Saturday 31 July 2010

The art of Herman Zapf

Here is a video of master type designer Herman Zapf (designer of Palatino, Optima and Zapfino, amongst others). A montage from the film is shown below along with examples of Palatino and Optima.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

W.J. Phillips - woodcut example

Here is an example of a Walter J. Phillips colour wood-cut from 1928 - a scene of Mamalilicoola British Columbia 1928 (from HERE).

Monday 26 July 2010

The technique of Color Wood-Cut

Prompted by the previous post on the working techniques of Hokusai I have been reading up on the techniques used in Japanese colour wood cut printing.   

One of the English language references that describes it clearly is a book, here, which is a web version of The Technique of the Color Wood-cut by Walter J. Phillips published August 1, 1926, by Brown-Robertson Co. Inc. (New York).  Walter Joseph Phillips (1884 – 1963) was an English-born Canadian painter and woodcutter, acclaimed as one of Canada's most famous printmakers and for popularizing Japanese style colour woodcuts of Canadian scenes.  

The original is drawn on special thin transparent paper before transfering to the wood - here is a description of the technique;

The block-cutter pasted the drawing face down on a polished plank of mountain cherry wood. (Those who have heard that wood engravings are cut on the end grain of box-wood or maple must not confuse that process with this. Cherry wood is cut plank-wise: with the grain and not across it. The thickness is, roughly, one inch). He scraped away the superfluous thickness of paper, and oiled the remnant in order to render it transparent and so clarify the drawing. With a knife and a gouge he cut away the portions of wood uncovered by the drawing to the depth of perhaps one-eighth of an inch, so that eventually he had a facsimile of the original drawing in reverse in wood and in relief. He brushed over this a black powder pigment ground in water, and finally a little paste to bind it. Damp paper was superimposed and the back of it rubbed with a baren (a pad covered with bamboo leaf). An exact reproduction of the original drawing resulted. He pasted this on the other side of the cherry-wood block, and as before proceeded to lower that portion of the surface which in the finished print would be void of a certain color. A second print was taken from the first—the key-block—and pasted on a second block of wood, which he cut for another color. And so the process continued until all the requisite colors were accounted for, ten or twelve perhaps, when a second craftsman, the printer, took charge. The finished print was made up of impressions from each of the blocks dealt with successively. The system of making the several blocks fit, or of registering them accurately, is described later on.

This book, and the website, includes an image of a finished wood cut by the author and images of impressions from the wood blocks used for the separate colours. I have used these images to make the following small multiple showing the technique. 

Sunday 25 July 2010

The working drawings of Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) was a master Japanese artist, book designer and print-maker;

At fifteen I set my heart on learning. 
At thirty, I was firmly established. 
At forty I had no more doubts. 
At fifty, I knew the will of Heaven. 
At sixty, I was ready to listen to it. 
At seventy, I could follow my heart's desire without transgressing what was right.

Here is an incredible collection of his working drawings. Also the content of the site is described in the following;

Orientations Magazine 
Volume 40 - Number 6 - September 2009

Drawings by Hokusai: Groundbreaking Discoveries 
Bernard Rousseau

While Hokusai is viewed today as one of Japan's greatest artists, and certainly one of the most prolific, the study of his oeuvre has been hindered by the scarcity of his drawings. Until recently, only ten dating from his apprenticeship years and a few dozen from his later life were known. The recent discovery - in a private European collection - of 24 sheets of preparatory sketches and drawings for illustrations printed between 1807 and 1815 has filled a void. Meticulous examination of these works has shed some light on the period when Hokusai was at the peak of his artistic mastery, and has led to a series of striking discoveries about his working methods. 


The author of this study, M. Bernard Rousseau, is a retired Japanese prints dealer from Paris who was active in the field from 1972 to 2002. This explains how he gained access to these drawings and he completed the work of detailed comparison about 20 years ago. The drawings are now in a collection in Paris.

For me one of the most interesting aspects of this study is a series of very detailed comparisons between the published prints and corresponding preparatory sketches.

"Inquiry into  instructions for the next drawing.

An unknown feature before the discovery of these drawings, they constitute one of the major discoveries made in the course of this research. It all began when strange peculiarities that repeated in one drawing after another were remarked. The most common was the regularity with which the decoration of numerous items of clothing is carefully indicated, but only once or twice.  Another good example is the treatment of the clumps of pine needles: generally, a very few individual clumps are drawn needle by needle with a decisive stroke, while the other clumps are merely indicated by means of an evasive circle.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Orwell 1946

George Orwell's 1946 essay Politics and the English Language is HERE and has this to say

What am I trying to say? 

What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer? 
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? 
Could I have put it more shortly? 
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? 

Friday 23 July 2010

The US Postal Service in April 2005 honoured four great scientists for 37c each;

Barbara McClintock : Josiah Willard Gibbs
John von Neumann : Richard Feynman

Thursday 22 July 2010

Francis Galtons Fingerprints 1892

From Wikipedia 

1892: Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911) after having studied the fingerprints during ten years, published a detailed statistical model of fingerprint analysis and identification and encouraged its use in forensic science in his book Finger Prints. He had calculated that the chance of a "false positive" (two different individuals having the same fingerprints) was about 1 in 64 billion.

Plate 10 of the book (inverted top to bottom);

Tuesday 20 July 2010

People, Dogs & Mountains

Here is an example of one of Rockwell Kent's oil paintings - not well known these days but a significant US artist - the Wikipedia article is HERE. Also an article on Kent's artistic legacy HERE.
Greenland People, Dogs and Mountains, c. 1932-35, oil on canvas mounted on panel, 28 1/8 x 48 inches, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.

Monday 19 July 2010

Some Burgess Shale animals were coloured

Colour in Burgess Shale animals and the effect of light on evolution in the Cambrian

Andrew R. Parker.   Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B  7 June 1998   vol. 265  no. 1400  967-972. 


Diffraction gratings are reported from external surfaces of the hard, protective parts of Wiwaxia corrugata, Canadia spinosa and Marrella splendens from the Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian (515 million years), British Columbia). As a consequence, these animals would have displayed iridescence in their natural environment: Cambrian animals have previously been accurately reconstructed in black and white only. A diversity of extant marine animals inhabiting a similar depth to the Burgess Shale fauna possess functional diffraction gratings. The Cambrian is a unique period in the history of animal life where predatory lifestyles and eyes capable of producing visual images were evolving rapidly. The discovery of colour in Cambrian animals prompts a new hypothesis on the initiation of the ‘Big Bang’ in animal evolution which occurred during the Cambrian: light was introduced into the behavioural systems of metazoan animals for the first time. This introduction, of what was to become generally the most powerful stimulus in metazoan behavioural systems, would have triggered turbulence in metazoan evolution.

Soldering is easy...

Here is a great one-page set of illustrated instructions on how to solder. It is drawn by Andie Norgren after seeing a Mitch Altman course on 'hacking' electronics;

I wanted to pass that on, and thought a comic adaptation could work to teach it, and that having 1 page of instructions that could be pinned to the wall next to soldering stations in hackerspaces, handed out at workshops, or just used to refresh the basics would be a good idea. So here it is - 1 page on how easy soldering is, and how to do it. It assumes you have the tools and kit/parts you need, and a basic idea of what soldering is and why you’d want to do it.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

First catch your Hare...

GEORGE HARDIE, Jugged Hare, a recipe in one picture

The end Map

Here is a great collection of book end papers that are all in the form of maps - this one is from Portrait of a Village by Joan Hassall & Frances Brett Young. Heinemann London 1937. 21 x 30cms. )

"I take this opportunity of declaring that no village like it [Monk's Norton] has ever existed outside my imagination..." FBY 

Unique fossils from the original trilobite man...

The following image is taken from an article that Harry Whittington wrote in 1960, Unique Fossils from Virginia, for the magazine Virginia Minerals (Here). The article describes trilobite fossils that were incredibly well preserved. As the Obituary for Harry Whittington in the Guardian (July 8th 2010 ) explains;

"Trilobites had hard carapaces made of the mineral calcite, which meant that extraction of the fossil from the rocky matrix could take many hours. But in the late 1940s, Harry and his colleague Bill Evitt discovered a locality in Virginia (in rocks 460m years old) where the "shells" of the trilobite had been replaced by insoluble silica. By throwing samples into acid, they could recover perfect trilobites by the thousand, without hours of digging. They were perfect replicas, effectively made of glass."

These fossils are three-dimensional - the acid used in their preparation dissolves the surrounding rocks and leaves exquisite, microscopic, details of the 460 million year old animal.

I also realised that they were a good example of dequantification in scientific images. The text indicates the magnification (x4 etc) - but this is ambiguous - are these the magnifications inscribed on the objective lens of the microscope or are they actual magnifications i.e. that the image at final printed size shows a 4x linear magnification of the physical object? I guess we will never know.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Rockwell Kent & Voltaire

In 1928 the first book published under the then new Random House imprint was a Rockwell Kent illustrated edition of Candide. Here is an example of his illustration and insertion of small figures through the text. 

Here is the frontispiece

And the Colophon - the house became the logo for Random House.

Everything is for the best, in this the best of all possible worlds...

A superb 2-minute stop-frame video of Candide based on the illustrations by Rockwell Kent for the 1928 Random House edition. Part of a great 250 years celebration of Candide by the New York Public Library.

Also see the Leonard Bernstein Candide Operetta page on Wikipedia. 

Treasure Hunts, Bus Queues and Cancer

The authors of this paper HERE explain that there is a growing problem in cancer research, which they call a paradigm instability, which can be modelled as two analogous but slightly more everyday problems - treasure hunting and waiting for the bus.

Their description of the treasure hunting one is in full below  

"For one hypothetical example of paradigm instability, imagine you and four other treasure hunters disembark on a deserted island. You have two treasure maps, each of which marks a different location of the buried treasure on the island. The vast majority of experts believe Map A is correct, but a few experts offer cogent reasons to support the veracity of Map B. You have 5 days to dig for treasure before the boat returns to pick you up and you run out of food and water. Let us say the common wisdom is that there is a 95% chance Map A is correct and a 5% chance Map B is correct. Also, because the exact location of the treasure is imprecise, you will probably need to combine efforts to unearth the treasure. Your best initial strategy is for all five of you to start digging in the location designated by Map A. The more you dig at the location specified by Map A, the closer you believe you are to the buried treasure. You find a piece of wood that you interpret as part of the treasure chest that had broken off, but it could also be a random piece of wood. Random pieces of wood are, after all, more common than treasure chests. After 4 days of digging, you have not found the treasure; nonetheless, you think you are very close to finding the treasure and that the next shovel of dirt will unearth it. To give up when you may be so close may be foolish. However, the fact that you have not yet found the buried treasure despite your extensive efforts makes you entertain the thought that you are digging in the wrong place. At this point, you think the chances of finding treasure at the location specified by Maps A and B are approximately equal. You have reached a point of paradigm instability. Therefore, you agree that two of the treasure hunters should dig at the location specified by Map B."

Sunday 11 July 2010

Burgess Shale - to Scale

Here is a nice way of showing the scale of some of the signature creatures from the Burgess Shale fauna discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927 ) and worked on for so many years by Harry Whittington (1916-2010) and his students.

These creatures lived about 505 million years ago.

Image from Wikipedia [Size comparison of selected Burgess Shale fauna and a human. Modified from illustrations by ArthurWeasley, Matt Martyniuk, and Mateus Zica - Dinoguy2 (Corrected Miglewis). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. ]

Charles Doolittle Walcott's Field Diary

A page from Charles Doolittle Walcott's field notebook of 1909. The page has contemporaneous sketches of Marrella, Waptia  and Naraoia. The original diary is in the Smithsonian institution.


Saturday 10 July 2010

The War on Cancer - the first 40 years.

Here are two recent and thought provoking pieces on cancer.
(1) - A summary of the period 1971-present describing Nixons' 'War on Cancer'
(2)- A discussion of changes in cancer theory that seek to explain multiple paradoxes. In particular the tissue organisation field theory (TOFT) model which proposes that cancer is a tissue-based disease. This theory has been developed and championed over the past 10 years or so by Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein at Tufts medical school.

One interesting character in this story is the Nobel laureate Peyton Rous. 

" In 1959 Peyton Rous published an essay into which he distilled 50 years of observations and experimentation on cancer. The central conclusion of this essay startles us today. It is the statement that somatic mutation does not play a role in the causation of cancer. It is difficult to understand how such an astute observer, a man who had such a comprehensive knowledge of cancer, could be so far off the mark. " [This is from Peyton Rous: homage and appraisal. PK Vogt - The FASEB Journal, 1996. The paper he refers to is Nature 183, 1357-1361 (16 May 1959) Surmise and Fact on the Nature of Cancer P. Rous ]

His previous cancer discovery in 1911 took 55 years to be acknowledged by the Nobel committee. Perhaps he was always 55 years ahead of his time.

1959 + 55 years = 2014!

So perhaps 2014 is the date to look at.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Some do, some don't...

A genuine Citation Classic

Turn me on Dead Man...

Here is one of my favourite pieces by Michael Shermer from the Scientific American.

"Anecdotal thinking comes naturally; science requires training.

What we have here is a signal-to-noise problem. Humans evolved brains that are pattern-recognition machines, adept at detecting signals that enhance or threaten survival amid a very noisy world. This capability is association learning--associating the causal connections between A and B -- as when our ancestors associated the seasons with the migration of game animals. We are skilled enough at it to have survived and passed on the genes for the capacity of association learning.

Unfortunately, the system has flaws. Superstitions are false associations--A appears to be connected to B, but it is not (the baseball player who doesn't shave and hits a home run). Las Vegas was built on false association learning. 

Consider a few cases of false pattern recognition (Google key words for visuals): the face of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich; the face of Jesus on an oyster shell (resembles Charles Manson, I think); the hit NBC television series Medium, in which Patricia Arquette plays psychic Allison Dubois, whose occasional thoughts and dreams seem connected to real-world crimes; the film White Noise, in which Michael Keaton's character believes he is receiving messages from his dead wife through tape recorders and other electronic devices in what is called EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. EVP is another version of what I call TMODMP, the Turn Me On, Dead Man Phenomenon--if you scan enough noise, you will eventually find a signal, whether it is there or not."

Here is the famous Virgin Mary on a Piece of Toast that Shermer mentioned;

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Membranipora - a confederacy of clones

The Ricketts description set me off looking for information about Membranipora membranacea. It is a fascinating little colonial animal. Here are some notes and a sketch.

From Intertidal invertebrates of California.

 By Robert H. Morris, Robert Hugh Morris, Donald Putnam Abbott, Eugene Clinton Haderlie

Chapter 6 - Bryozoa and Entopracta : The moss animals

John D Soule, Dorothy F Soule and Donald P  abbott

"The bryozoa, or Ectopracta are virtually all colonial forms, with each colony (zoarium) composed of many small attached individuals (zooids). A colony originates from a single, sexually produced individual (the ancestrula) and increases by asexual budding of new individuals. Bryozoans are widely distributed in the sea and many are found on rocky shores that are exposed at only the lowest tides, or on harbor pilings or ships hulls. At first glance some colonies may be mistaken for bushy types of hydroids brancing corals or marine algae.

The individual zooids in a bryozoan colony are usually less than 1mm long and each is encased in a secrteted outer cuticle or exo-skeleton, which stiffens the colony and provides support and protection for the enclosed soft parts. "

Here is a drawing of a couple of zooids - one with tentacles retracted and the other in full action (taken from Bock, P.E., 1982. Bryozoans (Phylum Bryozoa). In: Shepherd, S.A. & Thomas, I.M. (editors), Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia Part 1: 319-394. South Australian Government, Adelaide).

Membranipora was first described by Linnaeus in 1767 (Linnaeus, C. 1767. Systema naturae, Tom. I. Pars II. Editio duodecima, reformata. Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii).: 533-1327.). In his system it was originally Flustra membranacea. The page describing the creature is shown.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Of Tide-pools and seeing

Ed ricketts (1897 – 1948) was an American marine biologist, pioneering ecological thinker and polymath. Although he has become more widely appreciated in recent years, particularly amongst scientists, he is still not very widely known in his own right. However, Ricketts not only had his own original view on the world, he also had a significant impact on a number of his friends; most notably the Nobel laureate John Steinbeck and the comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell. Ricketts was a particular inspiration for Steinbeck and he was the model of at least seven of Steinbeck’s lead characters; including the unforgettable Doc of Cannery Row and it’s sequel Sweet Thursday. Ricketts managed to balance his own scientific research programme with the exigencies of making a living for his family from his scientific specimen supply business. He was also a widely read and engaged philosopher of science and he was acutely aware that new scientific insight required an active personal engagement with the world.

Ricketts had a visceral need to see, and this need repeatedly drove him out of his bed and onto the road; to numerous beaches, bays, coves and pools on the Pacific coast of California and Oregon.  He would carefully time his arrival at specific locales to co-incide with the ideal tide conditions required for collecting a particular marine animal. Closer to his home, in Pacific Grove on the Monterey peninsula, he also spent hours observing and collecting in a large rock pool that he christened The Great Tide-Pool. John Steinbeck spent hours with Ricketts in this pool collecting marine invertebrates and he described it as;

. . . a fabulous place: when the tide is in, a wave-churned basin, creamy with foam, whipped by the combers that roll in from the whistling buoy on the reef. But when the tide goes out the little water world becomes quiet and lovely. The sea is very clear and the bottom becomes fantastic with hurrying, fighting, feeding, breeding animals.

Whilst Ed Ricketts was out in the tide-pools and on the shoreline of the Pacific coast, he honed his ability to both see marine animals and collect them. It was here, where he was most in his element, that he showed how an outstanding field naturalist engages with Nature. As Katherine Rodger says in a recently published collection of his writings;

Ricketts was a remarkable collector, with keen eyes and fast, careful hands, often returning from the shore with rare, sometimes unknown, specimens and his major expeditions consistently yielded impressive results.  Regarding the 550 species collected on their Sea of Cortez expedition, for example, he and Steinbeck stated that “almost 10% of these will prove to have been undescribed at the time of capture”.

Given that the Sea of Cortez trip that Rodger refers to in this quotation was only 6 weeks long, this is a new species discovery rate of about 10 per week.

The Pacific littoral

Remarkably, without any University research funds or endowments, Ricketts was able to succesfully use his observational powers and collecting ability to not only pursue his own ambitious research programme in marine biology but also to run a small marine specimen supply company in Monterey called Pacific Biological Labs. During his productive professional life, Ricketts staked out for himself an ambitious agenda - he had in mind an encyclopaedic study of the Pacific littoral 

This was a vast undertaking. Ricketts saw it as reaching from the far south of Chile, via Latin and central america, the continental USA and Canada to the far north-west - Alaska and the Aleutians.
During his life Ed Ricketts co-authored three books that described his explorations and observations across this vast space. Of these, two had been published at the time of his premature death in 1948 and the third was in typescript form. At the time of his death, he had been planning how to use these books as the basic material for a definitive treatise on Pacific coast marine biology. The three books are a fascinating blend of his fundamentally ecological view of nature, holistic philosophical
views, his observations on the littoral ecology of the Pacific coast and a huge volume of very detailed and dedicated collecting notes derived from hours spent in the tidepools and shorelines that he loved so much.

Between Pacific Tides

The 1925 catalogue for Pacific Biological laboratories was Ed Ricketts’ first scientific publication. The catalogue set out the range of species he could supply, based on his access to the varied and abundant marine fauna of the Monterey region. By the mid 1930’s Ricketts had codified his considerable shoreline experience and reading into a book, Between Pacific Tides, co-authored by Jack Galvin. The book was published in 1939 by Stanford University Press and the organising scheme of the book was radical for it’s time. It described the marine invertebrates that could be found in the littoral zone of the Pacific shore organised by ecological niche and habitat, rather than by anatomical or phylogenetic similarity. This organising principle generated considerable opposition from more renowned marine biologists in the US and Ricketts and Galvin had a long battle to get it published. The book was revised and published with a foreword by John Steinbeck in 1948 and new editions appeared regularly between 1952 and 1985. The book is still in print, in a fifth edition, and it is one of Stanford University Press’s biggest ever sellers.

The Sea of Cortez

In March 1940 Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck chartered the Western Flyer, a 75-foot purse seiner built in Tacoma in 1937, and sailed from Monterey to the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California. This unique marine environment is located between the mainland coast of Mexico and the coast of the Baja peninsula. The Sea of Cortez is one of the most ecologically diverse seas on the planet and is home to more than 5,000 described species. Ricketts and Steinbeck had an ambition   to undertake the first serious scientific study of the Sea of Cortez as an ecological whole. They aimed to emulate the voyaging style of Charles Darwin on their trip and this is reflected in the full title of the book Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research. The first portion of the book is a log written by Steinbeck, but based closely on the Verbatim Transcript that had been written by Ricketts from the contemporaneous notes he had kept during the voyage.  In addition to the narrative Ricketts had compiled an extensive phylectic catalogue describing the species that they had found, with full cross-references to the known literature on the marine fauna of the region.  The full book is about 600 pages long and was never commercially succesful. In later editions the publishers completely dropped the phylectic catalogue and the log portion was published under the title Log from the Sea of Cortez under Steinbeck’s sole authorship.

The Outer Shores

At the time of Rickett’s death he had completed a number of extended collecting expeditions to Vancouver Island and other coastal regions of British Columbia. His extensive journals were intended to be used as the basis for a book called the The Outer Shores, to be co-authored
with John Steinbeck. After the untimely death of Ricketts in 1948 the project languished and the full transcript of his log has only recently been published in its entirety.

These books are an ongoing testimony to the energy of Ed Ricketts, his ambitious vision and his skill as a field naturalist. His journals are full of the joy of first-hand observation and discovery. For example, here is part of an entry in his Outer Shores transcript dated Tuesday June 12th 1945 in which he describes a days collecting at Echachis Island in British Columbia;

This is one of the finest collecting spots I’ve seen in many a day . . . the fauna is very rich and varied.  Eighty-three species have already been determined; we took certainly more than 100 in this two-hour trip, and I think a reasonably complete census of the naked-eye forms here wouldn’t
stop short of 150 or 175, between tides. 

Ricketts role in marine biology and species discovery is reflected in the fact that about twenty marine organisms have species names of rickettsi or steinbecki, in honor of Ricketts and Steinbeck. For example, these include Eubranchus steinbecki,  a nudibranch named in 1987; Catriona rickettsi a nudibranch named in 1984; Pycnogonum rickettsi a sea spider named in 1934 and Polydora rickettsi a spionid polychaete named in 1961. 

... by its vividness exciting an involuntary movement of imagination and passion

The English essayist and thinker William Hazlitt thought of poetry as `... the language of the imagination and the passions' and went on to define it more carefully as  

...the natural impression of any object or event, by its vividness exciting an involuntary movement of imagination and passion, and producing, by sympathy, a certain modulation of the voice, or sounds, expressing it.

In this lecture, `On Poetry in General', Hazlitt brilliantly pins down some of the essential elements of poetry, and underlines explicitly what poetry is;  textual or verbal and what it is not; visual. This is a crucial distinction to make. Poetry deals explicitly with the translation of sensory and emotional input and creates text, as a means of `modulation of the voice', as output. Nevertheless, great poetry requires a great intensity of observation and reflection and the greatest requires the means to observe and represent nature with an emotional experience that has a higher intensity than `normal'. In the process of such intense observation poets sometimes obtain what William Wordsworth would call a spot of time or James Joyce an epiphany or what Gerard Manley Hopkins called inscape. The visionary scientist Ed Ricketts (1898-1948), making explicit reference to the poem Roan Stallion by Robinson Jeffers called this same quality breaking through.

Writers of poetry, and indeed prose, who achieve epiphany, inscape or breaking through are rare. To achieve this level of excellence requires both the ability to experience intensely and the ability to translate that experience into the linguistic means to represent emotional intensity. Because of the physiological dominance of the visual sense in humans, inevitably much of the input that poets have at their disposal is visual. In fact Marshall McLuhan uses the specific phrase intense seeing to describe the prose style of the artist and writer Wyndham Lewis; `a visionary for whom the most ordinary scenes became the means of intense seeing'. Crucially, although Lewis was an artist, McLuhan is using the expression intense seeing as a synonym for the other non-visual expressions above; epiphany, inscape and breaking through

Regardless of how visual their inspiration and thinking, writers and poets succeed or fail by virtue of their ability to produce a `modulation of the voice'. They do not manipulate visual material nor do they produce visual output; spot of time, epiphany, inscape and breaking through are non-visual expressions.

In contrast to poets and writers, artists and scientists who achieve eminence in their fields have to develop uniquely focused and intense ways of using their visual literacy. This is literally, not figuratively, intense seeing.

To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion all in one (John Ruskin)

Drawing makes you look intently, and with purpose. It makes you see differently. 

Richard McDaniel

Magnification & Dilation

The concept of magnification is at the heart of the reducing fraction dilemma. But care is called for as this concept exists as two independent ideas - one in mathematics and the other in optical science. This is confusing and applying a mathematical definition of magnification directly to optical science can be misleading. For clarity magnification in mathematics should be referred to by the technically more correct term dilation and the word magnification reserved for optical science. 

Friday 2 July 2010

Ed Ricketts Lens - descriptions from Between Pacific Tides (5th Edition)

I have previously explained how Ed Ricketts used a 20X Bausch & Lomb hand magnifier.  However, this claim was based purely on a quote from John Steinbeck. Prompted by a question from Eric Enno Tamm, I have just searched through Between Pacific Tides by Ricketts using Google books and there are 9 specific mentions of using a hand lens to reveal the beauty of what can be seen in the tidepools. Some of these descriptions are poetic - here are some examples.

Page 59. §29 - Tegula brunnea & Crepidula adunca

With a hand lens the embryos of Crepidula can sometimes be seen whirling around in their envelopes in the egg packets.

Page 85. §62 - Transparent shrimp Heptacarpus pictus.

There is such a fairylike beauty to this ephemeral creature that the inexperienced observer will be certain that he is seeing a rare form...

Once captured, the living specimen should be confined in a glass vial not much larger than itself and examined with a hand lens. The beating heart and all the other internal organs can be seen very plainly through the transparent body.

Page116. §88

As would be expected in a haunt so prolific as the lower tidepool zone, the shelter of the hydroid forests attracts a great many smaller animals, both sessile and active. In this work, it is difficult to say at just what point animals become too inconspicuous to be considered, for in the tidelands it is almost literally true that

Great fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em
And little fleas have lesser fleas
And so on ad infinitum.

... Though all of these animals are at least visible to the naked eye, and are abundant, characteristic and certainly not lacking in interest, most of them are too small to be seen in detail without a hand lens or microscope and hence cannot be included in this handbook.

Page 143. §110

On the "leaves" and "stems" of outer-tide-pool kelps, one almost always finds an encrusting white tracery delicate enough to be attributable to our childhood friend Jack Frost. But a hand lens reveals a beauty of design more intricate than any ever etched on frosty window-panes. These encrustations are usually formed by colonies of the bryozoan or ectoproct, Membranipora membranacea (Fig 114), so named in the middle of the eighteenth century by Linnaeus, regarded as the founder of modern classification.

The minute, calcareous cells, visible to the keen naked eye but seen to better advantage with a lens, radiate in irregular rows from the centre of the colony.

...the process of larval settlement has been described for several species. The process can be watched by any careful observer with a good lens.