Wednesday 29 December 2010

Jonas Coersmeier - An Architect inspired by Microstructure

Jonas Coersmeir is a German born architect and designer with a fondness for using a Hitachi electron microscope for inspiration.

His site is HERE.

Below is an example of some SEM images (with scale bar) and the structural motifs that he has extracted for use in design and architectural work. [Image Copyright Studio Jonas Coersmeier].

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Hans (Jean) Arp's non-random Chance Collages

Collage is a distinctively twentieth century art form that explores the boundary between random juxtaposition and conscious arrangement. For example, the Dadaist artist Hans Arp (1887–1966) is supposed to have made ‘chance collages’ by tearing paper into pieces, dropping them onto a larger sheet of paper and then gluing the pieces where they happened to fall.

However,  actual examples of Arp’s work, for example According to the Laws of Chance (1933) show spatial arrangements of torn paper that are more regular than a truly random pattern, thus indicating that he did not full relinquish his artistic control to the laws of chance.

This is shown in the Figure (click to see a larger version).

(a) A binarised version of According to the Laws of Chance  by Hans (Jean) Arp made in 1933. This is a collage of painted pieces of paper that have been dropped at random onto a board and glued down. An image of this piece is shown on the Tate website HERE.

(b) A small yellow dot has been placed at the rough centre of gravity of each of the 24 pieces of paper.

(c) Here just the 24 dots are shown in a box the same size as the original piece of art.

(d) A Poisson point process of 24 events within a bounding box the  same size and shape as the original piece of art.

The Poisson point process is a standard way of analytically generating a pattern of a given number of events that show complete spatial randomness (CSR).  The Poisson process has some very interesting properties, here it suffices to be used qualitatively as an example of a pattern that has been randomly generated.  Note that ina Poisson process the points in the pattern can end up arbitrarily close to one another.

The Arp composition is very unlikely to have been generated by the Laws of Chance; the arrangement of the paper centres of gravity are too spread out (or regular) than a completely random pattern.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

A hundred thousand billion poems - Queneau

Still in print - the combinatorial literature of Raymond Queneau. His book, Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes, contains 10 to the power 14 poetic variations on a Petrarchian sonnet.

New York - Food Trucks

From a New York Magazine piece on 25 Food trucks.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

The Anatomy of TEXTure

In the next issue of Glimpse Journal ( is a piece I have done on the connections between the elements of text and micro-anatomy -  inspired by a medical man,  William Lawrence FRS;

“…the anatomy of texture, is that which shews the composition of the organs: it is a kind of analysis, reducing these into their constituent elements.”

William Lawrence FRS 1829. On the Nature and Classification of Diseases. Lecture III October 5th 1829. Printed in the London Medical Gazette. 

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Newspaper Blackout Poetry

Here is a whole book of poetry created by Austin Kleon by using a black marker pen and some found text. 

Saturday 27 November 2010

Bill Drummond still at it

The Craig Mod DO lecture

Here is a fascinating lecture by Japanese based writer, book designer and publisher Craig Mod, speaking at this years DO lecture series in Cardigan bay.

Monday 22 November 2010

A Hum|an Doc|ument - Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips RA has just released his art book A Humument as an iPad application. Phillips has been working on this for 45 years. Read the article about the app in The Independent HERE. The website for the book is HERE

Page 50 is below (left original 1892 - right A Humument 1970).

The original book is rather tricky to track down (not least of the trouble is that there are various different editions of this from 1892 - at least 3 by the looks of it).  A complete scanned PDF of the 1892 Chapman & Hall version that was used by Tom Phillips is available HERE.

The article that Phillips read in 1965 in the Paris Review is available online HERE.

Sunday 21 November 2010

W. Heath Robinson - Illustrations for Bill the Minder

Bill the Minder - Written & Illustrated by William Heath Robinson. 1912.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Joseph Moxon. Practical perspective; or Perspective made easie. 1670

Here is a superb perspective rich image that shows a pop-up from the 1670 treatise on Perspective by Jospeh Moxon. The transparent  material in the 'doorway' of the pop-up is a thin sheet of Mica.

(Image Copyright Dr Justin Croft)

Sunday 14 November 2010

Fox Talbots Oak Tree

Oak Tree in Winter at Lacock Abbey

Salt print from a calotype negative, early 1840s. 19.5 x 16.6 cm.
From the negative in the FTM, LA3065. Schaaf 1981


Pinhole Doors

This is an image of what happens when a pinhole camera is placed on the top of a turntable and exposed for the length of L' America by The Doors. By  photographer Tim Franco

Saturday 13 November 2010

Cover Ideas

I have been playing with cover ideas for Intense Seeing. Here is my latest effort.

The eye is re-drawn from an Isaac Newton book on Optics (Optice, sive, De reflexionibus, refractionibus, inflexionibus et coloribus lucis : libri tres. - Londini: Impensis S. Smith & B. Walford, 1706. - getr. Zählung : 15 Falttafeln). Which is available on the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science.  

I broke the lines down into dithered points - so that from a distance it looks like a line and close up its a set of grey dosts.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Extended focus Macro-images

The photographer John Hallmen has a superb set of images of insects taken with a very high magnification macro photography set up.  He has a full set on Flickr and his own site HERE.  One of his specialities is very nicely composed extended focus images created from registered stacks of 30 images - sort of 'Macro-Confocal' imaging.  Below is a lo-res image of his of a compound eye (Copyright J. Hallmen).

Saturday 6 November 2010

Daniel Danger -from 2D - 3D

Here is Daniel Dangers first 3D art toy created from one of his sketches (More HERE).

Sunday 24 October 2010

The World through a Pinhole

I am currently putting together a piece that links the optical work of Christoph Scheiner (1573-1650), the invention by Marvin Minsky in 1957 of the confocal microscope, pinhole camera art, my own confocal images of shaving foam and structured light microscopy. The common theme is looking through a pinhole. 

First a lovely pinhole image byChristian Poncet (examples Here) -

And also my own confocal microscopy images through a fluorescently labelled shaving foam - as a function of time.

Saturday 16 October 2010

The Pacific Littoral explored by Ed Ricketts

Remarkably, without any University research funds or endowments, Ed 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. The research programme that Ricketts set out for himself had an incredibly ambitious agenda. He had in mind an encyclopaedic study of the Pacific littoral; the zone which stretches from the high water mark, that is only occasionally submerged, to the portions of the shoreline that are permanently submerged even at low tide. This was a vast undertaking. The Pacific coast stretches thousands of kilometres; from the far south of Chile, through Latin and Central America, the length of the continental USA and Canada up to the far north-west - Alaska and the Aleutians. 

The figure  shows the Pacific coast of the mainland of North America over which Ed Ricketts ranged during his life. He wrote, or co-wrote, three books that described his explorations and observations across this vast space. Of these books, 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 the 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.

The Pacific coast of North America explored by Ed Ricketts. In the far North-West is Juneau in Alaska and in the South-East La Paz in Mexico. This coastal interface between the continental mass of North america and the Pacific is  over 8,000 kilometres.  A line from San Francisco to Seattle is roughly North. The political borders between the USA, Canada and Mexico have been removed to emphasise the geographical and ecological continuity of this coast.

Map re-drawn by M.G. Reed from public domain mapping included on the US National Atlas website. [This illustration copyright M.G. Reed 2010].

Friday 15 October 2010

Hairballs aren't best

Linear Layout for Visualization of Networks


Martin Krzywinski, Genome Sciences Center, Vancouver, BC.

 HERE is a website with images, explanations and software for a new visualisation methodology for large and complex networks. 

Sunday 10 October 2010

Hembakat är Bäst

Ikea have a new FREE baking book out - Home baked is best. It is free in Swedish IKEA stores - but you can see the pictures on their site.

Saturday 9 October 2010

The Geometry of Pasta

Thursday 7 October 2010

The fundamental dilemma of magnification.

Even low power magnification can be a really useful technique for intense seeing.  Magnification reveals to our naked eye new levels of detail of an object or scene.  A simple example of magnification is shown in the Figure below.  Here a low power magnifying glass (2 x) shows part of the surface of a page of text, at a higher magnification than we could see otherwise. 

However, as a simple consequence of the design of the magnifying glass only the region of the text that is seen through the magnifying glass is at higher magnification.  The physical edge of the magnifier therefore limits our view of the complete object. We see more clearly in the higher magnification observation window, but in total we see less of the text.

The single fundamental act of using a magnifiying glass therefore introduces two separate consequences; [1] New insight and resolution within the observation window [2] an artificial observation window that represents a geometrical sampling of the whole object.

This is the fundamental dilemma of magnification.

Note that this dilemma  is also true, but perhaps less obviously,  for all practical optical instruments, such as cameras, microscopes and telescopes. By design they all have to impose an artificially limited observation window on the magnified view of the object or scene.

The choices we make to try and deal with this dilemma are at the heart  of the artistic and scientific techniques that rely on magnification or focusing of any sort.

Understanding Comics

Here is a typically funny and smart panel from Scott McCloud. Inspired historian and theorist of comics - see his book Understanding Comics.

Voyage of the Space Beagle

This is a novel by A.E. Van Vogt, first published in 1950 (an amalgam of four short stories that Van Vogt had originally published between 1939 and 1950).  The protagonist a  Dr. Grosvenor is the first graduate of the Nexial Institute.  Grosvenor has been trained in integrated science and thought and was able to see the connection between many aspects of a problem that other specialists could not see because of their narrow training.  

Nexialist: One skilled in the science of joining together in an orderly fashion the knowledge of one field of learning with that of other fields.

 The cover of the 1950 original edition of Voyage of the Space Beagle (Simon & Schuster). From a collection HERE of cover art from numerous international editions.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

William Hazlitt - "On Familiar Style"

Here is a piece by William Hazlitt (1778--1830) on writing style - an essayist about whom  Somerset Maugham had this to say;

If art is nature seen through the medium of a personality, 'Hazlitt is a great artist.'

The Gentleman In The Parlour.

Hazlitt was one of the most prolific of English prose writers, his collected works run to 20 volumes and total about 8,000 pages,  the Hazlitt Society was formed to resurrect his memory.

William Hazlitt  was not just a writer, he was blessed with a keen insight which he developed and exploited in multiple ways; he was a poet, painter, essayist, historian and critic. In addition to these accomplishments he was an intensely social man, he counted amongst his friends some of the most important poets and writers of his time; Coleridge, Wordsworth, Stendhal and Shelley. Even everyday diversions, when subjected to his scrutiny, became an opportunity to show-off his acute insight - one of his most famous essays describes a fight in December 1821 between the prizefighters William Neate and Thomas Hickman (The Fight. New Monthly Magazine, February, 1822).

A portrait of the writer Charles Lamb by William Hazlitt.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Opera Historica & Intense Seeing

Here is a comparison between the page and textblock proportions of Intense Seeing and the Opera historica et philologica published in 1682 by Marcus Welser - and shown in an earlier posting.

The textblock proportions are almost identical - about 2:1 [H:W] and the ratios of Page Height: Textblock Height are again almost spot on the same at 6:5 [Page H: Text Block H].  The page width of Intense Seeing is a bit wider but allowing for loss due to binding this will end up about the same. 

Note that the absolute dimensions are quite different - the physical size of Opera Historica  is 325 x 202 mm and the Intense Seeing page size is 248 x 171 mm (
Pinched Crown Quarto).

Unbiased Stereology Page Spread

This year we have typeset and reprinted Unbiased Stereology using a short run digital printing set up from MPG Biddles. Here is a typical page spread, all typeset in LaTeX using the Adobe Utopia font and the memoir package. 


Frankenstein Book cover

Here is a nice book cover re-design for Frankenstein by Danish designer Julian Hansen

Tuesday 28 September 2010

The Java Scriptorium

The Java Scriptorium is an interactive 3d animation on the theme of desert wandering and the representation of the concept of sanctuary. The text, which plays a central role in this work is based on passages from the Bible and from the sectarian body of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Here is an example;


Here is a Trinité Type Specimen from that is also an essay about the Ramones!

The images are shown in a small multiple below.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Picturing to Learn

Picturing to Learn is a US based initiative that aims to work with science students on the basic premise; 

undergraduate students can clarify their own understanding of scientific concepts and processes by creating drawings that explain these concepts to non-experts.

The project is part of the Envisioning Science Program at Harvard University. 

 The example below was generated in response to this challenge - "Create a freehand drawing to explain to a high school senior how the motions of large and small particles suspended in a fluid are affected by an increase in temperature of the fluid."


Saturday 25 September 2010

US Cold War map - LOOK magazine Sept 1952

Damp Flat Books - Brighton

Here is the site of art book publishers Damp Flat Books - for example How to Running a Secret Society below.

Heart Urchin - Julia McKenzie

‘Heart Urchin’ is a print by Julia Mckenzie selected for the Pushing Print 2010 exhibition  starting on October the 9th at the Pie factory in Margate. She found the heart urchin on Whistable beach just down the road from Margate.

Paul Catherall OXO building Linocut series

And HERE is a set of limited edition OXO building and other London inspired linocuts by Paul Catherall.

Paul Catherall Linocut

The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum have a R100 & R101: Airships at Cardington exhibition - they commissioned an exclusive artwork from print maker Paul Catherall. Below.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

The histological slides and drawings of Cajal

From Wikipedia.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852 – 1934) was a Spanish histologist, psychologist, and Nobel laureate. His pioneering investigations of the microscopic structure of the brain were original: he is considered by many to be the father of modern neuroscience. He was skilled at drawing, and hundreds of his illustrations of brain cells are still used for educational purposes today.

This PAPER is a catalogue of his drawings and slides.  In it the authors quote Cajal on how he did his  drawings;

“The camera lucida, even when one is accustumed to its use through much practise, is only useful to fi x the contour of the principal objects: any labour of detail must be done without the aid of that instrument,
which  has,  in  addition,  the  inconvenience  of  dazzling  the  delicate details….Reproduction  by  freehand  drawing  is  the  best  procedure when  one  has  some  habit  and  liking  for  artistic  painting”. 

An example below - a drawing of Purkinje cells (A) and granule cells (B) from pigeon cerebellum by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, 1899. Instituto Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Madrid, Spain.

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet - Reif Larsen

Sunday 19 September 2010

Mouse, Macaque and Man

Here is a great visual, unfortunately without a scale bar, in which the brain of the mouse, macaque monkey and man are compared - roughly to scale.  The paper it is taken from is Evolution of the neocortex: Perspective from developmental biology by Pasko Rakic - HERE.

Thursday 16 September 2010

How maths was typeset before LaTeX

Here is an example of what used to be required to typeset a page of complex mathematics before computer based typesetting, and TEX and LaTEX in particular, were invented.  

From  T W Chaundy, P R Barrett, and Charles Batey. The printing of mathematics. London: Oxford University Press (1954) p. 4   

Cited in Three typefaces for mathematics. The development of Times 4-line Mathematics Series 569, AMS Euler, and Cambria Math by Daniel Rhatigan. (Which you can get HERE)

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Fraser Island Photo-piece

In the latest National Geographic a piece on Fraser Island - one of my favourite spots in Australia.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Keenan book-cover designs

Here is the website of Keenan design.
Below is a collection of covers they did for Penguin. 

Monday 6 September 2010

Speaking to the Past

Here is a 75th Anniversary of Penguin book project. Inspired by this here is an Intense Seeing Penguin mock up.

The Crystal Goblet

The Crystal Goblet by Beatrice Warde. Set in MinionPro using LaTeX. 

Friday 3 September 2010

Process of Printing Wood Engraving, 1956

Process of Printing Wood Engraving (Mokuhan Suritate Junjo), Kyoto, distributed The Red lantern Shop, Kyoto, 8vo (6 7/8 x 9 3/4 in - 17.5 x 24.7 cm), not dated but believed to be ca 1956. From HERE.


The ten small image pairs to the left show the ten steps required to make the finished print on the right. Each small panel shows a pair of images for each additional colour that has been added (the one to the left of the pair shows the blobs of colour, the one to the right the cumulative effect).