concept to publication

Category: cool

Left face / Right face: Abe Lincoln.

Mailbag: Left Abe, Right Abe Makes Textbook Appearance

Left face / Right face: Abe Lincoln.

Left face / Right face: Abe Lincoln.

A representative of Oxford University Press writes requesting permission to use this image of Abe Lincoln (one of the 44 U.S. presidents better than the current one) in a textbook entitled MYP Biology 4&5. Of course I am delighted.

The image is part of a project I did about a decade ago comparing the left and right sides of people’s faces. I divided a series of face in half and showed what they would look like if both halves were like the right size versus both halves being like the left side.

I noted when I posted this image that “Lincoln had a condition called cranial facial microsomia — the left side of his face was much smaller than the right.” Above are, left to right, two-right-face Lincoln, actual Lincoln, and two-left-face Lincoln.


The pot in the garden

early 17th c. pipe

early 17th c. pipe

Shakespeare’s garden, that is (click image for link to BBC video).



What is water?

Cool video made from David Foster Wallace commencement address.

Stand by me

While we’re on the subject of music, here’s a fine chorus of street musicians from around the world. Pretty cool.

Who knows the way? Johnny Cash!

Denisovan migration across the Pacific


This map, from arstechnica, shows the distribution of genes of a protohuman species, Denisova hominins, among modern humans. The blue area in Europe, West Asia, and North Africa represent a low level of distribution of Denisovan genes, presumably because interbreeding in these areas was instead with Neanderthals. The Denisovan genes are most prevalent in New Zealand, but also in Australia, Southeast Asia, and southern China.

But what is striking about this map to me is something else: there is a strong distribution of Denisovan genes in northern South America. While there could be other explanations for this, this map seems pretty clearly to be indicating, in my opinion, that humans traveled directly across the Pacific to South America, and not across the Siberia-Alaska land bridge as used to be the conventional wisdom. It is possible that migration occurred that way too, but as far as this Denisovan-affected population is concerned, it sure looks like they just lit out straight across the Pacific.

Monkeys and squirrels in trees

This image is by the great Mughal painter Abul Hasan (I devote a few pages to him in the book I’m currently working on). Usually called “Squirrels in a Plane Tree,” it was painted by the artist when he was about seventeen. The solid flat background and stylized elements reflect the Persian painting tradition. Later Hasan would move more toward Western-style naturalism.

When I showed this image to Ellen she said, “Oh, the reason you like it is because it looks just like Caps for Sale.” “You’re right!” I said. I hadn’t thought of that comparison, but when our girls were little we used to enjoy that book by Esphyr Slobodkina. It was about a cap peddlar who carried his caps stacked on top of his head. One day he went to sleep under a tree (the cover inverts this, with the peddlar in the tree and monkeys on the ground).

caps for sale cover

While he was sleeping his caps were stolen. Looking up, he saw many monkeys in the tree, each wearing one of his caps. “You monkeys you!” he demanded. “You give me back my caps!” (Eventually he gets them back.)

Stylistically the Caps illustrations and the Hasan painting are not as close as memory made them seem. One of the most obvious differences is that the trunks and branches of the Caps tree are nothing but white space, an interesting strategy. By contrast, in Hasan’s painting the trunk and branches of the tree are one of the most volumetrically shaped elements in the painting.

Despite the differences they do share something of a similar spirit. And both are wonderful.

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