Posts tagged ‘beauty’

The Science of Awe

Cedar Wright enjoys a view of the long way down, moments after getting the first ascent of the Virgin Tower in Enshi Grand Canyon National Park, China

“Scientifically speaking, the storm brought me into a state of awe, an emotion that, psychologists are coming to understand, can have profoundly positive effects on people. It happens when people encounter a vast and unexpected stimulus, something that makes them feel small and forces them to revise their mental models of what’s possible in the world. In its wake, people act more generously and ethically, think more critically when encountering persuasive stimuli, like arguments or advertisements, and often feel a deeper connection to others and the world in general. Awe prompts people to redirect concern away from the self and toward everything else. And about three-quarters of the time, it’s elicited by nature.”
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Beautiful Chemistry

“Beautiful Chemistry is a project collaboration between the Institute of Advanced Technology at the University of Science and Technology of China and Tsinghua University Press. The goal of this project is to bring the beauty of chemistry to the general public through digital media and technology. Continue reading…

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See The Beauty Of Math, Even If You Don’t Understand Math


There comes a moment in most of our lives when we realize that some secrets of the universe will remain hidden from us–not because mankind hasn’t discovered them, but because those secrets are encoded in complex math and physics problems that few of us have the talent or patience to understand.

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Life Under the Microscope

I love when things remind me of The Powers of Ten and surprise me – exceeding my own expectations for what I believe to exist or what I have seen so far within a familiar realm. Enjoy the 24 pictures below:

In its ninth year now, the Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition has once more brought together some of the most extraordinary microscope images of life science subjects from around the world. Seeing these tiny, nearly hidden objects magnified so greatly, so vividly, can bring home the reality of the invisible microscopic worlds all around us. The winning entries will be on display at the New York Hall of Science through August 31st. The competition sponsors have been gracious enough to share some of the top images here, displaying a compelling mix of art and science.

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Brain Scans Predict Subjective Beauty

When we find something aesthetically pleasing, the sensory areas of the brain light up, and the more beautiful we find, say, a piece of art,  the greater the brain activity in certain regions, a new study shows.

By further investigating the connection between humans’ subjective preferences and brain activity, scientists will someday be able to pinpoint various characteristics that make a painting, musical number or other sensory experience beautiful, researchers said.

“For the first time, we can ask questions about subjective preferences and relate them to activity in the brain,” lead researcher Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University College London in the United Kingdom, told LiveScience. “There are some people who would prefer [beauty] to remain a mystery, but that’s not how scientists view things.”

In a previous study, Zeki found that an area in the pleasure and reward center of the brain is more active when people view a painting or hear a piece of music that they think is beautiful, compared with art they didn’t find particularly pleasing. Because the brain activity of study participants rose accordingly with their ratings of beauty, the results suggest that scientists can look at the brain to objectively measure an experience that seems wholly subjective.

“So the question that we askedis: Do beautiful objects have any specific characteristics that render them beautiful?” Zeki said.

Measuring beauty in the brain

If you look at a painting, video or some other piece of visual art, there are many “domains” that could contribute to the perception of its aesthetics, such as color, shape and motion. For the new study, Zeki and his colleague, Jonathan Stutters, zeroed in on motion, which is the simplest visual attribute, Zeki said.

The researchers used a computer program to generate sets of white dots moving on a black background. The eight patterns all had the same number of dots and changes in speed, but differed in the way the particles moved: Some of the patterns involved dots that moved uniformly on a grid, while others had groups of dots that moved in a seemingly random way.

They then had 16 adults view the patterns twice — once while in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, which measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow, and once before going into the machine. With each viewing, the participants had to rate how much they likedeach visual stimulus.

“It turns out that there are certain patterns that are almost universally liked,” Zeki said, referring to those preferred by 14 out of the 16 participants.The researchers also found that a certain sensory brain area called V5, which is thought to play a major role in motion perception, activated more strongly when the participants viewed patterns they preferred the most.

By analyzing the participants’ preferences and the fMRI data, the researchers were able to pick out certain characteristics — such as the separation between dots — that made some patterns more preferable than others.

In a follow-up experiment, which was not detailed in their study published online today (Feb. 21) in the journal Open Biology, Zeki and Stutters created other patterns that utilized the characteristics they found. Participants overwhelmingly preferred these new patterns to the old ones.

Tip of the iceberg

“It’s nice to see that people are breaking down the aesthetic experience to basic processes,” said Marcos Nadal Roberts, a psychologist at theUniversity of the Balearic Islands in Spain, who was not involved with the study.”If we don’t break it down to smaller pieces, it will be very hard to understand the bigger picture.”

But, Roberts notes, the research is not saying that beauty can be reduced to a merely objective experience, because the participants in the study had slightly different likes and dislikes. For example, one of the participants in the study didn’t strongly prefer any of the patterns, while another participant preferred a pattern that no one else did.

“Beauty is not just about an object and all its features, it’s also about the person and all of his or her features,” Roberts told LiveScience. “So it’s subjective and objective, both happening at the same time.”

Roberts said that the study could have been more relatable to the real world if the researchers had used more natural forms of motion, such as the movement of waves in the ocean, the flocking of birds or the rustle of leaves in a tree as the wind blows.

The abstract motion of dots isn’t something that people would typically say is “beautiful,” Zeki concedes.

Zeki is now looking to tease out preferred characteristics in the other domains, and eventually combine them to get a better picture of the objective qualities of visual beauty. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “Actually, it’s not even the tip, it’s just a few micrometers of the tip.”



Incredibly Ornate Paper Bird Sculptures

So beautiful!

Using rare and fine paper from around the world, Julie Wilkinson and Joyanne Horscroft of The Makerie create incredibly intricate 3D paper sculptures, the likes we’ve never seen. The London-based creatives say that they’re inspired by “forgotten worlds, rare prints and the beauty of details” which becomes abundantly clear once you look through their portfolio.

In particular, their bird sculptures are like nothing we’ve ever seen. Whether it’s a life-size reproductions of an owl from antique world atlases or a gorgeous peacock with beautifully layered feathers, we can only sit back and awe and appreciate the time, patience and passion it must have took to create each stunning piece.

See more @ The Makerie Studio website

Found on MyModernMET

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Is Your Home Stressing You Out?

Your home – whether big, small or somewhere in between – should be your sanctuary, a place where stress is left at the door and your soul is nurtured. For a more comforting environment, gradually implement the following changes in your home:

  • Bring the outdoors in. Green plants, cut flowers and blooming bulbs, pieces of wood, rocks and other organic elements can create a feeling of nature indoors.
  • Paint a room to suggest a mood. For instance, blue and green promote a relaxed feeling and may be good choices for the bedroom, while warm colors (maroon, coral, burgundy) suggest a cozy environment and may be inviting in a family room.
  • Surround your senses with beauty. Artwork, fragrance, smooth textures and calming sounds all provide a pleasant environment in which to relax.
  • Set aside a room or area for peace and calm. A place for spiritual reflection and meditation can provide shelter from noise and distraction.
  • Clean out clutter. A low-maintenance home is refreshing after a day of hectic meetings, errands and chores. Fewer items can mean less frustration.
  • Create an atmosphere of love. Display handmade or meaningful gifts from loved ones and photos of family and friends.

Via Dr. Weil’s

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Yosemite in HD

Truly inspiring… I can barely spell in my excitement over the beauty of this thing. The nighttime just blows me away!

This video is a collaboration between Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty. All timelapses were shot on the Canon 5D Mark II with a variety of Canon L and Zeiss CP.2 Lenses.

via [Jondo]

Project Yosemite Website:

Thanks to Dynamic Perception for their motion controlled dolly and continued support!

Dynamic Perception Website:

Music is “Outro” from the new album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by M83.

This whole project has been an amazing experience. The two of us became friends through Vimeo and explored a shared interest in timelapsing Yosemite National Park over an extended period of time. We’d like to expand this idea to other locations and would appreciate any suggestions for a future project.



Contact info:
Behind The Scenes:
By Dalton Runberg

Yosemite HD | 2K will be hosted on YouTube shortly. Link coming soon!

Our hearts go out to the family of Markus Praxmarer who lost his life while climbing Half Dome on September 19, 2011.

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Haunting Realism from Lee Jeffries

Article taken from Impose Magazine

PHOTOS BY LEE JEFFRIES » Accountant by day, Lee Jeffries roams the streets to photograph faces that are a glimpse into a lifetime. We asked him a few questions, and you can follow his work on flickr.

Haunting Portraits of the Homeless by Lee Jeffries photography

Haunting Portraits of the Homeless by Lee Jeffries photography

Haunting Portraits of the Homeless by Lee Jeffries photography

Haunting Portraits of the Homeless by Lee Jeffries photography

Haunting Portraits of the Homeless by Lee Jeffries photography







In what kinds of situations were most of these photographs taken?

My involvement with the homeless started after an encounter with a young girl in London. She was huddled under a sleeping bag in a doorway in Leicester Square and took offense as I stole a photo from a distance. I was tempted to turn around and leave but something prompted me to go talk to her instead. Her story broke my heart, and changed the way I perceived the homeless. Most of my images are of people I have met on the street, whether in the UK, Europe or the US. The situations presented themselves, and I’ve made an effort to get to know each of the subjects before asking their permission to take their portrait.

What else do you do besides photography?

I’m an accountant by profession. Photography is my means of expression. It embodies my beliefs and my compassion. I consider myself lucky at not having to earn a living from it as it allows me free reign to try and help others, and not the selfish needs of a client. I also have a passion for sports — a knee injury put an end to a potential career in football, but not to the love of what sport continues to represent to me, both physically and spiritually.

What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty by definition is made up of the qualities that give pleasure to the senses.  It’s not just a visual quality necessarily, not just about the aesthetic. It encompasses sound, taste, smell and touch in any combination. It’s an essence, or a combination of elements, that elicits an emotion and moves me.

What movies and books come closest to representing your point of view?

I don’t know if any book or movie represents my point of view but I’m certainly influenced by them. Being self-taught, my instruction in photography comes from paintings, watching movies and documentaries depicting the world around me, in particular the human condition, seeing what other people have done, opening my eyes; If one person looks at any of my images and feels compassion, enough to maybe offer a helping hand the next time the opportunity presents itself, then the image counts.

What music are you listening to these days?

All sorts of genres, but I listen to a lot of classical music —  Arvo Part, Chopin, Morricone, pieces that allow me to free my mind up at the end of the workday. The music I listen to while editing images often guides and enhances the emotional process.

Where do you live and how does it affect your work?

I live in Manchester, UK. As much as I love to travel, it has always been my home. In the few years I’ve been doing photography, it has taught me to really ‘see’ people in their everyday environment and to not take the familiar for granted. You have to be aware of what’s going on around you in order to be ready for those decisive moments, to pick up on the subtle and not just the obvious.

What does realism mean to you as a photographer?

To me, photography is realism. It is to do with what is, and not what I can conjure up. I take photos of everyday people in situations that move me.

How often do you photography?

If I have the opportunity, every day.

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