Zodiac Signs as Monsters

Damon Hellandbrand is a concept artist who has depicted the zodiac signs as monsters. To be honest, they remind me of Magic: The Gathering card art.

According to his bio:

For as long as I can remember I have always had a love for art.

As a child I would spend countless hours trying to replicate the art of Walt Disney.

As a teen I gravitated towards the works of Ralph McQuarrie, Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta.

Today I’m fascinated and inspired by all forms of art, from the great masters of the past to the current masters of the present, as well as the amazing works of mother nature!

All of Hellandbrand’s work is available as 8.5×11 prints for $15. You can check out his DeviantArt gallery here.

Virgo

Virgo

I always feel like Virgos get a bad wrap (I am one), but this Virgo depiction is truly badass.

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The Oddly Reassuring Quality of Surrealistic Art

Giorgio de Chirico's 'The Red Tower,' 1913. (Photo: Public Domain)

Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘The Red Tower,’ 1913. (Photo: Public Domain)

Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard:

A person’s taste in art is generally thought to be unchanging. A lover of Renaissance frescoes, for instance, isn’t likely to suddenly become entranced by the abstract paintings of Jackson Pollock.

But recently published research suggests one specific, uncomfortable circumstance can inspire us to appreciate a wider range of work. It finds people are more likely to forge a positive emotional connection with surrealistic art if they have just been reminded of their own mortality.

It has long been argued that, in the face of existential threats, art can evoke a comforting aura of collective meaning and transcendence. That’s a fairly obvious dynamic with sacred works, but it can also be true of secular images that serve as poignant reminders of the beliefs that give one’s life meaning.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, a research team led by psychologist Verena Graupmann of DePaul University reports surrealistic art can serve this same purpose.

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Decoding the Antikythera Mechanism, the First Computer

"NAMA Machine d'Anticythère 1". Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Antikythera mechanism (Fragment A – front)
NAMA Machine d’Anticythère 1“. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jo Marchant via Smithsonian.com:

After 2,000 years under the sea, three flat, misshapen pieces of bronze at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens are all shades of green, from emerald to forest. From a distance, they look like rocks with patches of mold. Get closer, though, and the sight is stunning. Crammed inside, obscured by corrosion, are traces of technology that appear utterly modern: gears with neat triangular teeth (just like the inside of a clock) and a ring divided into degrees (like the protractor you used in school). Nothing else like this has ever been discovered from antiquity. Nothing as sophisticated, or even close, appears again for more than a thousand years.

For decades after divers retrieved these scraps from the Antikythera wreck from 1900 to 1901, scholars were unable to make sense of them.

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The Origin of Modern Terror and Crumbling Western Values

Peter (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Peter (CC BY-SA 2.0)

John Chuckman writes at CounterPunch:

Do you ever solve problems by ignoring them? Most of us would say that is not possible, yet that is precisely what western governments do in their efforts to counteract what is called “Islamic terror.” Yes, there are vast and costly efforts to suppress the symptoms of what western governments regard as a modern plague, including killing many people presumed to be infected with it, fomenting rebellion and destruction in places presumed to be prone to it, secretly returning to barbaric practices such as torture, things we thought had been left behind centuries ago, to fight it, and violating rights of their own citizens we thought were as firmly established as the need for food and shelter. Governments ignore, in all these destructive efforts, what in private they know very well is the origin of the problem.

Have Islamic radicals always existed?

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We’ve Passed the Point of Peak Food

Doomsayers have gone awfully quiet on peak oil during what appears to be a global oil glut (and price crash), but according to Smithsonian Magazine we’ve gone past the point of peak food:

…[A]ccording to research recently published in Ecology and Society, production of the world’s most important food sources has maxed out and could begin dropping—even as the Earth’s human population continues to grow.

Agriculture in India tractor farming Punjab preparing field for a wheat crop without burning previous crop stalk

Ralf Seppelt, a scientist with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany, and several colleagues looked at production rates for 27 renewable and nonrenewable resources. They used data collected from several international organizations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and analyzed yield rates and totals over a period of time—from 1961 to about 2010 in most cases. For renewable resources like crops and livestock, the team identified peak production as the point when acceleration in gains maxed out and was followed by a clear deceleration.

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Science for the People!

CC-BY: BSSRS/Wellcome Images

CC-BY: BSSRS/Wellcome Images

There’s a smell in Battersea, south-west London. Today, there are streams of the internet devoted to a whiff of toast commuters notice on the train over the river. It’s something to do with local coffee roasters, apparently. But in the early 1970s, the area was very different economically, and the stink wasn’t nearly so pleasant. The strong stench – described at the time as “like dead bodies” – was colloquially known as “The Battersea Smell”.

There was various speculation about causes. Most likely was that the stench came from one or two local factories – the gin distillers John Watney and Co and the glucose manufacturers Garton Sons and Co. But no one really knew. Moreover, the local council seemed to be actively avoiding trying to find out, and avoiding attempting to do much about it.

As a local paper at the time noted, “We can get to the moon, phone relatives in Australia, perform miracles of surgery but a simple matter like getting rid of a smell seems to baffle everyone.”

Residents were especially annoyed as the local council insisted they use (expensive) smokeless fuel to cut air pollution yet seemed to do nothing about the stink.… Read the rest

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Bitcoin, the Digital Deluge and the Seeds of an Open Source Society

IMG_6496It’s all been swept up by the digital deluge: the way we create, consume, socialize, learn, all of it. Yet no matter how much of the analog world seeps into the digital realm, the almighty dollar continues to resist the pixel-y tide. The act of currency creation remains an esoteric, behind-the-scenes process controlled by a few privileged, monocle-clad, suit-wearers with fancy titles and special permissions.

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Actually, we do have digital money and it’s called bitcoin. It does work, it’s safe and it’s easy to use. On top of that, for the first time ever, no government, corporation or human being can claim dominion over, control, destroy or create a currency. Bitcoin is decentralized, open source, peer-to-peer, lives completely online and created through a programmatic process.

Practicality wise, you can already buy basically anything using bitcoin and a growing number of merchants, services and corporations are accepting it every day.Read the rest

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No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God

Via Lawrence M. Krauss – The New Yorker:

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes.

The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he’s a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science—this time in a cosmological context. Life exists only on Earth and has not been found elsewhere. Moreover, the conditions that caused life to appear here are miraculous.

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A Just Cause ≠ A Just War

Poster Boy (CC BY-2.0)

Poster Boy (CC BY-2.0)

By Howard Zinn, via the Progressive:

Editor’s Note: Today we remember our legendary columnist Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States and champion of pacifism, civil rights, and the voices of the marginalized. On this fifth anniversary of his death in January 27, 2010, we present a classic essay on nonviolence adapted from his speech on May 2, 2009, at The Progressive’s 100th anniversary conference.

I want to talk about three holy wars. They aren’t religious wars, but they’re the three wars in American history that are sacrosanct, that you can’t say anything bad about: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II.

Let’s look carefully at these three idealized, three romanticized wars.

It’s important to at least be willing to raise the possibility that you could criticize something that everybody has accepted as uncriticizable.

We’re supposed to be thinking people.

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