National American History Museum: Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Hall of Invention

Posted on 15th November 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring
27 Scraps of Paper
27 Scraps of Paper
Credit: Arthur Ganson 2002

“Invention breeds invention.” – Edison

Check out the complete flickr set here.

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High Line Park, New York

Posted on 8th November 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring
Carbon Emission Counter
Carbon Emission Counter

City living is good for the environment. When populations are concentrated, they are pooling resources. They use less electricity because their apartments are close together, less oil because of mass transportation and less water because they don’t have big lawns to feed. And cities like New York are constantly working to become greener, from the Science Barge, an experiment in bringing local produce to the city, to green roofs, collective grocery stores and hybrid-electric taxi cabs, things are becoming more environmentally friendly in the city all the time.

High Line Park
High Line Park

High Line Park is one-such improvement, suggested by nature, to green the city. The High Line was an old set of railway tracks on stilts, running through the city. It was supposed to be torn down, but local residents had come to love the trees, flowers and shrubs that had overgrown the tracks. So the tracks were converted into a park, running a beautiful river of natural beauty through the city for all to enjoy.

Check out the complete flickr set here.

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The Evolution Store, Science and Art in Soho, New York

Posted on 1st November 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring
Evolution Store in Soho
Evolution Store in Soho

When my sister came across the Evolution Store in Soho, New York City, she knew I absolutely had to see it. This store has everything you need to make some high-quality additions to your home Cabinet of Curiosities. From insects, fossils, minerals, taxidermy animals, seashells and corals, skulls and skeletons, this store covers all bases for the Naturalist collector.

What struck me most about the displays, was the way they were presented as fine art. We usually only see these things presented in museums, where they are obviously art, but not always thought of as something we would like to have hanging on the bedroom wall. A skeleton is a beautiful thing, and a fossilized one embedded in stone is one of nature’s paintings perfectly framed. A trilobite or ammonite uncovered from the stone is a natural sculpture, and the minerals like stibnite and obsidian are natural patterns more intricate than any work of modern art, because it’s intricacy goes all the way down to the atomic level.

 

After some fretting over which dinosaur bone replica was within my price range and was cool enough looking, I went with an Allosaurus finger claw. The store has a very large collection of curiosities for sale on the website, and I could see that the collection was ever-changing as new items rotated in to replace those sold out.

Window Display at the Evolution Store in Soho
Window Display at the Evolution Store in Soho

I would highly-recommend putting this store on your “must see” list of attractions to check out on your next trip to the Big Apple, after, of course, the American Museum of Natural History.

Check out the complete flickr set here.

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National American History Museum: Science in American Life

Posted on 18th October 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring
Futurama at the New York World's Fair
Futurama at the New York World’s Fair

Walking through this exhibit, we find a love/hate relationship between Americans and science. We love the modern conveniences of plastic, birth control, and cheap energy, but hate the chemical poisons contaminating our environment, radioactivity, cancer, and innovations in warfare that come with them. Displays that are hopeful for the future through science are contrasted with displays of human suffering during the depression… and that’s not even getting into the conflicts of tradition versus progress as we see in the Evolution debates.

Check out the complete flickr set here.

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The Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Posted on 4th October 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring
Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel

This set is a work in progress, as one must visit botanical gardens at many points in the year to see all the various flowers in bloom.

Check out the incomplete flickr set here.

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Norfolk Botanical Gardens: Azaleas in Bloom

Posted on 27th September 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring
Vicky with Azaleas
Vicky with Azaleas

The azalea is unique among species of rhododendron in that, rather than blooming in clusters or “stripers” as they are known, every terminal branch on the azalea bush produces a flower, resulting in the spectacular displays they bring each April.

Check out the complete flickr set here.

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Norfolk Botanical Gardens: Rose Garden

Posted on 20th September 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring

God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December. ~ J. M. Barrie

Norfolk Botanical Gardens Rose Garden
Norfolk Botanical Gardens Rose Garden

Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;” however, psychologists have found this is not true, that words impact the way we percieve the world. Understanding the science of roses, how they are made of carbon pulled from the air, that they are often grafted onto the roots of hardier species to survive the outdoors, and how they pull energy directly from the sun, makes them all the more lovely to admire.

It reminds me of this Feynman quote:

The World looks so different after learning science.

For example, trees are made of air, primarily. When they are burned, they go back to air, and in the flaming heat is released the flaming heat of the sun which was bound in to convert the air into tree. [A]nd in the ash is the small remnant part which did not come from air, that came from the solid earth, instead.

These are beautiful things, and the content of science is wonderfully full of them. They are very inspiring, and they can be used to inspire others.

Check out the complete flickr set here.

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Norfolk Botanical Gardens: Bonzai Show

Posted on 6th September 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring

40 Year Old Bonzai Yew Tree

40 Year Old Bonzai Yew Tree
Artist: Walter Lisicki / Joseph White

It was merely a happy coincidence that Vicky and I paid a visit to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens at the same time they were having a Bonzai tree show and competition. It fascinates me how artists can spend decades nurturing these trees and guiding their growth to produce such microcosms of beauty.

Check out the complete flickr set here.

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Tributes to Science in the Jefferson Library of Congress

Posted on 30th August 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring

Of all the amazing cultural attractions on the Washington DC Mall this is by far the best kept secret. If you appreciate knowledge, Enlightenment values, and science, then you MUST spend an afternoon in this room, appreciating every nook and cranny. America’s Founders were very wise individuals with a strong appreciation for education and knowledge.


Jefferson Room

Jefferson Room
(Click for Flickr Set)
Credit: Moi

There are names of philosophers, naturalists, and scientists everywhere. Proverbs meditating on Deism and knowledge abound. There are paintings of women representing the different types of literature, from history to erotica. Evidence of America’s love of science is found all throughout the building, as with a collection of cherub sculptures depicting the many noble professions, one of which is entomology, a cherub chasing a butterfly with a net.

Entomology Cherub
Entomology Cherub

There are statues and paintings representing the different nations and cultures of the world, and what each contributes to world culture. Germany is credited with the “Art of Painting,” France is “Empancipation,” England is “Literature,” Spain is “Discovery,” Egypt is “Written Records,” Judea is “Religion,” Greece is “Philosophy,” Islam is “Physics,” the Middle Ages is “Modern Languages,” Italy is the “Fine Arts”…

Dome of the Jefferson Reading Room
Dome of the Jefferson Reading Room
Courtesy of Wikimedia

And America:

Detail of America as Science in the Jefferson Reading Room Dome
Detail of America as Science in the Jefferson Reading Room Dome
Courtesy of Wikimedia

The figure, an engineer whose face was modeled from Abraham Lincoln’s, sits in his machine shop pondering a problem of mechanics. In front of him is an electric dynamo, representing the American contribution to the advancement of electricity. Blashfield has signed his work on the base of the dynamo, with the accompanying inscription: “These decorations were designed and executed by EDWIN HOWLAND BLASHFIELD, assisted by ARTHUR REGINALD WILLETT, A.D. MDCCCLXXXXVI.”

There are also eight symbolic statues in the reading room, representing philosophy, art, history, commerce, religion, law, poetry, and science. Accompanying these are sixteen bronze statues of individuals representing accomplishments in these categories of knowledge, with Newton and Henry representing science.

Library of Congress, Jefferson Reading Room
Library of Congress, Jefferson Reading Room

The Jefferson Reading room is off-limits to visitors and photography from the observation deck is prohibited. Even if it wasn’t, the science-related statues cannot be seen from the observation deck. I looked through all the books in the LOC gift shop and could not find photos of these statues either. So if anyone can find photographs of these statues, I and America would be eternally grateful.


My favorite of all these are the mosaics of women representing the arts of the sciences. Each woman is depicted mastering some element of nature through science, be it fire, venom, or the heavens.

It took me four trips to this room to get photos of these murals, which I have not been able to find anywhere else on the Internet. I’m licensing these Creative Commons, so please reuse and redistribute!


Jefferson Room

Women of Science
Top: Chemistry, Zoology, Astronomy, Geology
Bottom: Botany, Physics, Mathematics, Archaeology

(Click for Flickr Set)
Credit: Moi

I’ve taken my photos of these faded murals and have adjusted the brightness, contrast, and color levels to enhance their beauty. The results I’ve posted below.

Jefferson Room, Archaeology
Archaeology

Archaeology is depicted reading a large book with a magnifying glass. She stands on an artificial structure, with a pottery at her feet. Her clothes are more extravagant than the other women, and she wears a much jewelry and accessories.

Jefferson Room, Astronomy
Astronomy

Astronomy stands at the apex of a hill or mountain, the crescent moon at her feet. She carries Saturn in her left hand, a celestial object, and what may be a lens in her right. It’s as if the lens makes the immense heavenly body her plaything.

Jefferson Room, Botany
Botany

Botany is clad in green robes, standing on lily pads. In her hands she cradles a lotus bloom. The joy in her face is apparent as she appreciates the intricacies of the bloom’s unfolding petals.

Jefferson Room, Chemistry
Chemistry

Chemistry toils over a pedestal with a cobra coiled around it. She is using a retort to distill liquid. Is she manufacturing an antidote from the snake’s venom?

Jefferson Room, Geology
Geology

Geology stands on rocky soil, apparent from the mountains in the distance behind her. In her left hand she carries a glass orb and in her right a seashell fossil.

Jefferson Room, Mathematics
Mathematics

I love the fact that Mathematics is pretty much naked, fitting for her stature as the “pure” science. Her right foot rests upon a block with “MMX” inscribed upon it. I am unable to identify what it is she carries in her hands. Is it a scroll? A geometric shape?

Jefferson Room, Physics
Physics

There is wind or water flashing behind Physics, a demonstration of nature’s physical powers. Her right foot depresses the Earth where she stands. In her left hand, she carries a torch, and with her right hand manipulates the flame.

Jefferson Room, Zoology
Zoology

Zoology is clad in animal skins, her stride cast in a dynamic pose, as if she were prowling like the Lion resting at her feet, which she caresses as her pet.

See the complete flickr set here. Very high resolution photos included. The Library of Congress also has a write-up of most of the details you will find as you explore the Jefferson Library. There is also a beautiful book detailing almost everything in the library titled The Library of Congress: the art and architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building, which you may preview with Google Books.

Mount Roger’s Hike

Posted on 23rd August 2009 by Ryan Somma in Adventuring
Sunset Near Mt.Rogers
Sunset Near Mt.Rogers

A little after the start of June, the Rhodedendrons are in bloom, and this section of the Appalachian Trail goes ablaze with purple if you get lucky. Wild ponies that inhabit this section of the trail keep the foliage low, so there are wide open spaces with great views all along the way.

Check out the complete flickr set here.

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