kitty awe-inspiring jaguar above will zap you over to chasingsabretooths and two incredible videos of hunting jaguars – including intense moments of submerged suspense as hunter and prey disappear beneath the water surface. Almost as fascinating as these incredible hunts is the reaction of the amateur filmers… there’s some deep humor when the maker of the first film says “I feel like a bad person”. In contrast, the group witnesses of the second attack seem to celebrate the jaguar’s prowess. Fantastic!
One of the things I love about the Museum of natural History in Berlin is… it’s history. I don’t know if Heinrich expereinces the thrill of entering the space after doing it day-in-day-out for years, but I cherish the chances to visit him because – beyond our discussions – the place oozes generational passion for understanding the world. This column is literally right outside of Heinrich’s office and – strategically, you might say, so that no one can say that they are bored should he arrive a minute late. I unwrapped it hastily to show about 3/4s of its coolness, and you can see that the animals are the animals they are supposed to be, despite the materials they pecked out of and the constraints of logistics and workforce. These are all up and down the stairwell as well, no two alike. I’ll have to pester him to do some 3D scans.
Happened across this gem of a film and just have to plug it here, despite its absolute lack of extinct animals or computer graphics. It’s just a brutally captivating film that makes you wince because it features people and the idiotic things people do. It also leaves you thrilled that the protagonists prove themselves capable of rising above their situations and mutually establishing a beachhead of humanity. If you get a chance, you heard it from me.
A bit frustrated that I haven’t been free to indulge in what I want to the last few months, I interrupted my scheduled work for a speed paint. Not sure who the diners are, but the buffet is Supersaurus. I’d like to get a larger therapod coming in from behind and a smaller pterosaur with piqued interest in the overlooked tongue up front. Or maybe that would be too much.
Palaeo-electronica has a great paper by Richard Ellis and Stephen Gatesy analyzing substrate dynamics that I’m excited about even though I haven’t read a word. I’ve just looked at the pictures. And they tell a decent amount of the story – that’s exciting. They don’t communicate a quantitative analysis of the shifts and bulges of the substrate, but they do show that this is the focus of the paper – the beads in the sand communicate that quite well. It’s a great case for inreach due to the subject matter and the visual documentation.
Interestingly, the videos read worse than the images, the lack of depth cues make it very difficult to understand what’s going on in the xray video, and the rotating camera is a classic case of overlapping animation – making it very difficult to even follow what’s going on around the foot. No matter, the photos are great, and the illustration of the tracked bead paths show motion better than the videos… again, just lacking depth cues. It’s also a fantastically interesting subject matter. I’m off to read it!
How much hype can you pack into one blog post? Well, how about a crowdsourcing science project to research cannibalism in Tyrannosaurs, launched by a popular Guardian writer / pterosaur researcher and a Canadian preparator / scientist, featuring cool graphics, videos (well, to date one) and a snazzy, t-shirt-begging logo? Click the badge and get in the know.
After pondering what genres might be suitable for making fossils the stars of the show not just for dusty old paleontologists (like those SVPOW perverts) but for a larger chunk of the population at large, I stumbled across porn. Heinrich, Dave – this is what happens when you leave me unsupervised in the bone cellar. (Insert evil laugh.) So, without further ado, here is January’s sumptuous fold-out S107-108 being explored sensuously, nook for nook, cranny for cranny. Depending on where you work, this might not be considered safe.
Some German terms are too good for translation, including Nabelschau. Literally interpretable as navel-gazing, it has an unhurried, introspective tone to it that the English fails to deliver. Navel-gazing calls up a vision of someone staring privately yet fanatically into his or her own bellybutton, whereas – to me at least – Nabelschau is a public dissertation of the brutally analyzed results. Today we engage in Nabelschau, with a look into drip.de’s statistics …
According to the wordpress statistics plugin CyStats, drip.de yesterday received 546 unique visits and 2315 hits. That’s a spike in hits, but an overall steady course in visits. What I find interesting is the discrepancy between statistics, as every source I use reliably profers different results. My server statistics cite 1353 visits and 3552 hits for yesterday, and only a small percentage of that is targeted at my woefully neglected other sites – like my (coughcough) business site. So, I assume that Dave Hone’s appearance triggered some search engine bots. I’m not very well versed on interpreting stats, however, so if anyone has more insight, please leave a comment. Also, if you visit here regularly or have stumbled across, let me know. I’m curious who’s reading these bits and pieces and planning to post more of my own content in the future so it would help me to know who is interested in palaeontography, NPR, Germany, etc.
Very cool is how many visits I’m getting from Japan. 43%!!! Wow.
A sudden surge of visits is arriving from this Chinese overview of Kentrosaurus illustrations. Neat overview, and much more extensive than I’d previously been aware of. Not many hip spikes, most are scapular.
I suppose its understandable to feel puny when confronted by pieces of sauropod. Fortunately, modern technology has the answer… here, Dave descends into the bone cellar – home of said sauropod pieces – to demonstrate being both puny and huge. Good ego-preserving techniques to brush up for your next encounter with sauropods!
Tyrannosaurus news roams the analogue landscape before meeting its modern, digital demise. Kooky cliche, but kinda neat anyway.
Took this on a flight to a work contract last week. Below me, everything was a soupy, all-encompassing gray. Later we would rise up through the second cloud layer towards a brightly shining sun. Around me were about two hundred people, all busy looking at their laps… click to embiggen.
Here’s some wicked, eight-legged love with a great message, all wrapped up in a fantastic animation. Enjoy, and pass it along (but only if the signs say so).
Last year I took a stab at illustrating an elephant’s foot. It wasn’t any old elephant’s foot, it was the object of John Hutchinson’s study on biomechanics, something which is fantastically interesting not just for its implications for illustrating other gigantic land animals but also in exploring the role of the artist in illustrating scientific research and in the role of the illustration itself. Over the course of the year, ideas I’d been developing congealed in this unfinished work. It was, so to speak, one small step for an elephant but one huge step for me as a novice in this field.
The research – which can be accessed here - is well illustrated, assuming the goal is to discuss comparative anatomy (the evolutionary development of the features) or morphology. The question I picked out of a blog post from Johns’ freezer, though, was the unique biomechanic model that elephants represent… they walk digitigrade (on their toes), but not quite. Due to a spongy foot pad, they could be argued to walk plantigrade (on the flats of their feet). I can only describe it as walking on silicone-cushioned high-heels. That’s cool. How do you illustrate that?
I contacted John to ask for materials to take a stab at it and came up with the above animation. Its a w.i.p and not fully successful but it does get the concept across. Weight loading is represented by a red arrow, extreme positions are ghosted in as the foot approaches the alternative extreme, and there’s a big silicon cushion which is possibly completely wrong. I created a linear morph between the relaxed and loaded states using John’s 3D scans and added an outline of the foot to place the bones in context. Visually, these things are all important to focus on the question I’d singled out.
What I find interesting in this exploration is 1) the potential for media artists to collaborate with scientists beyond lush life reconstructions of the latest, greatest dinosaur and 2) existing technical possibilities and their potential to make complex scientific questions accessible.
Artists have an ingrained compass for eye-catching, cutting-edge imagery. It helps get your name out, acquire jobs and feel good about yourself. I want to do some myself, and will – I promise. But wait – I already am. The human perception system is triggered to spot movement, and I’m an animator – both in the sense that I animate and that I make films with a story. For me, that squishy elephant slipper is eye-catching, cutting edge coolness.
Not all artists will be drawn to such work, and not all will have the familiarity with digital toolsets to be able to do so. But there are lots that have the potential and talent to do so. Wouldn’t it be great to see fan-art explanations being meta-tagged to research papers?
The crux of all this is that we are on the verge of large changes in the application of media on the functioning and sharing of science. What will OpenSource mean to artists? We can read the papers, contact the scientists, collaborate with journalists. What will animation technologies from games and film mean to science? Scientists are using digital imaging techniques that create incredible imagery practically as a by-product of their research. How can this wealth of material be employed in communication?
people want to learn
They big take-home message from the Senckenberg convention last June, proffered by museum director Dr. Mosbrugger, is that people want to learn. There’s an authentic interest in the world around us. If it’s accessible, people will listen, explore, even participate. And visual communication – illustrations, videos, etc – makes content more accessible, as can be ascertained by click rate comparisons of articles with and without an embedded image.
The logical consequence is that science communication is being complemented by a new possibility. Next to classical outreach – where the science-endowed prepares materials specifically for a non-scientifically endowed audience – there is a new option: inreach. This is where scientists do what they do – science. And the preparation of their communication materials is made accessible to a scientifically interested audience, who at as multipliers for an even larger group. Imagery plays a crucial role, but I’m not thinking of the simple jpg. I’m thinking of an integrated publishing system that allows quicker access to terminology via hyperlinks and interactive manipulation of the scientific content.
Imagine John’s foot (okay, not his but the elephant Betsy) being interactive. The reader can scrub the amount of pressure, controlling the amount of squish. The document could recognize that I’m reading the text passage about the prepollex and the illustration would rotate to offer a good view of this highlighted bone. Aha – that’s the prepollex. Aha, that’s a sagittal view. Hey, this paper isn’t that hard to follow after all. The summary could be an choreographed animation with additional imagery and videos accompanied by the voice of the scientist or a press agent. A youtube-ripe presentation, ready for hyperlinking.
Expensive, you say? I would argue that it’s not only inevitable, but likely cheaper in the long run, once the options for re-use through a chain of media outlets and museum presentations (both in-house and in the internet) are worked out. It’s inevitable, because the kids visiting the museum will already be up-to-date on the latest science blogs. They’ll know that Deinonychus is feathered or wrong, and they’ll demand that their museum keeps up with the pace, lest these bastions of scientific authority go the way of the television documentary, being buried in dust instead of sensationalism.
I’ll be adding more in the future, including cases where I see this shift to inreach successfully happening and my frustration with existing technical possibilities such as Unity3D in specifically addressing a publishing-embedded interactive 3D. Hopefully, I’ll get your thoughts as well…
The German new year’s is like the English, a jovial ‘Happy New Year’s‘. But there’s also New Year’s Eve greeting Guten Rutsch, which I butcher into an English ‘have a good slide‘. All of Germany slides into the new year, and Berlin does so with particular fervor. Fireworks here range far beyond the Brandenburger Tor party. Indeed, from our apartment overlooking Prenzlauerberg and Mitte, Berlin’s official fireworks was only able to compete with the panoramic rest for about 5 minutes and even then presented only another wedge of awesome. The video above only shows an arc about 25 degrees of Alex and eastwards – the official fireworks are kilometers to the west. The overlapping exposures create the general ambient of a full panorama of explosions. Berlin is unique in this regard, or at least in this dimension. Everyone everywhere seems to have their own firework show, which begins with impatient explosions and fire crackers a few days premature, swelling into a horizon of pyromantics a few hours before the Rutsch and then a crescendo of explosions as the clock rings 2013 and about an hour thereafter.
This year seemed decidedly less aggressive. In years past, the feeling was raw. Kids would toss firecrackers at your feet or aim fireworks at cars and passersby. This year felt much more celebratory. So, we had a great Rutsch, and I hope you did too!