The Elusive Smile in Art History
It’s a common misconception that the reason subjects in portraits of yesteryear didn’t smile is because of unappealing looking teeth. In fact, the reason is quite logical: smiling for hours on end is awkward and straining for models. In an essay on the topic, writer Nicholas Jeeves says, “A smile is like a blush. It is a response, not an expression per se, and so it can neither be easily maintained nor easily recorded.” As such, the smile is absent from most historical art and when it does occur, it represents lewdness, drunkenness or sex. With the invention of photography, the smile became a mainstay in portraiture and public appearance—and artists could reference photographs and smiling for a photo took seconds and minimal effort. “In many ways, its reception throughout art history has said a lot about our willingness to really see ourselves, and one another,” Artsy’s Julia Wolkoff writes about the elusive expression. Read more there.
Land on the Moon with Smithsonian Channel’s Augmented Reality App
Not only does the app Apollo’s Moon Shot let users explore the moon through augmented reality, it does so set in the year 1969. Available for Apple and Android devices, the AR app incorporates engaging information from the groundbreaking first landing—now 50 years after Neil Armstrong’s steps. Two games in the app also let users attempt a landing themselves. Real 3D scans were employed to guarantee factual accuracy, too. Read more and download the app at Smithsonian Magazine.
Brian Blomerth’s Graphic Novel Tells the Tale of the First Acid Trip
By Brooklyn-based artist Brian Blomerth, Bicycle Day documents the day LSD was discovered by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. As the story goes: he ingested the experimental compound and then set off on the first documented trip, which culminated in a peak while he was riding home on his bicycle. Hofmann’s book LSD: My Problem Child, affords only a few paragraphs about the first encounter. As such, it made for the perfect tale to tell within the confines of a graphic novel. In it, Blomerth depicts Hofmann as half-human, half-dog and follows him along that first trip. It’s technicolor, psychedelic and undoubtedly entertaining. The book is available now, and Blomerth explains his process to AIGA Eye on Design. Read more there.
MIT Scientists Turn Amino Acids Into Music
Expanding upon previous projects that laid the foundation for making music from amino acid chains, MIT scientists can now use their process to create never-before-seen proteins—especially ones with beneficial properties. Using amino acids as notes, and artificial intelligence to turn them into chords, scientists can craft proteins based on frequencies and patterns that they can hear, and lean into rhythms or loops that lend proteins preferable traits. This would assist in making synthetic versions of naturally-available materials better and ultimately easier to invent. Spider silk, for instance, is a material that’s stronger than steel and kevlar, and could have antimicrobial properties. Read more about the project and its adjacent Android app, the Amino Acid Synthesizer, at Ars Technica.
Deep Sea vs Deep Space
Earth’s vast oceans have forever fascinated, but since the mid-20th century afforded people trips into space, the cosmos have dominated our desire to voyage. We know more about (and have created better maps for navigating) space than our oceans. In fact, a remarkable 95% of the sea remains undiscovered by humans. To save our oceans, we must reignite public interest in it: our stories, films, books and dreams must return to the sea and when they do, funding for scientific research, preservation and discovery will follow. As JFK said in a speech months before his death, the oceans are “of the utmost importance to man everywhere.” Read more at Quartz.
Human Bacteria May Be the Secret to Athletic Endurance
A study published in Nature Medicine reveals that the secret to athletic endurance and heightened performance isn’t creatine, chia seeds or beet juice, rather a group of bacteria found in the gut of elite-level runners. By isolating the group, known as Veillonella, researchers were able to test its impact on mice post-ingestion—and those that ingested the bacteria ran 13% longer than mice that were given a different strain. The Veillonella survive by consuming lactate, the byproduct of intense exercise that induces fatigue. Scientists hope, now that they’ve honed in on this bacteria, that they can produce a probiotic drink or supplement that will improve everyday athletic performance and endurance. Read more at NPR.