The Value of Spit, in the Art World

May 25th, 2019

A proper appreciation of spit might have prevented an art tragedy. The tragedy is reported by VN Express International:

HCMC museum takes a national treasure to the cleaners

A precious lacquer painting suffered 30 percent damage during cleaning process due to cleaner’s lack of knowledge in art.
The painting, Vuon Xuan Trung Nam Bac (Spring Garden of Centre, South  and North), is a prominent artwork displayed in the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum.

Last year, Luu Minh Phung was tasked by the museum to clean the painting and he took it to the cleaners, seriously damaging its surface by using dishwashing liquid, a polishing powder and sandpaper.

The intent and message of the artwork has been damaged by around 30 percent, said Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Fine Arts, Photography and Exhibition Department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism….

Often, Spit is Better

The value of spit was celebrated with the 2018 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry. The prize was awarded to Paula Romão, Adília Alarcão and the late César Viana, for measuring the degree to which human saliva is a good cleaning agent for dirty surfaces.

They describe their research, in the paper: “Human Saliva as a Cleaning Agent for Dirty Surfaces,” Paula M. S. Romão, Adília M. Alarcão and César A.N. Viana, Studies in Conservation, vol. 35, 1990, pp. 153-155.

How phonies and self-promoters came to rule the world

May 24th, 2019

“Our obsession with money and susceptibility to charisma, over-confidence and surface gloss have propelled us into an age where sham, spin, trickery and twaddle have become the new norms,” writes Shelley Gare, in the Sydney Morning Herald:

How phonies and self-promoters came to rule the world

… We can’t say we weren’t warned….

Almost 25 years ago, David Dunning, a psychology professor at Cornell University in upper New York state, became fascinated by a trait he had noticed in some of his students taking tests: “They expressed all sorts of confidence about how they’d done but no, they hadn’t done all that well.”

He wondered about its relevance in the workplace: “I was trying to figure out: do incompetent people really not know how badly they are performing?” On the phone from Ann Arbor, where Dunning now works at the University of Michigan, he marvels as he recalls how he and a graduate student, Justin Kruger, “decided to take a look at the people who were doing really poorly and we tested them on logic, grammar and humour. And what we discovered was that – after the tests and after they had seen the responses of other, more competent students – the people at the bottom wouldn’t revise their self-impression at all.” They continued to over-estimate how well they had done. “After that, even I was convinced the theory was right,” Dunning laughs.

Their 1999 findings are known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. It explains how many incompetent people not only are confident that they are competent but, it also turns out, when they see real competence, their incompetence means they can’t recognise it. Meanwhile, in a true catch-22, competent people, because they know what they don’t know, will underestimate their competence – and often be less confident. Dunning and Kruger’s findings spawned hundreds of articles and features, and a musical rendition, The Incompetence Opera. In 2000, the authors were awarded the Ig Nobel prize, which celebrates research “that makes you laugh, then think”. The election of uber-confident businessman Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 only gave the theory fresh life….

Here’s video of the Dunning Kruger Song, the thrilling finale to The Incompetence Opera. The opera premiered as part of the 2017 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony:

 

Art is in the AI of the beholder: Making Mona Lisa Move

May 24th, 2019

Art is in the AI of the beholder, so to speak. In a report called “Mona Lisa frown: Machine learning brings old paintings and photos to life,” Techcrunch describes what’s in a new research paper:

…Machine learning researchers have produced a system that can recreate lifelike motion from just a single frame of a person’s face, opening up the possibility of animating not just photos but also paintings. It’s not perfect, but when it works, it is — like much AI work these days — eerie and fascinating…. The more data it has, the better, but it can do it with one image — called single-shot learning — and get away with it. That’s what makes it possible to take a picture of Einstein or Marilyn Monroe, or even the Mona Lisa, and make it move and speak like a real person.

This video shows some of the art in action:

The F note, a harmonious accompaniment to the F word

May 23rd, 2019

The Bibliolore blog tells some history about the supposed significance of the musical note F:

The F note, one could say, has a musing-and-fraudulent aura that makes it a good musical accompaniment to the F word.

In The voice of the silence (1889), Helena Blavatsky (above) designated the pitch F as the keynote of nature. Blavatsky’s authority was Benjamin Silliman, a Professor of chemistry at Harvard; his source was probably The music of nature (1832) by William Gardiner. Beethoven’s sixth symphony had already established F as the favored “pastoral” key.

Blavatsky’s prestige perpetuated the designation among Theosophists, and it remains a popular New Age concept, though some maintain that the correct note is F sharp. Several musicologists have suggested ingenious rationales for the idea that F is a fundamental keynote.

This according to “Is there a keynote of nature?” by Joscelyn Godwin, an essay included in Esotericism, religion, and nature (East Lansing: Association for the Study of Esotericism, 2009, pp. 53–71)….

The carbon footprints of various sandwiches [study]

May 23rd, 2019

There’s a chance (as yet unquantified) that you’re eating a sandwich as you read this. If so, you might pause to consider its carbon footprint  – which, it turns out, is likely to be content-dependent. That’s one of the findings of a 2018 study from Dr Namy Espinoza-Orias and Professor Adisa Azapagic of the Sustainable Industrial Systems dept., School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences, The University of Manchester, UK.

“This study estimated the carbon footprint associated with the production and consumption of sandwiches, prepared commercially and at home. In total, 40 most popular recipes were considered. The carbon footprint of a ready-made sandwich ranges from 739 g CO2 eq. for egg & cress to 1441 g CO2 eq. for the breakfast option. The carbon footprint of the most popular home-made sandwich (ham & cheese) varies from 399-843 g CO2 eq. per serving. The average impact from the home-made option (609 g CO2 eq.) is 2.2 times lower than the impact from the commercial equivalent with the same ingredients (ham, cheese and mayonnaise).”

Details of their paper : Understanding the impact on climate change of convenience food: Carbon footprint of sandwiches can be found online in the journal Sustainable Production and Consumption, Volume 15, July 2018, Pages 1-15.

And which may be digested in full here 

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