making plastic precious

Studio Swine

inspired by nautical craftsmanship and folk art, the designers at Studio Swine went in search of plastic in the ocean for their Gyrecraft project – and found a lot to choose from. sailing 1000 nautical miles from the Azores to the Canary Islands, they passed through through the North Atlantic Gyre: one of five points on the planet where swirling megacurrents concentrate vast quantities of floating debris, including plastic

“it’s one of the biggest problems facing our civilisation,” says Studio Swine’s Alex Groves, “plastic is in every part of the ocean and the effect it’s having on plankton is only just beginning to be investigated. plankton are the base of the entire planet’s food chain, and they are responsible for producing one third of the oxygen we breath. if we lose plankton we are headed for another mass extinction. in the swirling gyre, most of the plastics have broken down into tiny fragments which are spread over massive stretches of the ocean. due to their size, they are incredibly difficult to recover in any large quantity – making this once disposable material very precious”

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overwatch 🔭


for the first time, NASA has consolidated all of its planetary impact detection projects into a single organisation to help keep us safe from asteroids and comets: the Planetary Defense Coordination Office. beyond liasing with various ground and space-based systems, like the Arecibo Radio Telescope and the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System shown above, the new office will oversee asteroid deflection missions and provide input to agencies like FEMA to prepare an emergency response to predicted impacts. with more than 90% of Near Earth Objects bigger than 1km across already discovered, NASA is now focused on finding objects that are slightly bigger than a football field – 140m or larger

related: Death From Above / Adventures in the Asteroid Field / Arecibo

species of the week: 紅脖游蛇

© Robert Ferguson

fittingly on the day that sees our first event in Hong Kong, our species this week is 紅脖游蛇 – aka the red-necked keelback snake, or Rhabdophis subminiatus. as Robert Ferguson, the photographer who took this picture, explains: the red-necked keelback unique in that it’s the only animal that is both venomous (with a deadly bite) and poisonous (as it can secrete the poison from toads that it eats via a groove in its neck. despite this, the species is essentially harmless as it very rarely bites and is not at all aggressive

ice on Mars

Mars-Ice-House_Dusk 01_lr

following the recent confirmation that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars, we caught up with the winners of NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat challenge to find out more about their ingenious design – which uses ice mined from below the surface to shield explorers from radiation while providing expansive views out over the Martian landscape and a unique ‘garden’ space

read our full interview for Uncube

15 photos that show nature recolonising Chernobyl 🌿

a new study from researchers at the University of Portsmouth shows that wildlife is alive and well in the abandoned areas around Chernobyl, scene of the catastrophic nuclear meltdown in 1986 that left the landscape largely uninhabitable for humans

“There is continuing scientific and public debate surrounding the fate of wildlife that remained in the abandoned area,” explain the study’s authors. “Our long-term empirical data showed no evidence of a negative influence of radiation on mammal abundance. Relative abundances of elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar within the Chernobyl exclusion zone are similar to those in four (uncontaminated) nature reserves in the region and wolf abundance is more than 7 times higher. These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl exclusion zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposures”

when we traveled to the region in 2011 with Unknown Fields, we were struck by just how abundant nature is in former towns like Prypiat, where most of these photos were taken

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deep impact

Meteor Crater by Joe King

drive out along Route 66 east of Flagstaff in Arizona and the familiar icons of the American roadscape soon materialise out of the shimmering desert heat. truckstops, casinos and RV parks mark your progress through the flat landscape at regular intervals, oversized retro diner signs compete with billboards for your attention and wondrous attractions, you’re promised, are never far ahead. among these is Meteor Crater, which features a rad 80s logo and its own radio station playing an endlessly repeating promotional loop as you get closer…

visit Meteor Crater with us in our latest Where On Earth column for AnOther

sample of the week: quartz arenite

Cerro Sarisariñama

quartz arenites are the most ancient exposed sedimentary rocks on earth. a type of sandstone, they’re incredibly hard, and form the basis of South America’s incredible ‘tepui’ mountains – vast flat-topped table formations that rise above the forests and clouds of the northern Amazon. over the eons the relentless action of water has hollowed out four giant sinkholes on the Cerro Sarisariñama plateau in Venezuela. measuring more than 350m across and 300m deep, these circular voids in the forest contain their own miniature jungles – tiny worlds within worlds

read more about Cerro Sarisariñama in our latest column for AnOther



every hour of every day, a growing armada of earth observation satellites are peering down on our planet, gathering petabytes of images and data about our changing world. a new online course from the Open University’s super slick Future Learn site lets you take a more detailed look at these incredible spacecraft, and explore how the information they collect is used. it’s free and the first online course from the European Space Agency, so sign up if (like us) you’re interested in how space technology can help save the planet. we’ll see you in class

the floating world


located in China’s Hunan province, Zhangjiajie’s incredible landscape began to form over 60 million years ago, when warm tropical seas covered the land. in deeper waters, the accumulation of marine organisms formed limestone while in shallower regions hard quartz sandstone predominated. the seas slowly receded and eons of rains and rivers wore away at the softer stone. small outcrops began to appear; craggy and covered by trees. the action of their roots and the constant freezing and melting of ice as winters passed inexorably carved the towering pillars, which aren’t smooth and eroded but angular and rough. today, there are over 3000 individual towers – some rising a thousand feet into the sky

read more about Zhangjiajie in our Where On Earth column for AnOther


Owen Gildersleeve – Discoverers Alliance

at first glance, the incredible crystals unearthed by the Discoverer’s Alliance during its illustrious one hundred year history are a tribute to the brave men and women whose exploration and fieldwork led to some of the century’s most important scientific discoveries. look a little closer though, and questions about their provenance – and indeed the organisation’s mysterious origins – emerge…

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mirror mirror

Observation 123

ahead of the forthcoming dark frame / deep field exhibition at BREESE LITTLE, we’re previewing a number of artists featured in the show. Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field (2013) and the Observation series (1991/2013) are the result of a collaboration with Dr Roderick Willstrop from the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. Rickett’s works (which employ unseen test shots from when everything was still done on film) juxtapose deep time with history on a human scale by resurrecting these astronomical photographs. although they are only a few decades old, they are already technologically obsolete, making Rickett’s work analogous to the archaeology of astronomy itself

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review: Voyager – The Grand Tour


Martin Eberle’s Voyager – The Grand Tour, published in an edition of just 300 by Berlin-based Drittel Books, is, as the press release humbly states ‘a new publication about the NASA Voyager mission’. comprising three cloth-bound volumes within a slipcase bearing a silhouette of the mission’s famous Golden Record, it seems more fitting to describe it as an exhaustively detailed chronicle of an endeavour as complicated and contradictory in its planning as it was audacious and astounding in its (on-going) execution

so cemented is the Carl Sagan-ized version of the story in public consciousness that, as Eberle demonstrates, it’s easy to forget that when the mission was first conceived, a human-launched object had only just made it as far as Mars: the Mariner 4 flyby in 1965

in fact, for VGR77-2, VGR77-3 (the ‘real’ names of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2) and VGR77-1 (the baby sister that stayed at home at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory), the narrative of a solar-system conquering, intergalactic ambassador of human achievement came later. against the socio-political context of 1970s America it took some convincing to get the project off the ground

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sample of the week


our featured sample this week can be found in abundance at Pamukkale in Turkey, where it flows from hot springs to cover the landscape. precipitating from the calcite-rich rich waters when they become exposed to the atmosphere, calcium carbonate forms a type of limestone called travertine. over the eons, it has built a series of cascading cliffs and pools – used since ancient times for bathing and healing

read more about Pamukkale in our latest column for AnOther

fire & ice


the Calbuco volcano in Chile was a booming explosion which hit international news a few weeks back; footage of ash-laden streets and boiling pink clouds putting its power back on the map after decades of inactivity. volcanic eruptions aren’t quite as rare as they seem – at any time there are likely to be about twenty volcanoes erupting around the world – but not all are as cinematic. scientists think that three quarters of all eruptions happen under the ocean, along the mid-Atlantic ridge, as the dark sea-floor tip-toes apart

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another planet

Photo by Klaus Thymann

it’s early days, but in our new column for AnOther we’ll be exploring the geological and scientifical wonders of the world – from pink waterfalls and blue sinkholes to remote telescopes and mysterious markings in the landscape

sample of the week: “Kryptonite”


this week’s #CrystalsandMineralsMonth sample comes courtesy of Amy Freeborn, an in-house writer at the Natural History Museum who’s awesome job it is to tell the stories behind the museum’s collection. just one example is the innocuous-looking sample shown: a piece of jadarite discovered in Serbia in 2006. a white-ish mineral composed of sodium, lithium, boron silicate and hydroxide – pretty standard, right? except that when NHM mineral expert Dr Chris Stanley found the specimen’s make-up didn’t match anything else known to science, he looked up the mineral’s combination of chemical elements and made a strange discovery

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guest post: Fred Butler


Fred Butler is a multicoloured ball of energy who divides her time between accessories design, blogging, music and running. the latter has led her to a place in the London Marathon to raise money for The Music Circle and its protection projects for women in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo. along with her physical training, Fred is creating a visual diary of the colours of the DRC including a section on minerals curated in her typical rainbow style

all this month, we’ve been celebrating the beauty of crystals, but as Fred reminds us, minerals have a darker side too. in this guest post, she writes about the conflicts caused by our hunger for the Congo’s vast mineral wealth

you can see more of Fred’s work on her website and support her campaign here

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sample of the week: pyrite cubes


the mineral pyrite can be found in a variety of crystal forms, but none is as surreal and beautiful as these perfect, naturally-occurring cubes. found outside the town of Navajún in the Rioja region of Spain, the cuboid crystals are prized around the world by collectors for their incredible geometry – with single cubes ranging in size from 1mm to 20cm plus all kinds of combinations, variations and offset angles

profile: Carly Waito

'Vesuvianite' by Carly Waito

at first glance, Canadian artist Carly Waito’s work appears to consist of beautifully-composed photographs of crystals and minerals. closer inspection, however, reveals that these are meticulous oil paintings – each hyperrealistically capturing the beauty of the specimen while at the same time adding another dimension of artistry in the tiny details that mark these out as lovingly hand painted works. we caught up with Carly to find out more about her incredible work and chat about our mutual love of minerals

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guest post: Mineralia


to mark Crystals and Minerals Month here on super/collider, we’re asking some of our favourite blogs, mineralogists, photographers and artists to share their favourites

this week Emily Walsh of Mineralia shares her top five orange minerals, with further colours to come

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