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February 20 2013


June 27 2012

Alison Stolwood's best photograph

'As humans, we would once have been fearful of such places. Now we want to explore them'

This was taken in the Lake District for a project about the impact ice has had on landscapes. I called it Phase Transitions. Nature is constantly changing but it's generally too slow for us to notice: the only way we can see it is by comparing photographs. I'm interested in how we now want to explore these sublime, overpowering vistas, where once we would have been fearful of them. There's also all the uncertainty about what melting ice will mean for us and the planet.

I started exploring these themes by researching places shaped by ice: carved valleys, boulders, marks in rock. Then I went on field trips to Wales, the French and Swiss Alps, and the Lake District. I had to do everything on a tight budget, camping and staying with friends en route. The weather was a problem, too: whenever it rained, I had to put my large-format back 5inx4in field camera in the car.

I shot this on a sunny day in 2009 in the Great Langdale valley. I was heading up a mountain and went past Copt Howe, a substantial boulder that dropped out of a melting glacier into what is now a farmer's field. It has many circular bronze-age carvings in it, as well as natural faultlines. Then this scene caught my eye. Despite my unwieldy equipment, I always try to set up quickly. On this occasion, leaning over a gate, I only managed to get a single shot while the conditions lasted. I couldn't tell at the time, but the heads of the cow and the calf were caught at just the right moment, as if they were about to look round to see what I was doing.

I like the juxtaposition: the natural wilderness of the mountains in the distance, and the cultivated farmland in the foreground where the livestock are lazing. Although it's not my most technically accomplished shot, it was a turning point for me in that it captured a moment of stillness that seemed to say a lot about cycles of change, perhaps best embodied by the fact that the two animals represent the young and the old. Landscapes can look so natural but, in one way or another, they have often been shaped by us.


Born: 1983, Colchester

Studied: Falmouth College of Arts, University of Brighton

Influences: Caspar David Friedrich, Katie Paterson, Andreas Gursky, David Attenborough

High point: Taking part in the show Still Outside (or Unexplained), exploring the interaction between people and the environment

Low point: The cost of photography

Top tip: Shoot lots – it takes time to develop the way you work © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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January 29 2012

Le volcan qui allait exploser : l'itinéraire fou d'une info débile

3 janvier 2012. Gros titre sur la page d’accueil de Yahoo : "Un énorme volcan menace l’Europe !" Le site joue souvent l'aguicheur, mais, intrigué, je clique...


// oAnth: Deutschsprachiger Artikel von 2007 auf Spiegel-online zum Vulkanismus in der Eifel.

Reposted fromsigalonfrance sigalonfrance

December 05 2011

July 01 2011

Art and science collide at Worlds in the Making exhibition | Frank Swain

Artist duo Semiconductor launch a major exhibition at the Fact gallery in Liverpool on Friday portraying the subterranean, primeval world of geology

"We're really interested in the material nature of the world around us – in what the natural building blocks are of the visible physical world, and how we create an understanding of them," says Ruth Jarman, one half of British artist duo Semiconductor.

Together with Joe Gerhardt, the pair came to prominence in 2007 with Magnetic Movie, an award-winning short film for Channel 4 that spliced interviews with physicists with crackling visualisations of magnetic fields. Their work, which combines a passion for science and art, has appeared in the Venice Biennale, The Royal Academy, the Hirshhorn Museum, and even on Wonders of the Solar System.

On Friday Jarman and Gerhardt launch Worlds in the Making, their first major solo exhibition, at Liverpool's Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (Fact) gallery.

The new work is the culmination of several years' work, spent largely in the company of scientists in the volcanic regions of the Galápagos Islands and mainland Ecuador in South America, as well as the Smithsonian Mineral Science Library in Washington.

"It sometimes takes the scientists quite a while to understand what the hell we're doing there," says Gerhardt. "They're very used to speaking with journalists, it was quite difficult for us to explain what it was we were trying to do." The couple's persistence paid off. "They were very excited for us to take away their work and extend their audience," says Gerhardt.

For Worlds in the Making, Jarman and Gerhardt combined photography of stark volcanic landscapes with animations and audio feeds of geological processes to capture the sense of a primeval, newborn world. To represent the steady churning of rocks and magma under our feet, they translated seismic data supplied by the scientists into a soundtrack.

While in Ecuador, they managed to capture on film the eruption of the Tungurahua ("throat of fire") volcano in Baños. "Very much a coincidence," muses Jarman. "Just as we got there it started erupting, so we were really lucky to see it."

One of the works on display for the first time is Crystallised, an animation of crystals growing deep in the Earth's crust. To represent the sound of gems being squeezed out of the surrounding rocks, the artists encased a geologist's microphone in blocks of ice and recorded the sounds as they melted.

"We wanted to use a sound associated with crystals in flux," says Jarman. "We experimented with this technique and recorded these incredible sounds that hiss and pop and crunch, which when used as a digital sculptural tool produce these mineral crystal formations that spasm and contort as they emerge."

The pair spent more than six months alone writing the software that would convert these sounds into the formations seen in the final animation.

"We're not really illustrating the scientists' work," explains Gerhardt. "There's a very different way of going about that. Really we're just taking pieces of the data and using it for our own ends, recontextualising it. We try to draw from the scientists' enthusiasm about their work, we come to these projects with a certain amount of naiveté, and so it's important for us to be really excited and collect that enthusiasm from the scientists ... Our work shows that – the emotions of those scientists – rather than revealing their science as a work in progress."

"We're really playing with the idea of the science documentary," he adds. "Everyone is very familiar now with the very standard format of creating a narrative and a way of documenting science, and hopefully we're challenging this."

Worlds in the Making is certainly art, but does it do anything for science? Can artists like Jarman and Gerhardt inspire wonder in the same way Brian Cox does? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 14 2011


What can we say about the short-term seismic future for Japan and the region?

When we look at other magnitude 9s, they have many aftershocks. The average magnitude 9 has one magnitude 8. And there was one magnitude 8 that was hidden in the main earthquake data. They will have 10 magnitude 7s, 100 magnitude 6s and so on. That's the typical sequence.

When Will Japan's Aftershocks Stop? | Scientific American - Katherine Harmon 2011-04-07
Today's Yomiuri piece on future quake risk: (JP) mirrors last week's Scientific American article: (EN)
Twitter / Mulboyne: Today's Yomiuri piece on f ...

March 08 2011

The remnants of nuclear reactors nearly two billion years old were found in the 1970s in Gabon, Africa. These reactors are thought to have occurred naturally. No natural reactors exist today, as the relative density of fissile uranium has now decayed below that needed for a sustainable reaction. The image above is Fossil Reactor 15, located in Oklo, Gabon. Uranium oxide remains are visible as the yellowish rock.
Reposted fromscience science

March 14 2010

Jeffery and Miquette Roberts

My parents Jeffery and Miquette Roberts, who have both died aged 66, within 10 days of each other, shared passions for the arts and languages, and had broad-ranging, inquiring minds. In April 2009, Jeffery was diagnosed with cancer. He faced this with amazing fortitude, and the unending support of Miquette, who died of injuries resulting from a fall shortly after his death.

In my father's office were large maps of Russia and Finland, a piano and dictionaries covering various Nordic and Slavic languages. The effect was that of a musically gifted military dictator, combined with an eccentric taxi firm with an enormous catchment area. Jeffery had an avowedly internationalist focus, but his interest in the world was local as well, as shown by his time as a Liberal party councillor in Shoreditch, east London, from 1980 until 1987.

Born near Liverpool, of Anglo-Welsh parentage, he settled in London permanently in the early 1970s, having read geology at New College, Oxford, and then undertaken PhD research at Cardiff. He married Miquette in 1974. On his return from a period in Finland, working for Union Bank of Finland, in 1991 he formed Pomor Petroleum and Impivaara Securities, two companies that focused their attention on markets in Finland, Russia and the erstwhile Baltic states and beyond.

Jeffery spoke German, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, French and Russian. In the last years of his life, he took up Welsh. In his own language, he liked nothing better than talking at length, launching into excitable, provocative disquisitions, ranging in topic from delegate democracy, the situation in the Middle East (particularly Palestine) and the books of Karen Armstrong to the rise and fall of world empires.

He was passionate about music – playing it and listening to it. Among his favoured composers were Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Liszt. He was engaged and engaging, intellectual, energetic and funny, and by turns infuriating and generous (in every sense of the word). Jeffery found his counterpart in Miquette's quiet, determined character.

If Jeffery's room was his office, my mother's was the lounge. She had decorated it with a mix of African prints in sombre but not oppressive tones, and judiciously placed decorative objects. When a friend of mine visited, he stared as long as his manners allowed him to at Miquette's vibrant, shiny red shoes. He still talked about the shoes, and the contrasting tailored grey outfit, years later.

Such was the impact of my mum's individual style and her charismatic, yet unassuming nature. She had very definite ideas about style in fashion and art; and let it be known in gentle, but assertive terms that she disapproved wryly of my rainbow hair changes over the years.

Miquette was born in Glasgow, of mixed French and Scottish parentage. Her given name was Marie-Christine but she was universally known as Miquette, an affectionate name "usually given to cats in France" as she often remarked on meeting new people. Miquette will be remembered, among many other things, for her seemingly effortless ability to get on with others, and her talent as a writer (though she was far too modest to view herself in these glowing terms).

Having read History of Art, French and German at Glasgow University, she continued her studies at New Hall, Cambridge, graduating in 1966. She then worked in an educational capacity in various art galleries, ranging from those in Bristol and Aberdeen (in the 1960s and 70s) to Tate Britain (1992-2004).

On retirement, she took up the task of translating the wartime letters of her mother, Marie Touchard, from French into English. She also wrote an autobiographical work which she later doled out in tantalising snippets for the rest of the family to read. Her style was succinct and affecting. I remember her quiet but intense pride as she showed me the published letters of Marie Touchard in a bookshop in Paris in 2006.

Miquette is survived by her brother, Malcolm. Jeffery is survived by his sister, Joan. Both are survived by me and my brother Duncan. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 02 2010

December 17 2009

Seeing is believing at Vesuvius

The serenity surrounding Naples, and the tectonic turmoil underneath it, is the perfect metaphor for the unreliability of our eyes

The other day I looked at Joseph Wright of Derby's spectacular 18th-century painting of Vesuvius in eruption at Tate Britain. I've been impressed before by its burst of golden light and river of pink fire surrounded by cloudy, smoky darkness. But this time, I looked at the painting a couple of days after returning from a trip to Naples and seeing the mountain itself. And the gap between the scene I saw with my own eyes and Wright's depiction of what Vesuvius is capable of strikes me as mystifying.

Vesuvius is surely the most famous volcano in the world. The ancient naturalist Pliny the Elder was killed while observing the eruption in AD79 that destroyed Pompeii. His nephew described the eruption in a letter still used as evidence by vulcanologists today.

For Vesuvius is an active volcano. It can still blow. It last did so in the 1940s, and an eruption is overdue. Not only that, but the entire landscape around Naples, which I flew over last week, is honeycombed with magma chambers and craters. It is on the faultline between Africa and Europe and has long been a heartland of geological investigation. In his book The Earth, Richard Fortey says the area north of Naples is even more primed to explode than Vesuvius itself.

So what troubles me is – if this terrain is so dangerous, why can't we see its danger? Or more precisely, why is it so hard to imagine Vesuvius erupting when you look at it today?

Gazing across the Bay of Naples, what you see is a beautiful, calm, shapely mountain framed against the blue sky. No smoke. No visible fire. And it would take a very melodramatic soul (or a clued-up geologist) to find its stillness scary, its silence sinister.

I think this tells us something about looking. We believe what we see. We like to think, at the same time, that by looking hard enough we can discover the truth. But many truths are quite simply invisible. Many appearances truly are deceptive.

Vesuvius, hiding its violence under a placid appearance, is a metaphor for the unreliability of our eyes. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 03 2009

TERRA 513: The Geology of Big Horn Canyon

Sit back and enjoy the beauty of Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area. Stunning landscapes and interesting facts are the highlight of this film that explains the unique geology of one of the West's most treasured monuments.
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