. Since beavers prefer to dam streams in shallow valleys, much of the flooded area becomes wetlands. Such wetlands are cradles of life with biodiversity that can rival tropical rain forests.

Besides being a keystone species, beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands that can sponge up floodwaters (the several dams built by each colony also slows the flow of floodwaters), prevent erosion, raise the water table and act as the “earth’s kidneys” to purify water. The latter occurs because several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, water downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment.

Tasmanian Devil

As comical as it is, the familiar Looney Tunes portrayal of a Tasmanian devil as a seething, snarling, insatiable lunatic is, at times, not all that far from the truth.

Tasmanian devils have a notoriously cantankerous disposition and will fly into a maniacal rage when threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending a meal. Early European settlers dubbed it a “devil” after witnessing such displays, which include teeth-baring, lunging, and an array of spine-chilling guttural growls.


Porcupine

Many animals come away from a porcupine encounter with quills protruding from their own snouts or bodies. Quills have sharp tips and overlapping scales or barbs that make them difficult to remove once they are stuck in another animal’s skin. Porcupines grow new quills to replace the ones they lose.

Hyena Pup

Wherever you go on safari in Africa, don’t be lulled into thinking these animals are like domestic dogs! If you stick your arm out your vehicle window, a hyena is capable of snapping it off with one bite. They have powerful jaws and teeth specially adapted to splintering and crushing bones.

While a lion or leopard is unlikely to enter your safari tent, hyenas have been known to take a bite out of sleeping tourists.

Every living creature can find itself in situations in which it can leave strong marks in its environment.

Choose the strongest olfactory marks the animals above are known to leave.

And last, but not least, what are the strengths that make you noticed?

Filed under: 6►THEME CHEST, 6▼ Questionnaires, ■ Biology, ■ Perfumes

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