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How micromosaics are made

It would be easy to mistake a ‘Micromosaic’ for a painting: put together from thousands of minute and very fine glass pieces, the finished product is characterised by such an astonishing level of detail that makes it difficult to believe that the scene had not been painted with a brush.

Watch how micromosaics, an art form that thrived in Italy from 1775 into the 19th century, are painstakingly created from tesserae cut from long glass strands called smalti filati. A mosaic artisan recreates a small section of a 1850s mosaic table in this Victoria and Albert Museum video.

gilbert collection - micromosaic recreation
gilbert collection - micromosaic recreation
gilbert collection - micromosaic recreation
The Flora and Two Sicilies by painter and mosaicist Michaelangelo Barberi “was commissioned by the Russian Tsar Nicholas I (reigned 1825-55), and shows the profile of his daughter Olga in the centre.” It’s one of many exquisite pieces in the Gilbert Collection at the V&A.

gilbert collection mosaic recreation
Next: Ceramic artist Michelle Erickson recreates an 18th-century agateware teapot, Tableaux Vivants: Caravaggio paintings performed live, and moving and restoring an ancient Greek mosaic.

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Making a nutcracker from tree boughs

In this video from The Homestead Craftsman, a husband and wife team up to create a revolutionary war soldier inspired nutcracker from what look to be boughs of a tree. And it actually cracks nuts! The entire process, set to Christmas music, took about a week.

This is the 7th nutcracker my wife and I have made. We both use our strengths to come up with the design and the end result. The majority of the Nutcracker is turned on the lathe, body, legs, and arms. I also use many other tools, drill press, bandsaw, chisels, router, saws, drills, torches, grinders… It’s pretty much an all hands on deck project.

Follow this with more work on the lathe: Making a traditional Japanese wooden Kokeshi Doll, making a baseball bat from rough-sawn lumber, and turning a brick of melted crayons on the lathe.

Then watch In Bavaria, Krampus Catches the Naughty.

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Reconfigurable Ghostkube sculptures

Since we last saw Stockholm-based artist Erik Åberg’s Ghostkube project, he’s investigated the geometry, creativity, and organic qualities behind these interconnected cubes, building prototypes and exploring ways that they could be played with. The result: GHOSTKUBE, a sculpture inspired by moving origami. From his Kickstarter:

“I was searching for a precise, and organic life-like movement like a school of fish or a flock of birds. There is something in human beings that when we see that kind of movement in nature, we’re drawn to it. I think we intuitively look for it.”

These cubes are connected by almost invisible hinges, allowing them to fluidly change their three-dimensional structures. To create different designs, “you simply take it apart and build a different one using the exact same pieces.”



Follow this project with these: An origami-inspired model for reconfigurable materials, Magnet-connected pyramids that transform into different shapes, and the Amazing Moving Cube, a DIY project.

Bonus: An accidental toy inventor’s shapeshifting designs.

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Building a wigwam, a time lapse

A dome made from tree saplings, grasses, bark, buckskin, cloth, and other available local materials, the wigwam was a seasonal structure used by many Native American cultures in the North Eastern United States. Historic Huguenot Street, a Huguenot historical society in New Paltz, New York, built an “authentically designed and constructed” wigwam on their land in 2017. This wigwam time lapse captures the build.

Wigwam is a term for ‘dwelling’ that comes from New England Algonquian word, perhaps specifically from the Eastern Abenaki word wigwôm.

A wigwam, wickiup or wetu is a semi-permanent domed dwelling formerly used by certain Native American and First Nations tribes, and still used for ceremonial purposes. The term wickiup is generally used to label these kinds of dwellings in the Southwestern United States and Western United States, while wigwam is usually applied to these structures in the Northeastern United States and Canada. Wetu is the Wampanoag term for a wigwam dwelling… The wigwam is not to be confused with the Native Plains teepee, which has a very different construction, structure, and use…

A typical wigwam in the Northeast had a curved surface which can hold up against the worst weather. Young green tree saplings of just about any type of wood, ten to fifteen feet long, were cut down and bent. While the saplings were being bent, a circle was drawn on the ground. The diameter of the circle varied from ten to sixteen feet. The bent saplings were then placed over the drawn circle, using the tallest saplings in the middle and the shorter ones on the outside. The saplings formed arches all in one direction on the circle. The next set of saplings were used to wrap around the wigwam to give the shelter support. When the two sets of saplings were finally tied together, the sides and roof were placed on it. The sides of the wigwam were usually bark stripped from trees.

wigwam time lapse new paltz
Watch these videos about shelter-building next: How nomads put together a ger (or yurt), the National Film Board of Canada’s How to Build an Igloo (1949), and Amish Barn Raising: Building a barn in one day.

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Lost and Found, a bittersweet stop-motion short

“A knitted toy dinosaur must completely unravel itself to save the love of its life.” Lost and Found is a bittersweet, tear-inducing story about a crocheted Amigurumi fox and dinosaur. Sad story warning: Parents of younger and/or sensitive kiddos may want to screen this one first.

fox and dinosaur, lost and found
Go behind the scenes of this stop-motion animation by Australia-based directors Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe. Slabe also wrote the short.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/256204562?color=9b9b9b&title=0&byline=0&portrait=0

For more sad but beautifully made tales, watch Father and Daughter by Michaël Dudok De Wit and Premier Automne by Je Regarde.

Plus: Learn more about the kara-usu, the teeter-tottering water feature at the barrel, in this Primitive Technology video.

via Laughing Squid.

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Birth of a Galápagos sea lion

On a National Geographic expedition to the Galápagos Islands, travelers witnessed something extraordinary: the birth of a sea lion. Even while in labor, the mother was unfazed by the presence of humans, delivering her pup on the beach with a nuzzle, a nudge, and a playful gnaw.

The moment was captured on the Galápagos’ Genovesa Island in 2014. Naturalist Jan Tiddo Post narrates the birth footage with information about delayed gestation in sea lions, a biological strategy that allows some mammals to “coordinate the birth of offspring with favorable environmental conditions to increase the chances of offspring survival.”

Learn more about pinnipeds and specifically sea lions.

Related reading on National Geographic: A Warming Planet Jolts the Iconic Creatures of the Galápagos.

Watch these next: Swimming with the Galápagos Sea Lions of Isla Plaza Sur and the three different ways mammals give birth. Plus: More animal births.

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This humidity-powered seed drills itself into the ground

Powered by changes in humidity—curling when dry and straightening when wet—this Erodium cicutarium seed (or more specifically, an achene) will bury itself by slowly drilling into the ground. This time lapse video by p roullard shows its “hygroscopically active” spiraling shape. Also: Note the active soil.

Erodium-cicutarium

Erodium cicutarium, also known as redstem filaree, redstem stork’s bill, common stork’s-bill or pinweed, is a herbaceous annual – or in warm climates, biennial – member of the family Geraniaceae of flowering plants. It is native to the Mediterranean Basin and was introduced to North America in the eighteenth century, where it has since become naturalized, particularly of the deserts and arid grasslands of the southwestern United States…

The leaves are pinnate to pinnate-pinnatifid, and the long seed-pod, shaped like the bill of a stork, bursts open in a spiral when ripe, sending the seeds (which have little feathery parachutes attached) into the air. Seed launch is accomplished using a spring mechanism powered by shape changes as the fruits dry.

Get a closer look at the achene’s coil in this image by Didier Descouens.

Erodium-cicutarium
And recognize it in the wild:

Erodium-cicutarium
File under: Seed dispersal. And watch this next: Exploding plants disperse their seeds with high pressure bursts. Plus: Untangling the Devil’s Corkscrew and Unwinding the Cucumber Tendril Mystery.

via The Awesomer.

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How does a cruciverbalist create crossword puzzles?

How are crossword puzzles made? In this episode of WIRED Masterminds, cruciverbalist David Kwong demonstrates how he makes crossword puzzles for The New York Times. And since he’s also a magician, his theme for the crossword (and a few extra puzzles within the video) is about playing cards.

Learn the process, rules, and tips that can help you create your own New York Times-worthy crossword puzzle. Find additional support on Wikihow. Plus, check out this helpful crossword-making tool: OneLook.com.

Related reading: How to Solve The New York Times Crossword.

Follow this with more videos about words: Making Sense of Spelling and Where Do New Words Come From?

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How does a cruciverbalist create crossword puzzles?

How are crossword puzzles made? In this episode of WIRED Masterminds, cruciverbalist David Kwong demonstrates how he makes crossword puzzles for The New York Times. And since he’s also a magician, his theme for the crossword (and a few extra puzzles within the video) is about playing cards.

Learn the process, rules, and tips that can help you create your own New York Times-worthy crossword puzzle. Find additional support on Wikihow. Plus, check out this helpful crossword-making tool: OneLook.com.

Related reading: How to Solve The New York Times Crossword.

Follow this with more videos about words: Making Sense of Spelling and Where Do New Words Come From?

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Linocut carving and printing by Maarit Hänninen

Amsterdam-based linocut artist Maarit Hänninen filmed how she carves and prints an illustration with a printmaking technique called linocut. First, she transfers her original artwork to a tinted lino block, a linoleum surface, using a pencil. Then she carves around the to-be-printed areas with chisels.

Maarit Hänninen linocut
To test the piece, she rolls the ink into a thin layer with a brayer, transfers the ink to the carving and presses a paper to the ink. With some final tweaks, she prints the final linocut carving on prepared rag paper. Details between each step of the process reveal how much additional care a print requires.

Maarit Hänninen linocut
Maarit Hänninen linocut

To create your own prints with a similar art form, block printing, check out BlockPrint, Making an Impression, Print, Pattern, Sew or Printing by Hand. Level up your printmaking techniques with Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Mokuhanga.

Looking for supplies? Here’s a great kit to start with.

Next: How to screen print, a video series by Eva Stalinski, Nick Wroblewski, Woodcut Printmaker, printing with a 2000lb cast-iron Kluge Letterpress machine, and more ink.

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Isle of Dogs’ stop-motion sushi-making scene

Stop-motion artists spend hours and hours making very short animated scenes look alive, smooth, and rich with detail. This time-lapse by Andy Biddle showcases that intricate work with a sushi-making scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. The 32 days of work, started by Biddle and completed by Tony Faurquar Smith, create just under 40 seconds of the film. Here’s the final scene:

stop-motion sushi-making scene
stop-motion sushi-making scene


And, via Kottke: Andy Gent, Head Puppet Master for the film, explains what it took to build “the most intricate figures he’s ever done.”

Read more about Isle of Dogs at Common Sense Media.

Follow this with stop-motion animation goes high tech at Laika and Laika’s Head of Puppetry explains how stop-motion puppets are made.

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Soap, water, and corn syrup bubbles freezing

Over the course of two years, Barrie, Ontario-based photographer Don Komarechka filmed ice crystals forming across the thin walls of freezing bubbles. In Winter’s Magic, he’s collected the best clips from over 400 takes. From his notes:

Most of the single-bubble shots are played out in real time, with a few cuts for dramatic effect. Some of the multiple-bubble sequences are sped up – they freeze more slowly due to their inner walls but hitting the cold outer air, and being filled with my hot breath. Close-up shots are all real time…

For those curious, my bubble mixture is 6 parts water, 2 parts dish soap and 1 part white corn syrup. The corn syrup is an important ingredient as it allows the bubble to thicken on the bottom and acts as a cushion to prevent the bubble from popping on impact with the snow. The best technique is to blow the bubbles through a drinking straw; this allows for some control over the side of the bubble, and they can be easily placed once formed. Give a few seconds for the corn syrup to pool at the bottom before placing it and you should have a decent success rate.

Watch more frozen bubbles videos: Ice crystals form on bubbles in real time and Ice crystal ‘snow globes’ by ZALUSKArt.

Bonus: Throwing a pot full of just-boiled water into the -41C air.

via Laughing Squid.

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Soap, water, and corn syrup bubbles freezing

Over the course of two years, Barrie, Ontario-based photographer Don Komarechka filmed ice crystals forming across the thin walls of freezing bubbles. In Winter’s Magic, he’s collected the best clips from over 400 takes. From his notes:

Most of the single-bubble shots are played out in real time, with a few cuts for dramatic effect. Some of the multiple-bubble sequences are sped up – they freeze more slowly due to their inner walls but hitting the cold outer air, and being filled with my hot breath. Close-up shots are all real time…

For those curious, my bubble mixture is 6 parts water, 2 parts dish soap and 1 part white corn syrup. The corn syrup is an important ingredient as it allows the bubble to thicken on the bottom and acts as a cushion to prevent the bubble from popping on impact with the snow. The best technique is to blow the bubbles through a drinking straw; this allows for some control over the side of the bubble, and they can be easily placed once formed. Give a few seconds for the corn syrup to pool at the bottom before placing it and you should have a decent success rate.

Watch more frozen bubbles videos: Ice crystals form on bubbles in real time and Ice crystal ‘snow globes’ by ZALUSKArt.

Bonus: Throwing a pot full of just-boiled water into the -41C air.

via Laughing Squid.

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How are luffa/loofah sponges made?

The luffa or loofah scrubbing sponge found at spas and eco-friendly stores is made from a giant Egyptian cucumber. The fibrous xylem of the fruit can be harvested after the fruit has matured, browned, and dried. Nathan and Sherri Pauls grow and sell luffa sponges at their Luffa Gardens farm in Reedley, California. Nathan provides some history in this Insider video:

“Most people in the United States don’t know what a luffa sponge is, except maybe the nylon puff that you can get in the store or something else like that, but that’s synthetic. Well, luffa sponges, up until about World War II, were the most popular sponge in the United States. They were being imported from Japan and when Pearl Harbor happened, that kind of ended the sponge trade with Japan. Since then, the United States has been manufacturing or synthesizing the sponge.

Used as dish, surface, and shower sponges, the luffa is biodegradable, sustainable, and can be grown in the backyard from these seeds. After they’re used, they can be composted. No plastic required.

Learn more about cellulose sponges and how to clean them.

Then watch these videos next: How to harvest a large bunch of Lady Finger bananas, seed germination to growth time lapses, why carrots taste sweeter in winter, and from a flower to a strawberry in 30 days.

Plus: How Gardening at School Enables Interdisciplinary Learning.

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Why does T-Rex have tiny arms?

Tyrannosaurus rex was big, Tyrannosaurus rex was vicious, and Tyrannosaurus rex had tiny arms.” In this PBS Eons episode, Hank Green explains how the Tyrannosaurus rex lost its arms over the course of 90 million years. He also discusses a few ideas about how this gigantic carnivore of the Cretaceous period might have used its relatively tiny two-fingered forelimbs.

t-rex tiny arms
t-rex tiny arms
Related videos: Rebuilding a real T. Rex with scientific research & new tech and How do you dismantle a dino? (Very carefully.)

Bonus: A life-size T-Rex dinosaur made of balloons.

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The expertise of killer whale grandmothers

Pods of killer whales [also known as orcas] inhabit the waters of every major ocean on Earth. Each family is able to survive thanks mainly to one member, its most knowledgeable hunter: the grandmother. These matriarchs can live 80 years or more and their expertise can mean the difference between life and death for their families.

How do killer whale grandmothers help pods survive, how do they find enough food, and what biological advantages do they have by living in matrilineal groups? Watch The amazing grandmothers of the killer whale pod, a TED-Ed by Darren Croft.

orca grandmothers
Orcas are one of 35 oceanic dolphin species. A note on their names:

…the genus name Orcinus means “of the kingdom of the dead”, or “belonging to Orcus“. Ancient Romans originally used orca (pl. orcae) for these animals, possibly borrowing Greek ὄρυξ (óryx), which referred (among other things) to a whale species. Since the 1960s, “orca” has steadily grown in popularity. The term “orca” is euphemistically preferred by some to avoid the negative connotations of “killer”, and because, being part of the family Delphinidae, the species is more closely related to other dolphins than to whales.

Related reading: Salmon and orca survival, Adult Killer Whales Need Their Mamas, Scientists have a new theory about why female orcas live so long after they stop having babies. Plus, learn more about the endangered southern resident killer whale.

Related videos: Orca Rescue in 4K, Norwegian orcas eat herring by cooperatively carousel feeding, Fabulous Food Chains, and Feedback loops – How nature gets its rhythms.

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