Walking on Water

Some insects walk on fast-moving water.


ME Santos et al (Science 358, October 2017) identify two genes that control fan development on the mid-legs of Rhagovelia.Rhagovelia_antilleana_StreamEnvio_LR-1720x1146.jpg

Genes in a single lineage help these Hemiptera inhabit previously inaccessible environments.



8 Minutes

Alexander Whitley is the choreographer of 8 Minutes on the main stage of Sadler’s Wells, London during the summer.


It is done in collaboration with solar scientists from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the title refers to the length of time it takes for the sun’s light to reach the Earth.


Whitley has incorporated quotes about astrophysics into the soundtrack, and has managed to create something that feels concrete and ungraspable at the same time, much like the universe.


London’s Evening Standard praises the way 8 Minutes merges dance, visuals and music as equal partners. Daniel Wohl’s score pulsates with solar energy while Tal Rosner’s hypnotic digital projections feature lava-like waves, inky black views from space and a sizzling red sun.


There is a new exhibition of mobile sculpture by Alexander Calder at the Whitney Gallery in New York. Scientist can monitor the changes. The resulting patterns mean that Calder’s art can be extended to create new rhythms, shapes and relationships.

Double-click on the image below.


Back in 2013, The Dotted Line Theatre performed The Engineer’s Thumb
at the Little Angel Puppet Theatre. It was inspired by a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Using rod and shadow puppetry, light and object manipulation, it encountered experiments in hydraulics, memories coming to life and a terrifying coach ride along a dark country lane.

More recently the same theatre company  has performed The Lonely One:


Last week’s Nature (volume 542, page 294) discusses how such dextrous actions by artists are used by science researchers. It cites the difficulties an analytical chemist had bisecting kidney stones – and how a sculptor working with glass cut the stones with their glass-grinding lathe.

th-7.jpeg  There are more examples of such help from teachers at the Art Workers’ Guild. It is so-called Haptic Learning and involves the transferable skills such as the use of brushes, surgical instruments, implements for sewing and embroidery, and musical instruments.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Today is William Shakespeare’s 400th birthday.

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Most days, we quote his words:

1. “With bated breath” – The Merchant Of Venice

2. “The be all and end all” – Macbeth

3. “Break the ice” – The Taming Of The Shrew

4. “Dead as a doornail” – Henry VI, Part II

5. “Faint-hearted” – Henry VI, Part I

6. “Wild-goose chase” – Romeo And Juliet

7. “Laugh yourself into stitches (in stitches)” – Twelfth Night

8. “Zany” – Love’s Labour’s Lost

9. “I will wear my heart upon my sleeve” – Othello

10. “What’s done, is done” – Macbeth

11. “At one fell swoop” – Macbeth

12. “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it (There’s method in my madness)” – Hamlet

13. “Spotless reputation” – Richard II

14. “Laughing-stock” – The Merry Wives Of Windsor

15. “Eaten out of house and home” – Henry IV, Part 2

16. “Fair play” – The Tempest/King John/Troilus And Cressida

17. “In a pickle” – The Tempest

18. “Send him packing” – Henry IV, Part 1

19. “Too much of a good thing” – As You Like It


The Crick

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The Francis Crick Institute opens in November and will eventually house 1,600 biomedical scientists. It is a partnership between six scientific institutions and aims to understand why disease develops. It is to find new ways to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases.

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In anticipation, last week a group of dancers performed in a double helix nearby the institute in front of King’s Cross Station.


Black: Very Black

At California University San Diego, L Caldwell has made the blackest of paints for the Concentrating Solar Power Plants of her research project.

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Sunlight is focussed on it from an array of mirrors on the ground. The secret of the new paint lies in nanotechnology – creating a surface made up of layers of microscopic particles. It is designed to minimise reflection. _83386417_slab   _83386415_nobbly

The research team claims that it can convert up to 90% of the sunlight it captures into heat. “The size of these particles matches the wavelengths of light, which is in the order of a few nanometres”, Prof Chen says. “So when light gets in, it will get trapped. It’s as though it gets lost in a miniature forest, and never comes out”. Some compare this to an eclipse or Czech black theatre:

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Cinema art can also retain high energy in its blackness:

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but it’s not so easy to release it.

Meanwhile, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and its Event Horizon Telescope team are looking for a black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. They have an infrared image which shows the challenge: 09BLACKHOLEJP1-master1050 NASA/JPL-Caltech