Chris Jordan: The Midway Atoll

This is not an assemblage, it is an albatross that died after eating debris its parents mistook for food. The phenomenon is common in the garbage-choked Midway Atoll where thousands of such corpses appear yearly. The photographer, Chris Jordan, captured these transfixing images just as he found them. See more on the NYRblog, or read Tim Flannery’s piece on the evolving Gaia concept. Click “Read More” for a slideshow of Jordan’s images. Read More »

A Still More Glorious Dawn…

Third Man Records is a Nashville-based label set up by The White Stripes’ Jack White. Their expressed mission includes the promotion of vinyl records, alongside novel digital formats. In a kind of weird meshing of ideas, they will release a 7” single of the song “A Glorious Dawn by John Boswell, which was a bit of a YouTube phenomenon and featured previously on this site. The song (and accompanying video) features material taken from astronomer Carl Sagan’s 1980 TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, cut up and auto-tuned, with some Stephen Hawking thrown in for good measure.

In Cosmos and other works, Sagan expressed a hopeful and outward-looking brand of science that isn’t common today. One of his theses was that an explanation for the apparent lack of extra-terrestrial life could be found in the possibility that intelligent life forms tend to destroy themselves rather quickly (on cosmological timescales), this at the height of the Cold War.

The Voyager Golden Record was an attempt by Sagan and others to produce an object capable of communicating some of the essentials of Earthly life to any intelligent finder. Copies of the record were launched into space on the 1977 Voyager missions. They include sounds and images from Earth, along with music from an assortment of countries. Many of the images on the back relate to communicating intelligence to some other being. An example Sagan frequently used was that one could simply express a list of known prime numbers, for which there is no natural generating process. This would be proof of sentience.

“A Glorious Dawn” recreates the etchings from the Golden Record on its B-side and is released to coincide with what would have been Sagan’s 75th birthday. I spoke to Third Man capodecina Ben Swank to find out more about the realization of this release.

How did you and Third Man come across the video for “A Glorious Dawn”?

Jack [White] was on a big Cosmos kick, watching the DVDs every day and he came across it on YouTube. It’s since become one of those massive viral videos that you see on tons of blogs… He sent it to the rest of us at the label, and the more he thought about it, he really wanted to do a 45 of it. We had no idea if it would be possible with copyrights and everything – it’s basically one big sample.   Read More »

Snow Monkeys Washing Potatoes

I came across this wonderful clip from BBC’s Life on Earth from 1979, featuring a young David Attenborough, while searching for samples of Edward Williams music for the program, which has recently been released for the first time by Trunk Records.


A fascinating article on the sex lives of seahorses in The Guardian today.  Above is Jean Painlevé’s brilliant The Seahorse (1934).  In this version Painlevé’s enthusiastic scientific-poetic narration is replaced with a soundtrack by Current 93.  I prefer the original but still worth watching.

Great robot: DASH

Thank you Filip Tyden.

Sci-Emo – “We float like a mote of dust in the morning sky”

Carl Sagan was an astronomer who hosted several successful popular science shows in the 1970s and 80s. He was deeply involved in bringing different aspects of science to public attention and also made some groundbreaking contributions to the research into extraterrestrial life. He believed that the existence of other technological civilizations was highly probable, but that these civilizations also have a strong tendency to self-destruct and are therefore not as easy to make contact with as one would statistically expect. In this musical tribute, Sagan is accompanied by fellow space scientist Stephen Hawking. Click “Read More” for the video. Read More »

LIFE’s 30 Dumb Inventions

Because who wouldn’t want a pair of artificial Japanese breasts with a built-in heartbeat? Or for that matter, a precarious outdoor cage in which to dangle your infant several stories over the street. LIFE magazine has cataloged its picks for most absurd inventions of all time, most of which are rather amusing. A few of our favorites after the jump (rocket belt, anyone?) or visit LIFE’s site for the full list of weird science-inspired oddities. Read More »