**Whoa- Is it really Monday already? Well, you deserve some treats. Have some Quickies! This serving should make you giggle a little bit.**

- American portrait photographer Sandro Miller and John Malkovich recreate iconic photographs. Artistically amazing and quite confounding. {via Geo}
- You guys! Make Your Own Invisibility Cloak for Less Than $100! {via Brian, ht Jennifer Ouelette
- You can simply enjoy these Pixar Easter Eggs. Or you can try to find them yourself. {found at Thumbnails}.
- Dontcha’ love stories like this?

Scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles as part of long-running bet. {via Smashley} - Sticher Sally Hewitt creates embroideries of body parts. Wow! However, nsfw. {via Lauren L.}
- Maybe I was sleep-deprived when I chuckled my way through this and maybe it’s just damn funny. 34 people who saw a statue and knew what they had to do next. {ht @jmoriarty}
- Twitter find: Animal Life. Genuinely hilarious, amazing images.
- BONUS for sheer majesty: 15 national parks in glorious autumn dress. {via Charles DeCurtis}

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This beautiful award-winning short animation by Brian’s friend, Celia Bullwinkel.

**Sidewalk**

*from the page*

A woman walks through life, confronts her changing body, and learns to love herself.

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I think there was some controversy about this. Frankly, I can’t see why. My sister, Sarafina, [who happens to teach English as a second language in Manhattan] reminded me about this video.

**Word Crimes**

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Featured images show John Malkovich in Diane Arbus’ Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey (1967), 2014 and Philippe Halsman’s Salvador Dalí (1954), 2014 by Sandro Miller.

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]]>You’re a fan of Matthew Inman’s comic The Oatmeal, yes? Aren’t we all? Have you seen his reverential Nikola Tesla comic? Did you know that Inman loves Tesla so much that he ran an Indiegogo campaign that raised $1.37 million to purchase Tesla’s own lab in hopes of turning it into a Tesla museum? And that it was successful? Did you know that he’s now raising money to actually build that museum, an effort to which Elon Musk of Tesla Motors just donated $1 million? Did you know that you can help the project get the rest of the money it needs by buying a T-shirt or an engraved brick?

Well, now you know. Here’s a song Inman created in collaboration with singer/songwriter Sarah Donner to help publicize the project. Though most of the lyrics are about how she’d like to get with Mr. Tesla and what terrible things she’d like to do to Thomas Edison, there is a bit of science hidden within. Also, bonus points for *not even trying * to find a word that rhymes with Tesla by simply calling him “Mr. Tesla Dood.” Enjoy!

**This has been another installment of Monday Lab Tracks. Send us your musical recommendations through our contact link at the top of the page, and tell us what you think of the song in the comments below!**

One week ago today at Apostacon in Omaha, Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke to a skeptic/atheist convention, a rarity for him, because, as he said that night, skeptics don’t need him to be a science communicator. His talk was typical Tyson, expansive, varying in subject, entertaining and engaging. The audience was held in rapt attention, there was even one point where the host attempted to move on to the Q&A portion of the evening, only to be shouted off the stage, oh yeah, that host was me. Not only did I have the extreme pleasure of introducing Dr. Tyson, I was also able to perform while he looked on, it is an experience from which I have yet to come down. The video and text are below:

Thank you to Amy Dawn Parker for recording and sharing that amazing night. I have something to assure myself that it wasn’t a dream.

**Weird Science**

I am an amazing amalgamation of milliseconds,

a compilation of coincidences,

a collection of infinitely small spans of time

that separate me from the possibility of my blood line.

I have managed to out swim and out maneuver

500 million of my brothers and sisters to be here today,

continuing a chain of happenstance

that began moments after the big bang

brought the universe into being.

Matter and energy cannot be

created or destroyed, so the same

molecules that make up me

in this instance have been in existence

for over 13 billion years.

We are heavenly,

but there is no godly hand

evident in the creation of man,

I can instead trace evidence

of my being into the cosmos,

the same elements that make

me unique have been sourced

to create the universe,

I mean, forget Jesus, stars died,

galaxies gave their lives to form my fingertips;

how could I not find wonder in waking up,

be more amazed at each day I open my eyes,

each day I’m granted more time

on this little blue marble

floating through the vast emptiness of space?

I am in awe of life,

to quote Carl Sagan,

“I find it elevating and exhilarating

to discover that we live in a universe,

which permits the evolution of molecular machines

as intricate and subtle as we.”

I am left breathless by the understanding

that my continuance is an example

of the improbable versus the impossible,

and despite what some might think

this gives my life more meaning,

makes each day more precious,

lends weight and reality

to the precious actuality

of each person I allow into my life,

because I see that they

are an amazing amalgamation of milliseconds,

a compilation of coincidences,

a collection of infinitely small spans of time

that separates them from the possibility of their blood line,

so I lend assistance where I am able,

offer compassion when I can,

and a hug when life’s weight

proves to great for them to stand,

because these memories will be

the markers of my legacy,

allowing me to exist for eternity…

or at least a few years

past my mental exit from this planet,

a few years past

my physical exit from this planet,

a few years past that moment when my atoms

are reconnected with the cosmos.

I live my life relaxed and happy

because I know that I could be gone tomorrow,

and like Stephen Hawking said

“When your expectations are reduced to zero,

you really appreciate everything you have.”

Victor Harris © 2010

]]>**Hey gang! I’ve got a really got a great bunch of links for you to check out today. Seriously, there is some true beauty and wonderment here.**

Over at The Nib, Matt Lubchansky reveals some of the backstage elements of organized atheism, in comic form.

What if maps of cities on Earth were rendered to look like the Death Star? Seattle-based digital artist Eleanor Lutz is here to show us.

This is a Kickstarter for an open world survival game where you play as… a cat. I’m not kidding. It really is.

This is simple, clever and beautiful – Spanish artist Pejac paints miniature silhouettes on interior windows that seem to interact with the world outside.

This prism table is something I would like to have and/or make. Designed by Maurie Novak of Melbourne-based MN Design.

This lovely animation by Celia Bullwinkel looks at a woman’s view of her body as she ages throughout her life – from little girl to elderly woman, while walking down the sidewalk.

**Bonus Video!**

Found at Maker Faire! Iron filings dance to the beat. More here from boingboing.

*Featured image by Maurie Novak of MN Design*

A square, who works as a lawyer in the two-dimensional world of Flatland, sits down with his hexagonal grandson:

*Taking nine squares, each an inch every way, I had put them together so as to make one large square, with a side of three inches, and I had hence proved to my grandson that – though it was impossible to *see* the inside of the square – yet we might ascertain the number of square inches in a square by simply squaring the number of inches in the side: “and thus,” said I, “we know that 3^2, or 9, represents the number of square inches in a square whose side is 3 inches long.”*

* The little hexagon meditated on this a while and then said to me: “But you have been teaching me to raise numbers to the third power: I suppose 3^3 must mean something in geometry. What does it mean?” “Nothing at all,” replied I, “Not at least in Geometry; for Geometry has only Two Dimensions.”… My grandson, again returning to his former suggestion, exclaimed, “Well, if a Point by moving three inches, makes a Line of three inches represented by 3, and if a straight Line of three inches, moving parallel to itself, makes a Square of three inches every way, represented by 3^2; it must be that a Square of three inches every way, moving somehow parallel to itself (but I don’t see how) must make Something else (but I don’t see what) of three inches every way – and this must be represented by 3^3.”*

* “Go to bed,” said I.*

* *

* *This excerpt, from Edwin Abbott’s lusciously nerdy 1884 satire *Flatland*, was written on the eve of Einstein’s space-time revolution, and captures nicely the common sense anxiety of casting one’s imagination beyond the space you happen to live in. Over a century later, four dimensions are the least of our mathematical worries, and the way forward is lit by our own irrepressible human hexagons – people with the knack for peering into abstract spaces and wrestling from them consistent laws. And of all our daring hexagons, few rank higher than the first woman to win the Fields Medal, Maryam Mirzakhani.

Mirzakhani is a scribbler of the first order – a kinetico-visual thinker who fills vast sheets of paper with sketches probing at the edges of math’s biggest problems. Only 37, she has already solved enough of pure math’s Insoluble Enigmas to fill two careers, and her pace shows no sign of slouching over past greatness.

Born in Tehran in 1977, Mirzakhani was from the first a courter of the unlikely. A daydreamer and bookworm, writing seemed a natural choice (and, considering the literary-artistic bents of Kovalevskaya, Carson, Mead, Friedman, and Gianotti, perhaps we can finally put to rest the old arts-sciences binarism?). Her lively talent was recognized early, and she was diverted into a school run by the National Organization for the Development of Exceptional Talent where, after a slow start, she soon became the star mathematical pupil, winning the Olympiad gold medal two consecutive years.

That led to an undergraduate degree at Sharif University, and thence graduate work at Harvard, where she produced her first mathematical masterpieces. These papers dealt with hyperbolic surfaces and moduli spaces. And that’s where we get into some *MATH.*

The story of hyperbolic surfaces is, really, one of the oldest tales that math has to tell. It all begins with the Axiom That Wasn’t, Euclid’s 5^{th}. From its birth, mathematicians found it an odd duck, a statement that didn’t quite seem to fit with Euclid’s other foundational assertions. Stated in modern terms, it simply says that, if you give me a line and a point not on the line, then there exists exactly one unique line through that point which is parallel to the original line.

And so there is, as long as the space where those objects live happens to be flat. So evident does it seem that mathematicians spent entire careers trying to bend geometry to make it fit naturally in the position that Euclid gave it. To no avail. Finally, after centuries of futzing, it was realized that one could, in fact, construct geometries where The Fifth was not true, one of which was the hyperbolic plane, most easily visualized, I think, through the version known as the Poincare half-plane, sketched rather loosely below.

In this world, all space is not created equal. It gets, in essence, thicker as you move closer to the bottom of the half-plane. My hyperbolic geometry teacher used to tell us to think of it as having the consistency of honey near the bottom axis- hard to move through- and getting progressively easier to navigate as you moved upwards. As such, the quickest way to get from one point to another directly to the right of it is NOT the straight segment that connects them (y2 in the figure) – that way you’d be running through the thickest space the whole trip. Far better to head upward, where the path is a bit easier, and then to loop your way back downward. And in fact, the path of shortest distance between these two points, called a geodesic (remember that word), lies on the semicircle through them which has its endpoints on the bottom line (y3 in the figure).

So, since lines in this world are semicircles, it is possible, if you give me a semicircle and a point not on it, to construct more than one semicircle through that point that does not intersect the original semicircle, and therefore is considered parallel to it. This space obeys Euclid’s first four postulates, but breaks the Fifth, and introduces a slew of new geometric possibilities.

A hyperbolic *surface*, then, is a metric space (a space with a way to measure distance) where, if you take a neighborhood around any point, it is related to a neighborhood of points in the hyperbolic plane we just talked about. Such a surface contains all the craziness of the original hyperbolic plane, kicked up to the next level. These surfaces, understandably, inherit some rather interesting geometry, and it was Mirzakhani’s task to tame the chaos. In particular, she wanted to break the mystery of how many simple closed geodesics of a given length a hyperbolic surface possesses.

Put more plainly, how many shortest paths of a given length are there which form a closed loop without intersecting? Let’s stop and appreciate how intense that question is. It is asking for a method to determine, for an object that can’t exist in real space, with geometry inherited from a brilliant non-Euclidean dodge, with geodesics ranging from the infinite to the well-behaved, how many of a given length there are going to be, which don’t cross themselves, which end where they begin.

Insane. But Mirzakhani did it, and that was just part of what she accomplished as a *grad student*. From there, she has studied the world of moduli spaces, which are harder still to grasp. Oversimplifying egregiously, a moduli space is a space where each point represents some mathematical object or class of objects. Mirzakhani’s research has focused on Teichmueller spaces, which are closely related to the Riemann moduli space. Basically, to get a Teichmueller space, just take a surface, let’s call it X, and make *complex structures* out of sets of equivalent maps between that surface and the Euclidean plane. Doing just that lets you construct the Riemann moduli space of X, but if you add one more requirement about what it takes to call two structures equivalent, you get Teichmueller space.

* *In other words, a Teichmueller space is a space where each point represents a class of equivalent complex structures. That’s a pretty darn abstract mental world to live in, but then to think about what happens when you put a strain on that system is something else entirely. Mirzakhani’s work considered what happens as geodesics are made to flow along a Teichmueller space, discovering that the phenomenon has ergodic properties. That realization brought a whole new realm of tools to bear on the problem, and broke it elegantly from Impossible Conundrum to Solved Case.

And it doesn’t end there. Work on billiard reflection with Alex Eskin resulted in a paper that opened up brand new sprawling fields of mathematical research. As ever in mathematics, work in the physical world lead to new abstract results, which themselves lead to entirely unexpected physical ramifications. Based now out of Stanford University, and with a decade and a half of tackling and solving the big problems of math behind her, there is no telling what new bizarre worlds she will unveil as her mind crisses and crosses the mathematical landscape, searching for connections where there was before only befuddlement, and in all senses being the hexagon that leads the rest of us squares to comprehend, if just tentatively, the hidden structure of the abstract world.

FURTHER READING: If you want to start getting into this area of mathematics, and have had the usual upbringing in math, a good place to start is *Topology* by Munkres. It gives you the framework for thinking about open sets, mappings, and all the good stuff you need to think about what happens as we cut and paste the edges of reality in new ways. For the hyperbolic plane, I like Saul Stahl’s *The Poincare Half-Plane: A Gateway for Modern Geometry*. It develops the Euclidean stuff at a good pace before having you jump into the hyperbolic material and requires really just basic calculus and trigonometry.

One aspect of art is pushing boundaries – both your’s and society’s. They can be large or small or known-in-advance or sneak up on you while you are working.

One of the creative things I do is quilling. Previously, I’ve written about how it is steeped in religiosity and sexism. I didn’t expect it to push my social justice buttons in the here and now though!

I know someone that collects coins and paper money. They suggested that I invent “Numismatic Quilling.” I laughed and immediately put it out of my mind.

Then I received an unknown package in the mail. The joy – I adore getting mail. The package contained colorful paper money from throughout the world. Gorgeous. Varied in color. Strong paper. Unique. Intriguing.

At the time I was considering the subject matter for my next quilled wall art piece. I decided on a seahorse. The colors would be fairly monochromatic with the option for extensive subtle variation. This woven tapestry of color, texture, and shape would give life, depth, reality, and quality to the piece.

After choosing a subject matter I then gather paper I have that might work in the project. I had put the colorful money in the quilling bin…otherwise, I might have forgotten about it! As a result, several bills were included in the first batch of paper options.

From there I started working on the seahorse. Finally! A few days into the project I found that I wasn’t using the bills. I was ignoring them and making other choices for what to use next. So, I cut several strips from one of the bills.

WOW, that was weird. Cutting up money isn’t something you do everyday! Even though the money wasn’t US and had virtually *NO* value in its county; destroying it still created unease (as does writing this sentence!). The money I received was either no longer the official currency of the country (if the country still exists) or its value was approximately the value of the paper I would have used for this project anyway. Basically, I have to get appropriate paper…which costs money. And lastly, the money was free to me.

Rationalize all you want Kim! You cut up *money* to make a quilled seahorse.

ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Art? Social Justice? Rationalizations? Value? Privilege? Economics?

I did it and told some friends about it. One asked me if I had seen the video of Edwina Rogers wrapping gifts (bribes?) in sheets of money, Of course, I had…thanks for the comparison.

I ended up cutting up and using two bills in this project. I wish I kept track of which ones I used.

Next time I will.

~She says with unease~

]]>**Just squeaking in with the Monday Quickies here. If you haven’t yet acclimated to your new week, here- this might help.**

- Fighter pilot turned Avenger, Carol Susan Jane Danvers headlines her hundredth issue in the Marvel Universe. Here are Captain Marvel’s 10 Definitive Issues.
- Is this the oldest d20 on Earth? because if it is, that’s damn awesome. The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns it. {ht Iszi Lawrence}
- You’ve probably read about her by now, but this is something worthwhile.
*The New Yorker*reports on video game-developer Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest.With link to the game. - Artist Nikita Leigh makes geeky stained glass lamps.
- Fore-edge paintings and the secret works of art on the edges of book pages.
- Retail find: Artist Hiné Mizushima created the print “Bioscience”. Only 15 bucks.
- This is a simulation but it’s still really gross. But fascinatingly crafted. Did I mention that it’s really gross? Parasite Specimen at Propnomicon.
- BONUS: Alaskan reporter, Charlo Greene outs herself as head of pot legalization group in the most jaw-dropping way.

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AsapSCIENCE asks:

Which Came First – The Chicken or the Egg?

*from the page*

It has perplexed humanity from as early as the Ancient Greeks. So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown take a crack at this curious conundrum.

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Featured image is an excerpt of Captain Marvel by cover artist Ed Mcguinness.

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]]>I was recently interviewed by Girls On Games and, as far as I can tell, did not make a complete ass of myself. @Brianna_Melina was an utterly delightful interviewer and did a great job of not making me feel naked in front of the camera (I’m not wearing any pants)

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