Archive for the ‘octopus’ Category

When I was in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend, I went to Tacoma for an afternoon of beer, wildlife viewing (seals and bald eagles! In an urban park!), and glass. I love Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. The first time I was there, quite a few years ago, there was a glass octopus!


This time, there was an exhibition called Kids Design Glass. The idea is that perfectly simple kind of genius: kids make a drawing on paper and glass artists render that into a sculpture. Between the drawings, titles, and artist statements by the kids, it was absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. Apart from just being funny, it was also incredibly imaginative, exuberant, occasionally touching and sad, and beautiful. If you have a chance to get to the museum before the exhibition closes, I really really recommend it.

There were several repeating motifs in the sculptures: dinosaurs figured in several sculptures, as did pickles (?), and mollusks! One of them is a pickle/mollusk combo. Here’s the sculpture:


Sorry it’s blurry, but this is the Pickle Buck, who lives on an island called Lava Squid and has “squids strapped so it can go.” Here’s the sculpture:


I love the multicolor glass on those squid.

The other one was the Octopussy. Keep your giggles to yourself; this is a family exhbition. Here’s the drawing:

Evil octopus! And the sculpture:


Hm, five tentacles? We’ll chalk that up to imagination!

There’s a flickr set of the making of one of the (non-mollusk related) pieces. Check it out!

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Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve got some links for you:

1. This is a totally fascinating article about how a species of all-male clams hijacks genes from other species when they parasitize their eggs. Super freaky stuff.

2. Also, invasive nudibranchs! I love nudibranchs, but these ones are bad news, as they prey on the native nudibranchs in the Bay Area. Nudibranch adundance is correlated with warming. These “killer” nudibranchs have been moving northward over the years, acting as an indicator for climate change.

Phidiana hiltoni Pugnacious Aeolid
(photo: marlin harms)

3. In octopus news, some researchers at Hebrew University have shown that an octopus can use a single arm to complete a complex task. I’m wondering how they got the octopus to refrain from using its other arms… I’m also bemused by the fact the article claims octopuses are “flexible as ballet dancers.” Come on, give the octopus some credit! It doesn’t have bones; surely it’s more flexible than a ballet dancer.

4. And, of course, a lollusk:

funny pictures - RELEASE DA KRACKON!
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

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I keep comparing NMNH to AMNH, because I just can’t help it. I’m at AMNH probably about once a month, so I just know it well. Their fossils of vertebrate origins, dinosaurs, marine reptiles, extinct mammals, and animal relatives are truly amazing. I bet they also have a dandy invertebrate fossil collection, but they don’t display it. What a dream it would be to plumb the depths of that museum, open some drawers. Anyway, NMNH doesn’t actually have that many dinosaurs, so guess what that means? Inverts ahoy! Ammonites make the prettiest fossils, I must say.


I’m so glad there’s a hand in here for scale, even if it does belong to Bruce Springsteen circa 1984.


I love this action painting of ammonites getting chomped by a mosasaur.


In addition to going to the Natural History Museum, I also went to the National Zoo! Obligatory panda photo:


The amazing thing is that the National Zoo has a wonderful building devoted to invertebrates. The building is near the komodo dragon, which is also awesome, by the way. All sorts of cool invertebrates are on display in the building including insects, corals, echinoderms, etc, and mollusks, naturally. There were a bunch of nautiluses and one lone cuttlefish together in one tank.


And a Pacific Giant Octopus in another tank, who made a run for it as soon as the camera came out. How cool! I was not expecting mollusks at the zoo; what a bonus. DC loves mollusks!


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OK, so this trip to DC. It was like mollusk overload! Not really, I can’t overload on mollusks. The two big things on my DC itinerary were the zoo and the Natural History Museum. The forecast called for rain on Saturday and sun on Sunday, so that made that decision pretty easy.

The main goal at the Natural History Museum was to see the crocheted coral reef, which was indeed incredible. There were so many different parts to the exhibit, and they had a zoologist and a crocheter on hand to talk to people.

One friend I was with had the interesting if somewhat philosophical question: Is coral rock? The zoologist said no, but clearly at some point coral becomes rock, right? The Guadalupe Mountains in Texas are primarily a coral reef from the Permian Period, for example, and I’m quite sure people would say that’s rock. At what point does coral achieve rockness?

But back to the crochet and the mollusks. I was delighted to see that mollusks were represented among the crocheted organisms.

Like this octopus! Well, unless it’s a jellyfish. I didn’t actually count the tentacles.

I like to think this curly thing on the floor is a nudibranch. But then again it’s just as likely it’s a marine flatworm like Pseudobiceros hancockanus. Hrm.

OK, this one! This one’s definitely a clam. Phew.

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I love the art and poetry in the subway. The art seen on the subway trains basically always depicts the subway somehow, but usually in a more fantastical way. This one I’m rather fond of features a train of submarines using eels as the third rail. And of course there’s an octopus at the controls.

I was also at the Prospect Park Zoo recently (baby baboons are hilarious, take it from me), and I saw this octopus topiary, or octopiary as I’m now calling it. I’m hoping to check it out this summer and see if they fill it in. It’s frankly a little menacing as is, not to mention a bit of a nonsequitur considering you have to go to the Aquarium if you want to see an octopus.

Spring is certainly in the air here in Central Park, although it hasn’t really been warm. There are still some signs, though.

Trees have been greening.

Daffodils springing.

And rocks turtling.

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So if you read boingboing, this week you saw the special feature on Everybody Loves Cephalopods, which includes a great video on cephalopod neurobiology and behavior. If you didn’t catch it, you can enjoy it now!

What follows:
1. Cephalopods are awesome.
2. My last post was on mollusks inspiring art.
3. This week I also came across this video of an octopus coming out of a beer bottle:

The culmination of all of this stuff? This print I just found by artist Sally Harless, whose internet home is sadlyharmless.

You can buy a print from her etsy store! I came across this because she has another print of a scarf being knit by two narwhals acting as the needles. She has yet another print of musk oxen, yet another of my favorite animals, so I might just need a tryptic of her work in my apartment…

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I recently watched two documentaries (available instantly on Netflix) that got me thinking. One was called A Man Named Pearl, about an extraordinary topiary artist named Pearl Fryar, who lives in Bishopville, SC. The other was a documentary about paper folding/origami called Between the Folds.

A Man Named Pearl was interesting mostly because his topiaries are stunning and he himself is quite the dude. I got a bit annoyed with the movie for the same reason I gave up on the Ken Burns National Parks series despite my intense love for the National Parks system– it was weighed down with unnecessary religiosity. That said, it’s still a movie worth watching, and not just for the topiaries, because it also has some interesting commentary on race and class in the South.

Between the Folds was just fascinating, hands down. I liked how the film profiles people with different approaches to paper folding, from craftspeople to technicians to anarchists. I suppose most artforms can accomodate all those types. What I also hadn’t really ever thought about is how origami is a transformative art– there’s no adding of media (as there is in, say, painting), nor is there subtracting of media (e.g. some kinds of sculpture). That kind of constraint is really intriguing to me. One of my other favorite artforms, glassblowing, is similar in that regard, though not as rigid since adding and subtracting does happen. Thinking back to Pearl’s topiary, he’s got this incredible task of subtracting, transforming (by training branches, etc) and anticipating the addition that happens naturally and ever so gradually.

Fiber arts, my media of choice, also has that quality of transformation. Where paper folding is taking something two dimensional and giving it a third dimension, knitting and related crafts take something essentially one dimensional and transform it into higher dimensions. Cool stuff. It’s no coincidence that I’m a math geek and a knitting/crocheting enthusiast.

So what does this have to do with mollusks? Well, part of why I love mollusks is that people are so inspired by them, including both topiary artists and paper folders. I’m sorely tempted to attempt a wee topiary of my own, like so:

But there are some great topiaries to be seen: check these out!

And origami! Just check out the underside of this octopus!

Octopus (hunting) take 5
(photo: josephwuorigami)

Mollusks lend themselves wonderfully to paper folding, especially shells and snails.

There’s a bonanza of clickage in this post. If you missed the origami squid attacking the old timey ship, I urge you to retrace your steps!

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It’s been a while since there have been any mollusk mathematics around these parts, and the New York Times treated us to some the other day. There’s also some fun word play in there too, including that I forgot that in some cases you can also plurlalize -us words with -era, like genera and opera!

The new thing I learned from reading this article, apart from the fact that probability is not my mathematical forte, is that all octopuses (and cuttlefish) are poisonous. I just spoiled you on the answer to one of the questions, but how cool, and that result is fairly recent news. It’s still true that only the blue ringed octopus is a danger to humans– from poison anyway–wrestle an octopus at your own risk!

(This is a print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from c. 1839. See many more at The Kuniyoshi Project!)

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A moment of silence

Paul the Prognosticating Octopus has died. He had a good life. I really like the tribute Justina Kochansky did on Articulate Matter

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What to do, what to do. Why not be your favorite mollusk? Do you have lots of metro cards hanging around your house? I know I do.

Coney Island - 2007 Mermaid Parade - Metrocard
(photo: wally g, hat: andygpadre8)

What about an old sweatshirt you don’t need?

Here’s the instructable for this costume.

Are you really crafty, or perhaps have a crafty friend?

Nora Renick-Rinehart made this costume for Lucy Knisley.

I’m sure you’ll come up with something…

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