October 12, 2017

Miscellany #86

The science behind Mona Lisa’s smile.  How Leonardo da Vinci engineered the world’s most famous painting


His greatest triumph of combining art, science, optics, and illusion was the smile of the Mona Lisa, which he started working on in 1503 and continued laboring over nearly until his death 16 years later. He dissected human faces, delineating the muscles that move the lips, and combined that knowledge with the science of how the retina processes perceptions. The result was a masterpiece that invites and responds to human interactions, making Leonardo a pioneer of virtual reality.

The magic of the Mona Lisa’s smile is that it seems to react to our gaze...In no other painting are motion and emotion, the paired touchstones of Leonardo’s art, so intertwined. The Mona Lisa’s smile came not from some divine intervention. Instead, it was the product of years of painstaking and studied human effort involving applied science as well as artistic skill. Using his technical and anatomical knowledge, Leonardo generated the optical impressions that made possible this brilliant display of virtuosity.

One mom’s ingenious way of getting her kids off their phones and into books.

“This week’s wifi password is the color of Anna Karenina’s dress in the book. I said the book, not the movie!! Good luck!

Contenders in the annual Sony photography awards next year. 
Photographer Diego Faus Momparler from Spain submitted this photograph of Cap de Formentor in Mallorca, taken with a  long exposure just before sunset.

 Mallorca Photo Winner

Solzhenitsyn’s cathedrals  Gary Saul Morson on the literary works of Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

In Russia, history is too important to leave to the historians. Great novelists must show how people actually lived through events and reveal their moral significance. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explained in his 1970 Nobel Prize lecture, literature transmits “condensed and irrefutable human experience” in a form that “defies distortion and falsehood. Thus literature . . . preserves and protects a nation’s soul.”

How would you walk down this hallway?

-Illusion Hallway Tile

British tile company Casa Ceramica have designed a novel optical illusion flooring system that uses real tiles to create a vertigo-inducing warped floor. The skewed checkerboard floor functions as the entryway to their showroom in Manchester, lending an Alice in Wonderland atmosphere to a generally traditional medium.

Dr. Robert Liston is famous for performing the only operation with a 300 percent mortality rate.

In the days before anesthesia, surgeons had to get creative with their surgeries in an attempt to save lives while minimizing a patient’s pain. One of the most effective ways was to perform the surgery as quickly as possible, sometimes in under five minutes.  There was an upside to this method, of course, as the less time a surgery took, the less likely the patient was to bleed out and the less likely they were to feel pain. However, there was also a downside, as accuracy would usually be sacrificed in favor of speed....Liston was particularly skilled at quick amputations. Where most surgeons at that time lost one in four patients, due to his speed and skill, Liston only lost about one in ten.

Robert Liston was performing a leg amputation on a patient who was lying flat on his table. As he brought down his knife, he was so focused on his speed that he took his surgical assistant’s fingers off along with the patient’s leg. As he swung the knife back up, it clipped a spectator’s coattails, and he collapsed, dead.  The patient and Liston’s assistant both died after their wounds became infected, and the spectator who collapsed was later discovered to have died of fright. The three death’s made Liston’s surgery the only one on record with a 300 percent mortality rate.

Migrating Painted Ladies Over Denver
Large quantities of migrating painted lady butterflies show up on radar over Denver on October 4, 2017.  Call them a swarm, a flutter, a rabble or a kaleidoscope of  butterflies, there's no collective noun big enough.

 Migrating Butterflies Denver

Entries to the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition
Harry Collins captured this photo of an Atlantic Puffin on the remote nesting island of Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine.

 Atlantic Puffin By Harry Collins

Giant Straw Animals Invade Japanese Fields After Rice Harvest  Repurposing rice straw left over from the harvest.

 Straw Lion Japan-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at October 12, 2017 2:10 PM | Permalink