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Vaseline Glass Chandeliers: A Response to Fukushima Daiichi

Some people call it Uranium Glass, insiders call it Vaseline Glass because its color and internal sheen resembles Vasoline as it was made around the 1930’s.  The long and short of it is that it’s glass doped with Uranium, fluoresces under ultraviolet wavelengths, and it is absolutely beautiful.  Check it out:

Vaseline Glass is some lovely, lovely stuff, isn’t it?  Just to show its awesomeness, let’s look at a piece from the Depression era, lit with long wave UV:

Most evidences of this glass come from between the mid-to-late-1700’s to current manufacturing, and yeah, it’s literally made with uranium, the radioactive element that we all have heard of in some form or fashion.  There are instances of this glass being located in a mosaic containing yellow glass with 1% uranium oxide found in a Roman villa, and the guy who discovered Uranium, Martin Klaproth, who was apparently also using the newly discovered element as a glass colorant.

That green color is eerie, yeah?  or as the Canadians say, “eh?”

Two artists took that idea of Uranium-doped glass and turned it into a statement on the horrific Fukushima-Daiichi disaster.  Meet Ken and Julia Yonetani‘s work, named Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations.  They took metal wire, Uranium glass, and some UV lighting and created twenty-nine chandeliers representing the twenty-nine nations using nuclear power.  Check it out:

From Ken and Julia’s website on the work:

In direct response to Japan’s 2011 horrific Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident and the phenomenon of leaking radiation, Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations comprises an installation of chandeliers made from vintage Uranium glass beads alongside glowing text based works made from vintage Uranium glass tubing shaped into words such as – ‘radioactive’, ‘meltdown’ and ‘electric dreams’.

Chandeliers are not only an item of luxury, but also an extravagant emblem of the beauty of electricity and the seductiveness of consumerism.The artists have reconfigured them to emanate UV light instead of standard light, and decorated them with specially sourced Uranium glass in place of traditional crystals.

“You can’t see, smell or perceive radiation with your senses, but it becomes visible in our works when illuminated with ultraviolet lights,” says Julia Yonetani. “Presented in darkness, the glass chandeliers and tubes glow with an eerie bright green light indicating the presence of radiation. We hope to prompt viewers to react in their own way to this radioactive presence.”

Commonly used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for sugar bowls, cake stands and other decorative objects, Uranium glass contains very small traces of Uranium within the glass, is legal and poses no health risks.

Crystal Palace references London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, which was intended as a platform to celebrate both modern technology and to enhance Great Britain’s role as a leading industrial nation of the time.

“The chandeliers in Crystal Palace represent the USA, Japan, Germany, Finland, France and various other countries. For the complete body of work we will ultimately make a total of 29 chandeliers, which represent each of the countries that operate nuclear power stations today,” says Ken Yonetani.

“The size of each chandelier correlates to the scale of each country’s nuclear output, with the chandelier representing the USA being the largest at 1.6m in diameter and 2m high.”

“My family lives in Tokyo, quite close to where the disaster happened,” he adds. “At the time of the tsunami, Japan had 54 operating nuclear reactors, relying on them for 30% its total electric power. The Fukushima accident shows Japan’s complacency around nuclear power and radiation and also asks questions of Australians, because Australia is the number one exporter of Uranium to Japan.”

That’s a heck of a statement, and Crystal Palace is one heck of an exhibit.  Ken and Julia’s work will be playing at the Artereal Gallery in Sydney, Australia from October 3 to November 4, 2012.  Check it out if you’re there, this has to be awesome!

Ken and Julia Yonetani:

Thanks 1st Glass, Spoon and Tamago, United Nuclear, We Waste Time, and Wikipedia!

What Exactly are Eye Floaters?

“I’ll look over there!”

“I’ll move over HERE!”

“You got an answer for everything.”

So.  Have you ever been looking at a book, the sky, or anything really, and seen what most people call “eye floaters?”  You know, the really weird almost chromosome-looking things that seem to just effortlessly and painlessly dance across our vision whenever the hell they want?  Like so:

These little buggers are the product of eye aging and the disintegration of the goo inside the eyeball itself.  If you’ve ever spent any time at all staring at eye floaters, you know that they can be fairly entertaining!

Inside of the eye ball, there is a liquid that gives the eye its shape and acts as a light medium (consequently with a Refractive Index of 1.336) to get light to the retina.  This liquid isn’t quite a liquid and isn’t quite a gel, but the consistency of it is sort of like that of Jell-O.  it’s called the Vitreous Humor, or the Vitreous body, or simply just the Vitreous.  This stuff is pretty neat, as it’s completely transparent as we’re born through teen-hood.  The vitreous is made of about 99% water, along with some sugars, some salts, some collagen fibers, and these pretty cool cells called phagocytes.  The phagocytes’ main purpose is to hunt down and kill foreign bodies in the eye’s vitreous body and visual field.  Pretty cool, eh?

The vitreous body is a stagnant body of fluid; it does not have a regeneration process either, which means if you sustain some damage to an eye or both, they’re gone, as once the vitreous is gone, it is gone forever.  This is a great reason to ALWAYS wear safety goggles and eye protection whenever you’re doing something that could impact the eye ball.  I had a pretty scary experience one summer when I was still in undergraduate study, away on an opera tour.  I was building the set we were touring, and a piece of a table saw blade sheared away and shot itself right into my eyeball.  I spent several hours at the hospital as the doc tried to grab that piece of metal and dislodge it from my eyeball, about 3 millimeters from the edge of my pupil.  I got lucky.  I did have safety glasses on, too – which goes to show you that you can never be too careful.  After the ER doc dug that piece of blade out of my eye, they inserted a plastic lens attached to a bag of saline that drained around my eyeball to clean out any extra debris.  The resulting pic was pretty hilarious, and I was in good spirits, making jokes.  Ann Davis, thingmaker extraordinaire, took the photo, circa 1998:

As we get older, parts of the Vitreous degenerate and clump, creating the little eye floaters we’re so fond of seeing.  These things remain in the eye for as long as we are old, until we either A) die, or B) have them surgically removed.  For most people these things aren’t a problem at all, we just deal with them.  For some, however, they become so numerous and so vision-impairing that surgery IS required for removal of all of the clumped bits of whatever matter the eye floaters are made from — old proteins, bits of clumped collagen cell bundles, foreign bodies, retinal cells, etcetera.

Eye floaters do have some different types — from Wikipedia’s entry on floaters:

The common type of floater, which is present in most people’s eyes, is due to degenerative changes of the vitreous humour. The perception of floaters is known as myodesopsia, or less commonly as myiodeopsia, myiodesopsia, or myodeopsia.  They are also called Muscae volitantes (from the Latin, meaning “flying flies”), or mouches volantes (from the French). Floaters are visible because of the shadows they cast on the retina or their refraction of the light that passes through them, and can appear alone or together with several others in one’s field of vision. They may appear as spots, threads, or fragments of cobwebs, which float slowly before the observer’s eyes.  Since these objects exist within the eye itself, they are not optical illusions but are entoptic phenomena.

What I find cool about eye floaters is that you’re actually seeing the shadow of the floaters on your retina, like a Linnebach projector.  Remember those?  As the light passes through the iris, it blows through the vitreous body and the floaters get in the way, causing shadows on the retina that your brain decodes as the floaters’ shape and size.

Now let me say this — most times, eye floaters are harmless bits of entertainment that all people have in some form or another.  However, sometimes eye floaters can be indications of a larger problem, like eye disease brought around by diabetes, carotid artery disease, or even as an indicator of a stroke or heart attack that may be imminent.  Sometimes eye floaters might be accompanied by flashes of light; this is a certain time to hit the doctor’s office.  A lesser known ailment, one that keeps on giving, per se, is ocular herpes.  As scary as that sounds, it is!  The vitreous can also become detached, too — as you age, the vitreous body sort of liquefies and detaches from the retina, which also causes eye floaters.  I’m certainly not a doctor, and you should use your own judgement when it comes to your health.  But if you have lots and lots and lots of floaters, perhaps it’s time to visit your doc.

A detailed article about determining when your eye floaters might indicate a larger problem is here – check it out.

Some fun facts on eye floaters, from Today I Found Out:

  • Interestingly, if the eye floaters would just stay still instead of floating around, your brain would automatically tune them out and you’d never consciously see them.  Your brain does this all the time with things both in and outside of your eyes.  One example of this inside your eye are blood vessels in the eye which obstruct light; because they are fixed in location, relative to the retina, your brain tunes them out completely and you don’t consciously perceive them.
  • The reason you can see floaters better when looking at, for instance, a bright blue sky, is because your pupils contract to a very small size, thus reducing the aperture, which in turn makes floaters more apparent and focused.
  • Individual floaters often won’t change much throughout your lifetime, typically retaining their basic shape and size.
  • The perception of eye floaters is known as myodesopsia.
  • The reason the floating specs never seem to stay still is because floaters, being suspended in the vitreous humor,  move when your eye moves.  So as you try to look at them, they will appear to drift with your eye movement.
  • Eye floaters are examples of entoptic phenomena.  Entoptic phenomena are things we see where the source is within the eye itself.
  • If you ever see a ton of floaters appear out of no where, possibly with some light flashes, you should get to an eye doctor immediately.  There is a chance (1 in 7) that your retina is about to detach from the back of your eye.  If that happens, you have very little time to get it fixed before it effectively dies and you go blind from that eye.
  • Floaters can damage the retina by tugging on it, sometimes producing a tear.  When a tear happens, vitreous can invade the opening in the tear, which will ultimately widen the gap and in 50% of these cases will result in the retina eventually becoming fully detached if not repaired via surgery.
  • “Light flashes” not caused by actual light, also known as photopsia, will often occur when the photoreceptors in the retina receive stimulation from being touched or from being torn.  This produces an electrical impulse to your brain, which your brain more or less interprets as a light flash.  This physical stimulation is often caused when traction is being applied while the vitreous detachment is taking place.  The flashes should subside when the vitreous finally detaches.
  • These flashes will also often temporarily occur when you get a sharp blow to the head.  The sudden jarring causes pressure on the retina; this in turn creates an electrical impulse to the brain which the brain interprets as a flash.

Thanks to About, Earth Clinic, eHow, WiseGeek, All About Vision, WikiDoc, LoveEyeFloaters, and TheBrain!

Midnight Sun

Our sun is absolutely astounding, and that’s no news, especially for JOL readers. However, the grand winner of a National Geographic exploration trip through X Prize, Joe Capra, entered with a stunning video about our home star’s polar seasonal effects so delightfully, I had to share.

In areas north of the arctic circle or south of the antarctic circle, in summer months the sun can be visible for up to twenty-four hours of the day, sinking but never dropping below the horizon line. This is similar to the effect of “white nights” where latitudes as low as sixty degrees experience midnight twilight, though in white nights the sun does go below the horizon line. In his film’s narration, Mr. Capra speaks about how because of the midnight sun effect, he had almost six hours between sunset and sunrise of low-level light to shoot.

Check out Mr. Capra’s video, “Land of the Midnight Sun” (RSS readers, please click through!):

A beautiful video on the opposite effect, polar night, Jim shared here.

San Francisco Bay Bridge Lightning!

This image of our friend electricity was so neat I had to share! Phil McGrew took out this photo in a single 20-second exposure during one of the recent thunderstorms in beautiful San Francisco.

Moonlight Mini-Lesson

The above photo by Andrew Tallon was taken at 10:30 pm! What I love about this image is it perfectly exemplifies that our moon is just a reflector for sunlight.

So why don’t we see our night landscape this way, if a camera can capture it?

A number of fascinating factors!

Our moon’s albedo (the measurement of amount of light reflected by astronomical objects) is 0.12, which means about 12% of light which hits the moon is reflected. This amount is subject to fluctuation by numerous factors, including the phase of the moon. The amount which hits the earth’s surface can be–and frequently is–significantly less.

To capture the above image, the shutter was open for 30 seconds. Our eyes have our own tricks for seeing in low-light scenarios, which involve our fantastic friends the rods and cones. The outer segment of rods contain the photosensitive chemical rhodopsin (you might know this as visual purple). Cones contain color pigments in their outer segment. Our rods predominantly help us in low light level environments, which means that we have significantly decreased color perception in moonlight.

Cones are located in the center of the eye and are high-density. Rods meanwhile are located around the cones, so in extreme darkness, a 1° blind spot is developed in the central region of the eye where there are only cones. Rods reach their maximum concentration around 17° each direction from the center line, so sneaking some sideways glances actually improves your nighttime perception.

Our rods are not equally sensitive to all wavelengths of light. They are far more sensitive to blue light, and at around 640 nm, are pretty much useless! Click this graph from the University of New Mexico to check it out:

This means that the color of light the moon is actually reflecting appears significantly different to us because of its low intensity.

A neat example I found on the American Optometric Association’s Website which caught my interest was:

For example, in a darkened room, if one looks at two dim lights of equal illumination (one red and one green) that are positioned closely together, the red light will look brighter than the green light when the eyes are fixating centrally. If one looks to the side of the dim lights about 15-20 degrees, the green light will appear brighter than the red.

If you’re planning on shooting your own moonlight landscapes, be a light geek! It is hard to find focus at night, so place a luminous object near your focus, whether it’s a lantern, or a friend with their cell phone! If you want to be super geeky, tape a laser pointer to the top of your camera, then manually focus on the dot.

 

So, with all of this science in mind, how would you replicate moonlight now, vs how you did previously?

6:30 am Never Looked So Good

Taking the same exact photograph each day would get boring, right? HELL NO, thanks to that most spectacular lighting designer–nature. Robert Weingarten did just that, and the results are something to marvel at. It is SO important to appreciate the root of all lighting design, our sun, and these photographs prove that that star’s still got it!

Each exposure would be made at precisely the same time of day – 6:30 am – measured by one quartz clock. All exposures would be made with the lens focused on infinity and at the same aperture of f/22. Just two variables were allowed into this disciplined scheme: the shutter speed of the lens, which would be adjusted faster or slower depending on the quantity and quality of light available at 6:30 a.m. each day; and, the most variable element of all, changes in the scene that were introduced by the forces of nature.

– Weston Naef, Curator of Photographs, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

6:30 am from Malibu, CA looking across the Pacific Ocean to Santa Monica:

Beware! The Blob

While not a 1970s scifi horror flick, Sunday Paper‘s spectacular short film Light is certainly haunting. For a fascinating and beautiful minute and a half short film, it certainly carries an elegiac note.

 

 

Just watch it!

 

Light from Sunday Paper on Vimeo.

 

Blue Marbles! The Earth At 28,000 Miles

So back on the 7th of December 1972 , Appollo 17 was about 28,000 miles away from the surface of the Earth, and they decided HEY!  Let’s tweet this cool photo of the Earth that nobody but us can see!

(Of course I kid, everybody knows that MySpace was the *only* Social Media place back then)

Do you think they high-fived after seeing that?  I have to believe I would want to high-five something, a colleague, the bulkhead, the instrument panel, anything.  I’d be too excited.

Now a new Blue Marble was released just a few weeks ago – but it’s a composite image of six orbits of the Earth, not the one shot Instagram masterpiece that the Apollo 17 ninjas got back in 1972.  Check it out:

Check THIS out – this is the Hasselblad camera, a model just like the one the astronauts on Apollo 17 used to snap the first Blue Marble:

I put this together for your enjoyment and study – here are the 1972 and Eastern Hemisphere Blue Marbles (2012) side-by-side.  If you click the image, it opens up to a manageable size (1800 pixels wide) for viewing.  Check it out!

Now just remember, these are all courtesy of NASA and NOAA, so make sure you attribute if you share!  Plus, it’s just awesome to point someone to the NASA and NOAA websites; to be nerd is to be awesome.

That’s right, you heard it here first.  Well, the nerd thing anyway.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For those of you like yours truly, who will be spending this holiday of sickeningly sweet romance working hard to fill the world with more light, I got you a little something…

These are Galassia Flowers, the first product designed by an Australian company, Bionconst, known for its plant research and development. Bioconst hopes to further its technologies and create a range of plants that emit light.

Galassia Flowers are treated with a special luminous formula, visible with the aid of some UV. The glow lasts many months, much longer than the lifespan of the flowers. Check out the gallery below and see not just more of their flowers, but how they add UV sources in to bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres:

Images from galassiaflowers.com.au

Au-WHOA-ras!

Arctic Photo, Tromsø, Norway

Seeing an aurora has been on my bucket list since as soon as I could brag to my childhood friends the name of the Disney princess was actually a  freaking awesome astronomical phenomena.

Auroras form from energized particles (predominantly electrons) accelerate across Earth’s magnetic fields, colliding with our gasses and creating photons! Their colors of the aurora are determined by which gas atoms and molecules the particles collide with. Check out the graph below, which shows how the gas dispersal in our atmosphere at different altitudes creates the different colors of auroras. The colors of their lines relate to the predominant color the particle collision with these gasses create.  WICKED, huh?!

They start as still east-west bands, until they suddenly “dance” across the sky in waves. Then the aurora will break in to numerous arcs and continue its dance travelling towards the south

Recently we experienced the largest solar flare in 6 years, which triggered beautiful auroras in even lower altitudes than they usually lie, and at intensities that staggered seasoned aurora scientists. Below is a SPECTACULAR video that shows the truly unbelievable range of movement and speed of a recent auroral substorm… but most importantly which most aurora time lapses don’t show–humans! Marvel at the sheer scale and speed of movement of these phenomena! What’s even more exciting is, the sun is likely to become even more active with solar storms in the next few months and years! BRING IT, YOU HOT, MASSIVE SPHERE OF PLASMA AND MAGNETIC FEILDS.

Lights Over Lapland Photo Expedition video of CME impact on 1-24-2012 from Lights Over Lapland on Vimeo.

 

The photo above was taken by Bjørn Jørgensen. It and many more shots of the recent flares can be seen here.

Learn about NASA’s Themis mission which studies auroral substorms and other space weather here.

Jim posted another aurora time lapse video almost a year ago that is QUALITY.

Graph via the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska.

 

Peace, love, and photons!