Saturday, June 29, 2013

Found Object: A Mysterious Black Stone

2 scans of the same black beach stone - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

I actually found two stones on the coastline today, made of the same mineral... but, the one shown is the most photogenic, and this is it's best side... scanned at 200%, and then blown-up another 200%. For the top one, I used the "light adaption" scanning feature, but, both scans exhibit the same peculiar chromatic artifacts that are created when a glassy object is scanned: there's a distinct polarization of red and blue which is impossible to modify... but, in this case, actually enhances the image.

I've no idea what sort of mineral it is. Some surface areas are glassy, but, the rougher areas have zillions of tiny flecks of what is probably silica, and which reflect a rainbow of colors...

In any case, it's a keeper! :-)


The other volcanic rock - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

Update (6/30):  My friend, Moo, has just informed me, that yesterday's found objects are bits of volcanic rock known as rainbow obsidian. (Thanks, Moo!)

I've googled it, and, while it surely is an igneous rock, I'm not sure it's wholly obsidian - certainly not gem quality - and might be the combination of basalt and obsidian known as a tachylite.

In any case, it's pretty cool to have some volcanic rock, and it's really quite handsome, (though not in the bismuth crystal league). Also, it probably has bits of plagioclase feldspar, and, if you remember, that's the family labradorite belongs to.

Judging by the lack of saltwater erosion, my specimens may have originated from one of the more recent volcanic eruptions... though, how they arrived on a Connecticut shoreline is, yet, another mystery... but, you can bet I'll be looking for more! (For the sequel to this story, see: Obsidian Glass (& a "moon rock").

(Note: obsidian is an anagram of my name...)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Megabalanus tintinnabulum - A Chorus of Barnacles

Today's scan: A barnacle cluster (detail)
(click to enlarge)

Hmmm... more voracious maws (though, happily, I never paid Freud much mind)... but, unlike the mesembs, these appear to be singing. 

I am not sure about the identity of these beasties... but, I'm assuming they're some large, striped acorn variety of barnacle... that is, megabalanus tintinnabulum.

In case you're wondering, I'm posting scans of various found (and purchased) objects these days as a type of visual exercise... for myself, that is. But, here's a visual exercise almost anyone can enjoy: gooseneck barnacles. (click on the image - amazing!)

For all you (other) amateur naturalists, a photo of what might be this variety of barnacle in its natural - though, apparently, not native - habitat.

Scan of the full cluster
(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hungry Mouths To Feed: The Mesembs from Little Karoo

Today's scan - a nest of Gibbaeum Heathii - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

They resemble a nest of baby parrots... or, maybe, something from the Pac-Man family, but, as a fan of weird plants - and weird things in general - this little pot of succulents, Gibbaeum Heathii, always makes me smile. But, I'm not alone in my fascination for mesembs, also known as mimicry plants, living stones, or Lithops (a pretty example is shown here); there are whole blogs devoted to them, organizations developed around them, and, regarding our featured specimen, it's even been YouTubed.

And, yes, Little Karoo is a real place in South Africa... where wild Gibbaeum Heathii is exclusively found, growing amid patches of quartz. Apart from being an amazingly beautiful part of the world, Karoo might also be considered the home of the first humans, the San people.

By the way, the little plant actually seemed to enjoy being scanned - a feat managed by dropping the potted plant in a snug styrofoam cup before placing it upside-down on the scanner bed. My guess? Gibbaeum Heathii loves light so much, it positively devours it... (hence, the voracious, gaping jaws). ;-)

(Note: Don't bother trying this at home -  better results would probably be obtained with your garden variety digital camera.)

And, oh yeah, members of the Gibbaeum tribe bloom!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We're Sorry...

(Click to Enlarge)

...for this interruption. But, an unarmed (and wholly disarming) sand cat has just taken over this station.

Our regular programming will resume shortly... we think.

(Hat-tip to RPJ at the Daily Grail.)

Important News Update:  However, it has come to our attention that we may have to consult the Sad Cat Diary before any further action can be taken. Stay tuned.

And, now, for a word from our sponsors...


(Update 6/9/13) Photo Credit Correction: Tibor Jäger

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sand & Cymatics: The Patterns of Sound

Apparently, the video above has gone viral since it was posted a few days ago (according to an article found here), but I didn't see it till today (Thanks, Moo!). I've seen photographs of resonance patterns in the past - patterns which emerge when metal plates containing various substances are vibrated with sound frequencies - but, this video is pretty cool. So, for those of you who have an interest in pattern, form and structure - and my discussions of them, and/or their esoteric aspects - you might find this video illuminating.

Cymatics - the study of wave or modal phenomena - is a word that was coined by Hans Jenny in 1967. Regarding the discovery of the ability of sound frequencies to produce patterns, however, in the West, Galileo first mentions the phenomena in "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems" in 1632. (Then again, in the Far East, the ancient Chinese had already developed sound-frequency toys!) Next in line came Robert Hooke, although it is through the repetitions of his experiments with sound, and the subsequent publication of "Discoveries in the Theory of Sound", that Ernst Chladni emerged as the name most identified with resonance imagery - specifically in the term "Chladni plates".

According to the Smithsonian page (linked to above): "Chladni patterns are still of scientific interest, although their analytical uses have been mostly replaced by other technologies. Today these figures are more likely to be produced by a virtual imaging program than by an actual vibrating plate."

Yeah, but I guess they never heard of Meara O'Reilly and her Chladni song, or, her work with Bjork... or, for that matter, the experiments of Alexander Lauterwasser!

For more cymatic info and images, try here and here.

Credit: The creator of the today's featured video is Brusspup at Illusions and Science.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Day at the Beach

3 scans of a found object - 2013, DS (click to enlarge)

"Shinto teaches that everything contains a kami (神 "spiritual essence"),
commonly translated as god or spirit).

The kami reside in all things, but certain places are designated for the interface of people and kami (the common world and the sacred): sacred nature, shrines, and kamidana. There are natural places considered to have an unusually sacred spirit about them, and are objects of worship. They are frequently mountains, trees, unusual rocks, rivers, waterfalls, and other natural edifices. In most cases they are on or near a shrine grounds. The shrine is a building built in which to house the kami, with a separation from the "ordinary" world through sacred space with defined features based on the age and lineage of the shrine."

- excerpt from the Wiki entry for Shinto

High-tide is not the most excellent time for beachcombing, but, neither is the blistering heat of mid-day. So, for my first visit to the shore in a very long time, I chose the hour just before sunset for my foray by the water's edge. There were a few people milling about on the sand, but, like any dedicated beachcomber, I ignored them completely, aware only of their voices drifting around me in the air, in that peculiar way sound is both muffled, amplified and scattered by the ocean's waves.

I saw only one other person by the water - a woman, perhaps Muslim, swathed in black veils, hunched down in the encroaching waves. She was staring at the horizon, her hands folded under her chin in a way that may have been praying. But, as I approached, she stood up and slid off in the opposite direction.

Communing with the ocean is often - and needfully - a very private thing.

I found very little... the beach isn't what it used to be, or, maybe I'm not what I used to be, lacking the awe and raw enthusiasm I had as child, when everything still seemed new and mysterious.

But, I did find one thing... it was sitting in the sand in the path as I was leaving... a rock, but a special rock, in that it was a chunk of beach marble, my favorite sort of rock, and one that I had collected in the past; a collection I had to part with during the course of moving a few months ago. It was like greeting an old friend, but, before snatching it up, I looked around to make sure I wasn't stealing someone else's treasure.

Anyway, above are scans of three faces of the found object. It isn't as silky-textured as the specimens I've found in the past, those of which have been smoothed and sanded by the salt-water for a longer period of time... (and, an example of which is posted below... my only remaining touchstone of that species). But, it's easy to understand why marble is so often the choice of sculptors. Maybe it has something to do with metamorphic process that marble has to go through, it's physiological history, that speaks to the artist. Or, maybe some rocks just happen to "speak" a little more eloquently.

Interestingly, the grey, striated beach marble I find, tends to have one or more roughly pentagonal faces; the pentagon - along with the hexagon - being a favored shape in the organic world, and for the sacred geometer and mason, a symbol of sentient life.

In the Disneyland world of a child's mind and the "primitive", everything is alive, has consciousness, and is sentient to some degree, even inanimate objects. In other words, all is "animated". But, this is still true in many worldviews, up to and including that of Shintoism, an ancient set of spiritual beliefs and practices of which a large portion of the Japanese population, essentially, still adhere to.

Animism is defined as the worldview in which "natural physical entities - including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena - possess a spiritual essence". I suppose, how one defines "spiritual essence" is where a lot of people get tripped up.

But, to the child, the primitive, the artist, the naturalist, the mystic, and even a quantum physicist or two, that quality we call "life" permeates existence... either it's everywhere... or nowhere.

When in doubt, listen to an eloquent rock.

2 faces of an old friend - 2009, DS (click to enlarge)


Bonus link (re: how to house a kami): the shrines of friend and art shaman, B. G. Dodson. Guess which one I own? :-)

(Hint: Ever notice how the Shinto symbol, the Torii Gate, resembles a modified giant Pi symbol?)