TImed exposure at Great America amusement park, 1987, photo by Susan Schwartzenberg
- by Rowan Hooper
“According to Dante, the Styx is not just a river but a vast, deathly swamp filling the entire fifth circle of hell. Perhaps the staff of New Scientist will see it when our time comes but, until then, Lake Natron in northern Tanzania does a pretty good job of illustrating Dante’s vision.
Unless you are an alkaline tilapia (Alcolapia alcalica) – an extremophile fish adapted to the harsh conditions – it is not the best place to live. Temperatures in the lake can reach 60 °C, and its alkalinity is between pH 9 and pH 10.5.
The lake takes its name from natron, a naturally occurring compound made mainly of sodium carbonate, with a bit of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) thrown in. Here, this has come from volcanic ash, accumulated from the Great Rift valley. Animals that become immersed in the water die and are calcified.
Photographer Nick Brandt, who has a long association with east Africa – he directed the video for Michael Jackson’s Earth Song there in 1995 – took a detour from his usual work when he discovered perfectly preserved birds and bats on the shoreline. “I could not help but photograph them,” he says. “No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake.”
When salt islands form in the lake, lesser flamingos take the opportunity to nest – but it is a risky business, as this calcified bird (top) illustrates. The animals are all arranged in poses by the photographer. Above, on the right we have a sea eagle and on the left a dove, in what is surely the most horrific depiction of the “bird of peace” since Picasso’s Guernica.
Brandt’s new collection of photos featuring animals in east Africa, Across the Ravaged Land, is published by Abrams Books.”
(Source: New Scientist)
Acoustic listening devices developed for the Dutch army as part of air defense systems research between WWI and WWII.
Multiple exposure photos of lights on the blades of a Sikorsky helicopter taking off in Anacostia, MD in 1949 by Andreas Feininger
The Earliest Days of NASA
Maria Popova, at Brain Pickings, happened upon a treasure trove of early NASA (and its airplane-only predecessor NACA) archive photos. They are really something. From biplanes to the Mercury capsule, pre-1950 aeronautics seemed to live by the motto of “If we build it, then we can go there.” That’s a sentiment we could use a bit more of.
Delivering a dinosaur to the Boston Museum of Science - Arthur Pollock - 1984
It kills me that I didn’t get to witness this.
On Vladimir Nabokov’s birthday, we present a series of photos made in 1958 that illustrate the great writer’s obsession with butterflies.
(Carl Mydans—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images — Timeline Photos)
Happy Birthday, Vladimir.
Chester E. McDuffee’s patented diving suit
Oh hell yes. Little more info here.
Yesteryear’s stereotype-defiers: Kick-ass vintage public domain photos of women in science.
Totally blown away by Gaia Squarci’s photos of blindness over at the NY Times. I really, really recommend clicking through to see the whole photo set and read the accompanying article:
Ms. Squarci was struck when one man told her how, after being totally blind for two months, he regained vision for a fleeting moment. He was able to glimpse his girlfriend.“It stayed like that for a few seconds, and then everything got gray,” Ms. Squarci said.
Extraordinary stuff. Check out Squarci’s site as well.