Category Archives: Brain

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The Legendary Photos of Irving Penn

June 16th, 2014 | Brain

Irving Penn - Gorilla Skull

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Irving Penn - Tribes

Tribes 2

Irving Penn - Hand

Irving Penn - Small Trades

Today is the birthday of the American portrait photographer, Irving Penn. He would have been 97 years old, but unfortunately, the legend passed away back in 2009. Penn photographed a range of topics, but was mostly known for his still life and portrait work. When discussing his predilection for animal skulls, he described them as “an exquisite edifice of living machine. Hard chambers of bone to guard soft organs, protected conduits and channels.”

Penn mainly used minimalist backdrops, preferring the focus to lie on his subjects. In one series titled, “Small Trades,” he featured workers in uniform with their tools of the trade (seen above). The photo style was achieved by using high speed roll film, to get a particularly grainy effect.

Irving Penn was surely a master at his craft. Take some time to visit some more of his work at The Getty Museum.

-RSB

Dock Ellis D

June 12th, 2014 | Brain

Dock Ellis No-Hitter

On this day, 43 years ago, Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on ACID. It’s quite the accomplishment! Only around 300 such feats have ever been pitched since Major League Baseball began recognizing the statistic back in 1876.

No Mas and artist James Blagden stumbled across a four minute interview with radio producers Donnell Alexander and Neille Ilel, which appeared March 29, 2008 on NPR’s Weekend America. They were inspired to create this short animated account of Ellis’ legendary feat as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 12, 1970.

Unfortunately, Dock passed away a couple of years back, but this achievement will surely live on for a long time.

-RSB

Female-Named Hurricanes are More Deadly

June 6th, 2014 | Brain

Hurrican Katrina Gender Stereotypes

According to a new study from the University of Illinois and Arizona State University, hurricanes with female names have a much higher death rate than their male-named counterparts. Hurricane Katrina (shown above) killed almost 2,000 people in 2005, making it the most deadly storm since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. But, could the death rate have been lowered with a more ominous name?

To conduct the study, the researchers used archival data on actual fatalities caused by hurricanes in the United States (1950–2012), as well as information gathered from blind surveys from the public. The results are pretty astounding! The researchers’ model suggests that changing a severe hurricane’s name from Charley to Eloise could nearly triple its death toll! And the reason why… well, in the surveys, participants rated female-named hurricanes as having less perceived risk and intensity than male-named hurricanes. In addition, the need to evacuate was much less.

The study concludes that “the practice [of naming hurricanes] taps into well-developed and widely held gender stereotypes, with potentially deadly consequences.”

So, what should we call the hurricanes instead? How about… “Death From Above…” “Murdertron 4000?”

Feel free to add your ideas in the comments below!

Hurricane Murdertron

-RSB

Glass Gem Corn

May 19th, 2014 | Brain

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glass gem corn

glass gem corn Rainbow 2

The story of “Glass Gem Corn” starts with a half-Cherokee, half Scotch-Irish farmer from Oklahoma named Carl Barnes. As a way to reconnect to his Native American roots, Barnes became interested in the ceremonies surrounding planting, harvesting, and honoring seeds. After earning a degree in Agricultural Education, he worked to isolate ancestral corn varieties which had meaning to the Native American tribes that had been relocated to Oklahoma back in the 1800s.

Barnes selected and saved seeds from the cobs that exhibited the most vivid, translucent colors. The particular rainbow seed that became the Glass Gem Corn came from a crossing of “Pawnee miniature popcorns with Osage red flour corn and also another Osage corn called ‘Greyhorse.’”

glass gem corn Rainbow 3

Barnes passed down his knowledge to Greg Schoen who had this to say about meeting him:

“I first met Carl at a native plant and herb gathering in southwest Oklahoma in the fall of 1994. Carl had brought his portable display cases full of ears of traditional corns, which included several curious-looking, four- and five-inch ears, some of which seemed to literally have the whole spectrum of colors. I knew from the start there was something magical in that seed and that I needed to get to know Carl better.”

It’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish with genetics and selective breeding. This skill was a staple of ancient agriculture. Farmers have been choosing the most fruitful seeds to increase crop yields for generations. Carl Barnes had a slightly different goal in mind, but the technique is pretty much the same.

If you have any interest in trying to grow some Glass Gem Corn at home, you can actually purchase the seed at Native Seeds.

And you can read more about the rather fascinating origin story here.

-RSB

A New Shark Deterrent Wetsuit

May 8th, 2014 | Brain

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shark deterrent wet suit 2

I’ve always had an irrational fear of sharks. Every time I go surfing, I get this horridly vivid thought of a massive shark creeping below the surface, ready to pull me into the water. Hamish Jolly shares my fear. He’s an ocean swimmer in Australia, a country with 892 shark attacks on record since 1791, 217 of which have been fatal. He set out to create a suit designed to keep humans safe in the water, and the early results look promising! The designs work by using rather simple patterns that apparently confuse the shark just enough to avoid an attack.

I’ll definitely look into wearing one of these wetsuits next time I hit the open water.

You can read more about the project here.

-RSB

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