Anatomy of a Fake: Forgery Experts Reveal 5 Ways To Spot a Fake Painting by Jackson Pollock (or Any Other Artist)

In the old days, deter­min­ing an art forgery was most­ly a mat­ter of nar­ra­tive deduc­tion, a la Sher­lock Holmes.

Thi­a­go Piwowar­czyk and Jef­frey Tay­lor, founders of New York Art Foren­sics, employ such tech­niques to estab­lish prove­nance, trac­ing the chain of own­er­ship of any giv­en work back to its orig­i­nal sale by research­ing cat­a­logues, title trans­fers, and cor­re­spon­dence.

But they also bring a num­ber of high tech tools to the table, to fur­ther prove—or in the case of the alleged Jack­son Pol­lock drip paint­ing above, disprove—a work’s authen­tic­i­ty.

In the WIRED video above, these experts, whose pedi­gree includes degrees in Chem­istry, Foren­sic Sci­ence, and Com­par­a­tive His­to­ry, a Visu­al Arts Man­age­ment text­book, and two Frick Col­lec­tion Fel­low­ships, break the sleuthing process down to five crit­i­cal steps:

1. Estab­lish prove­nance

Obso­lete tech­nol­o­gy has a place in the process too, in the form of a high­ly unre­li­able fax, alleged­ly sent in 1997. It pur­ports to be a pho­to­copy of a type­writ­ten let­ter from 1970, writ­ten by a gallery own­er who talked one of the artist’s for­mer girl­friends into part­ing with a num­ber of works after his death.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly for the painting’s cur­rent own­er, Piwowar­czyk and Tay­lor could find no proof that the gallery or its own­er ever exist­ed. The let­ter also botch­es Pollock’s death date and odd­ly, there’s a blank where the sender’s num­ber would nor­mal­ly be.

Due dili­gence reveals noth­ing resem­bling this paint­ing in the cat­a­logue raison­né of Pollock’s work.

2. Close up visu­al analy­sis

This can be accom­plished with tools as sim­ple as the flash­light and plas­tic caliper Tay­lor uses to exam­ine the sta­ple holes found at reg­u­lar inter­vals along the unsigned can­vas’ edges. In the 1940s, artists start­ed grav­i­tat­ing toward sta­ples over tacks as a method for secur­ing their can­vas­es to stretch­er bars, but would Pol­lock have done so? Like­ly not, to hear him tell it:

I hard­ly ever stretch my can­vas before paint­ing. I pre­fer to tack the unstretched can­vas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resis­tance of a hard sur­face.

Piwowar­czyk and Tay­lor draw on their oth­er sens­es, too, when per­form­ing this in-depth visu­al inspec­tion. A deep sniff reveals that teabags were used to dis­col­or the can­vas, in hope of mak­ing it appear old­er than it is.

3. Pho­tog­ra­phy with a mul­ti­spec­tral imag­ing cam­era 

This camera’s abil­i­ty to see the Ultra-Vio­let spec­trum allows our foren­sic experts to spot restora­tions, under­draw­ing, and pen­ti­men­ti. Here, the cam­era revealed an under­ly­ing paint­ing whose geo­met­ric lay­out is unchar­ac­ter­is­tic of Pol­lock, as well as a sus­pi­cious­ly ama­teur­ish patch job on the back of the can­vas, anoth­er attempt to make the paint­ing appear old­er than it is.

4. Exam­i­na­tion with an X‑ray flu­o­res­cence spec­trom­e­ter

It looks like a cool Star Wars prop, and allows the exam­in­ers to iden­ti­fy ele­ments in the pig­ment. Here, our “Pol­lock” gets a pass. There’s tita­ni­um (as in Tita­ni­um White) in evi­dence, but that’s per­mis­si­ble for any­thing paint­ed from the 30s onward.

5. Mol­e­c­u­lar Imag­ing and Analy­sis by Raman Spec­troscopy

The forg­er might have got­ten away with it if it weren’t for those med­dling kids and their Raman Spec­tro­scope! The minus­cule sam­ples of paint Piwowar­czyk har­vests from the can­vas reveal all sorts of organ­ic debris that have no place in a Pol­lock, such as dry­wall dust and an acrylic that didn’t come into use ‘til the 1960s.

In con­clu­sion, exer­cise cau­tion and con­sult the experts before pur­chas­ing a high val­ue drip paint­ing this hol­i­day sea­son! Accord­ing to Piwowar­czyk, the fakes—over 100 and pre­sum­ably still counting—outstrip the num­ber of drip paint­ings Pol­lock cre­at­ed through­out his life­time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How an Art Con­ser­va­tor Com­plete­ly Restores a Dam­aged Paint­ing: A Short, Med­i­ta­tive Doc­u­men­tary

The Art of Restor­ing a 400-Year-Old Paint­ing: A Five-Minute Primer

How a Book Thief Forged a Rare Edi­tion of Galileo’s Sci­en­tif­ic Work, and Almost Pulled it Off

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC from Decem­ber 6 — 20 for the 10th anniver­sary pro­duc­tion of Greg Kotis’ apoc­a­lyp­tic hol­i­day tale, The Truth About San­ta, and the next month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Illustrated Medicinal Plant Map of the United States of America (1932): Download It in High Resolution

Two years ago, we high­light­ed col­lec­tor David Rumsey’s huge map archive, which he donat­ed to Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty in April of 2016 and which now resides at Stanford’s David Rum­sey Map Cen­ter. The open­ing of this phys­i­cal col­lec­tion was a pret­ty big deal, but the dig­i­tal col­lec­tion has been on the web, in some part, and avail­able to the online pub­lic since 1996. Twen­ty years ago, how­ev­er, though the inter­net was decid­ed­ly becom­ing an every­day fea­ture of mod­ern life, it was dif­fi­cult for the aver­age per­son to imag­ine the degree to which dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy would com­plete­ly over­take our lives, not to men­tion the almost unbe­liev­able wealth and pow­er tech com­pa­nies would amass in such short time.

Sim­i­lar­ly, when the above 1932 Med­i­c­i­nal Plant Map of the Unit­ed States (see in a larg­er for­mat here) first appeared—one of the tens of thou­sands of maps avail­able in the dig­i­tal Rum­sey col­lec­tion—few peo­ple oth­er than Aldous Hux­ley could have fore­seen the expo­nen­tial advances, and the rise of wealth and pow­er, to come in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try.

But the phar­ma­cists had a clue. The map, pro­duced by the Nation­al Whole­sale Drug­gists’ Asso­ci­a­tion, “was intend­ed to boost the image of the pro­fes­sion,” writes Rebec­ca Onion at Slate, “at a time when com­pa­nies were increas­ing­ly com­pound­ing new phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in labs,” there­by ren­der­ing much of the drug-mak­ing knowl­edge and skill of old-time drug­gists obso­lete.

Although the com­mer­cial phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try began tak­ing shape in the late 19th cen­tu­ry, it didn’t ful­ly come into its own until the so-called “gold­en era” of 1930–1960, when, says Onion, researchers devel­oped “a flood of new antibi­otics, psy­chotrop­ics, anti­his­t­a­mines, and vac­cines, increas­ing­ly rely­ing on syn­thet­ic chem­istry to do so.” Over-the-counter med­ica­tions pro­lif­er­at­ed, and phar­ma­cists became alarmed. They sought to per­suade the pub­lic of their con­tin­ued rel­e­vance by point­ing out, as a short blurb at the bot­tom left cor­ner of the map notes, that “few peo­ple real­ize the extent to which plants and min­er­als enter into the prac­tice of phar­ma­cy.”

The map appeared dur­ing “Phar­ma­cy Week” in Octo­ber, when “phar­ma­cists in Anglo-Sax­on coun­tries” pro­mote their ser­vices. Los­ing sight of those impor­tant ser­vices, the Drug­gists’ Asso­ci­a­tion writes, will lead to suf­fer­ing, should the tra­di­tion­al phar­ma­cist’s func­tion “be impaired or destroyed by com­mer­cial trends.” Thus we have this visu­al demon­stra­tion of com­pe­tence. The map iden­ti­fies impor­tant species—native or cultivated—in each region of the coun­try. In Ken­tucky, we see Nicoti­na tabacum, whose cured leaves, you guessed it, “con­sti­tute tobac­co.” Across the coun­try in Neva­da, we are intro­duced to Apoc­ynum cannabinum, “native of U.S. and South­ern Canada—the dried rhi­zome and roots con­sti­tute the drug apoc­ynum or Cana­di­an hemp.”

The bet­ter-known Can­nibus sati­va also appears, in one of the box­es around the map’s bor­der that intro­duce plants from out­side North Amer­i­ca, includ­ing Ery­throx­y­lon coca, from Bolivia and Peru, and Papaver som­nifer­um, from which opi­um derives. Many of the oth­er med­ica­tions will be less famil­iar to us—and belong to what we now call natur­opa­thy, herbal­ism, or, more gen­er­al­ly, “tra­di­tion­al med­i­cine.” Though these med­i­c­i­nal prac­tices are many thou­sands of years old, the drug­gists try to project a cut­ting-edge image, assur­ing the map’s read­ers that “intense sci­en­tif­ic study, expert knowl­edge, extreme care and accu­ra­cy are applied by the phar­ma­cist to med­i­c­i­nal plants.”

While phar­ma­cists today are high­ly-trained pro­fes­sion­als, the part of their jobs that involved the mak­ing of drugs from scratch has been ced­ed to mas­sive cor­po­ra­tions and their research lab­o­ra­to­ries. The drug­gists of 1932 saw this com­ing, and no amount of col­or­ful pub­lic rela­tions could stem the tide. But it may be the case, giv­en chang­ing laws, chang­ing atti­tudes, the back­lash against over­med­ica­tion, and the dev­as­tat­ing opi­oid epi­dem­ic, that their craft is more rel­e­vant than it has been in decades, though today’s “drug­gists” work in mar­i­jua­na dis­pen­saries and health food stores instead of nation­al phar­ma­cy chains.

View and down­load the map in a high res­o­lu­tion scan at the David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion, where you can zoom in to every plant on the map and read its descrip­tion.

via Slate

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 67,000 His­toric Maps (in High Res­o­lu­tion) from the Won­der­ful David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion

The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy, the “Most Ambi­tious Overview of Map Mak­ing Ever,” Is Now Free Online

1,000-Year-Old Illus­trat­ed Guide to the Med­i­c­i­nal Use of Plants Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

A Periodic Table Visualizing the Year & Country in Which Each Element Was Discovered

On the “Data is Beau­ti­ful” sub­red­dit, a user named Udzu post­ed a visu­al­i­sa­tion of the Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments that high­lights the year and coun­try in which each ele­ment was dis­cov­ered. You can view it in a larg­er for­mat here. Elab­o­rat­ing on how the graph­ic was made, he adds (his words, not mine, fol­low):

  • The year and coun­try of dis­cov­ery are tak­en from Wikipedia and are based on when the ele­ment was first observed or pre­dict­ed rather than when it was first iso­lat­ed.
  • The pri­or­i­ty for the dis­cov­er­ies is often con­tentious. The visu­al­i­sa­tion uses the list­ings cur­rent­ly in the Wikipedia arti­cle, with no claim as to their accu­ra­cy.
  • The coun­try is typ­i­cal­ly both the cit­i­zen­ship of the dis­cov­er­er and the loca­tion of dis­cov­ery. Excep­tions include Hafni­um (dis­cov­ered by a Dutch and Hun­gar­i­an duo in Copen­hagen) and Radon (dis­cov­ered by a British and Amer­i­can duo in Mon­tre­al); these are list­ed under loca­tion.
  • Coun­tries and flags are of the mod­ern equiv­a­lents when appro­pri­ate: e.g. Rus­sia rather than the USSR, UK rather than England/Scotland, and Mex­i­co rather than New Spain.
  • The ety­molo­gies are also tak­en from Wikipedia.
  • The leg­ends con­tain sum­ma­ry counts of the data. Good work, Swe­den.

Ranked in order, the UK could lay claim to 19 ele­ments, Swe­den and Ger­many to 18 each, France to 16, and Rus­sia and the Unit­ed States to 11 each.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Peri­od­ic Table of Endan­gered Ele­ments: Visu­al­iz­ing the Chem­i­cal Ele­ments That Could Van­ish Before You Know It

nter­ac­tive Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments Shows How the Ele­ments Actu­al­ly Get Used in Mak­ing Every­day Things

The Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments Scaled to Show The Ele­ments’ Actu­al Abun­dance on Earth

Peri­od­ic Table Bat­tle­ship!: A Fun Way To Learn the Ele­ments

“The Peri­od­ic Table Table” — All The Ele­ments in Hand-Carved Wood

World’s Small­est Peri­od­ic Table on a Human Hair

“The Peri­od­ic Table of Sto­ry­telling” Reveals the Ele­ments of Telling a Good Sto­ry

Chem­istry on YouTube: “Peri­od­ic Table of Videos” Wins SPORE Prize

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Infographics Show How the Different Fields of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics & Computer Science Fit Together

Ask any­one who’s pur­sued a career in the sci­ences what first piqued their inter­est in what would become their field, and they’ll almost cer­tain­ly have a sto­ry. Gaz­ing at the stars on a camp­ing trip, rais­ing a pet frog, fool­ing around with com­put­ers and their com­po­nents: an expe­ri­ence sparks a desire for knowl­edge and under­stand­ing, and the pur­suit of that desire even­tu­al­ly deliv­ers one to their spe­cif­ic area of spe­cial­iza­tion.

Or, as they say in sci­ence, at least it works that way in the­o­ry; the real­i­ty usu­al­ly unrolls less smooth­ly. On such a jour­ney, just like any oth­er, it might help to have a map.

Enter the work of sci­ence writer and physi­cist Dominic Wal­li­man, whose ani­mat­ed work on the Youtube chan­nel Domain of Sci­ence we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture. (See the “Relat­ed Con­tent” sec­tion below for the links.)

Wal­li­man’s videos astute­ly explain how the sub­fields of biol­o­gy, chem­istry, math­e­mat­ics, physics, and com­put­er sci­ence relate to each oth­er, but now he’s turned that same mate­r­i­al into info­graph­ics read­able at a glance: maps, essen­tial­ly, of the intel­lec­tu­al ter­ri­to­ry. He’s made these maps, of biol­o­gy, chem­istry, math­e­mat­ics, physics, and com­put­er sci­ence, freely avail­able on his Flickr account: you can view them all on a sin­gle page here along with a few more of his info­graph­ics..

As much use as Wal­li­man’s maps might be to sci­ence-mind­ed young­sters look­ing for the best way to direct their fas­ci­na­tions into a prop­er course of study, they also offer a help­ful reminder to those far­ther down the path — espe­cial­ly those who’ve strug­gled with the blind­ers of hyper­spe­cial­iza­tion — of where their work fits in the grand scheme of things. No mat­ter one’s field, sci­en­tif­ic or oth­er­wise, one always labors under the threat of los­ing sight of the for­est for the trees. Or the realm of life for the bioin­for­mat­ics, bio­physics, and bio­math­e­mat­ics; the whole of math­e­mat­ics for the num­ber the­o­ry, the dif­fer­en­tial geom­e­try, and the dif­fer­en­tial equa­tions; the work­ings of com­put­ers for the sched­ul­ing, the opti­miza­tion, and the boolean sat­is­fi­a­bil­i­ty.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Map of Biol­o­gy: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Biol­o­gy Fit Togeth­er

The Map of Com­put­er Sci­ence: New Ani­ma­tion Presents a Sur­vey of Com­put­er Sci­ence, from Alan Tur­ing to “Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty”

The Map of Math­e­mat­ics: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Math Fit Togeth­er

The Map of Physics: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Physics Fit Togeth­er

The Map of Chem­istry: New Ani­ma­tion Sum­ma­rizes the Entire Field of Chem­istry in 12 Min­utes

The Art of Data Visu­al­iza­tion: How to Tell Com­plex Sto­ries Through Smart Design

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

How the Brilliant Colors of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Were Made with Alchemy

Today the word “alche­my” seems used pri­mar­i­ly to label a vari­ety of crack­pot pur­suits, with their bogus premis­es and impos­si­ble promis­es. To the extent that alchemists long strove to turn lead mirac­u­lous­ly into gold, that sounds like a fair enough charge, but the field of alche­my as a whole, whose his­to­ry runs from Hel­lenis­tic Egypt to the 18th cen­tu­ry (with a revival in the 19th), chalked up a few last­ing, real­i­ty-based accom­plish­ments as well. Take, for instance, medieval illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts: with­out alche­my, they would­n’t have the vivid and var­ied col­or palettes that con­tin­ue to enrich our own vision of that era.

Many of the illu­mi­na­tors’ most bril­liant pig­ments “did­n’t come straight from nature but were made through alche­my,” says the video from the Get­ty above, pro­duced to accom­pa­ny the muse­um’s exhi­bi­tion “The Alche­my of Col­or in Medieval Man­u­scripts.”

Alchemists “explored how mate­ri­als inter­act­ed and trans­formed,” and “dis­cov­er­ing paint col­ors was a prac­ti­cal out­come.” The col­ors they devel­oped includ­ed “mosa­ic gold,” a fusion of tin and sul­fur; verdi­gris, “made by expos­ing cop­per to fumes of vine­gar, wine, or even urine”; and ver­mil­lion, a mix­ture of sul­fur and mer­cury that made a bril­liant red “asso­ci­at­ed with chem­i­cal change and with alche­my itself.”

The very nature of books, specif­i­cal­ly the fact that they spend most of the time closed, has per­formed a degree of inad­ver­tent preser­va­tion of illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts, keep­ing their alchem­i­cal col­ors rel­a­tive­ly bold and deep. (Although, as the Get­ty video notes, some pig­ments such as verdi­gris have a ten­den­cy to eat through the paper — one some­how wants to blame the urine.) Still, that hard­ly means that preser­va­tion­ists have noth­ing to do where illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts are con­cerned: keep­ing the win­dows they pro­vide onto the his­to­ries of art, the book, and human­i­ty clear takes work, some of it based on an ever-improv­ing under­stand­ing of alche­my. Lead may nev­er turn into gold, but these cen­turies-old illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts may sur­vive cen­turies into the future, a fact that seems not entire­ly un-mirac­u­lous itself.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold the Beau­ti­ful Pages from a Medieval Monk’s Sketch­book: A Win­dow Into How Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­scripts Were Made (1494)

The Aberdeen Bes­tiary, One of the Great Medieval Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­scripts, Now Dig­i­tized in High Res­o­lu­tion & Made Avail­able Online

1,600-Year-Old Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­script of the Aeneid Dig­i­tized & Put Online by The Vat­i­can

Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy Illus­trat­ed in a Remark­able Illu­mi­nat­ed Medieval Man­u­script (c. 1450)

Won­der­ful­ly Weird & Inge­nious Medieval Books

1,000-Year-Old Illus­trat­ed Guide to the Med­i­c­i­nal Use of Plants Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Read the Uplifting Letter That Albert Einstein Sent to Marie Curie During a Time of Personal Crisis (1911)

Marie Curie’s 1911 Nobel Prize win, her sec­ond, for the dis­cov­ery of radi­um and polo­ni­um, would have been cause for pub­lic cel­e­bra­tion in her adopt­ed France, but for the near­ly simul­ta­ne­ous rev­e­la­tion of her affair with fel­low physi­cist Paul Langevin, the fel­low stand­ing to the right of a 32-year-old Albert Ein­stein in the above group pho­to from the 1911 Solvay Con­fer­ence in Physics.

Both sto­ries broke while Curie—unsurprisingly, the sole woman in the photo—was attend­ing the con­fer­ence in Brus­sels.

Equal­ly unsur­pris­ing­ly, the press pre­ferred la scan­dal to la réal­i­sa­tion sci­en­tifique. Sex sells, then and now.

The fires of radi­um which beam so mysteriously…have just lit a fire in the heart of one of the sci­en­tists who stud­ies their action so devot­ed­ly; and the wife and the chil­dren of this sci­en­tist are in tears.…

—Le Jour­nal, Novem­ber 4, 1911

There’s no deny­ing that the affair was painful for Langevin’s fam­i­ly, par­tic­u­lar­ly his wife, Jeanne, who sup­plied the media with incrim­i­nat­ing let­ters from Curie to her hus­band. She must have been aware that Curie would be the one to bear the brunt of the public’s dis­ap­proval. Dou­ble stan­dards with regard to gen­der are noth­ing new.

A furi­ous throng gath­ered out­side of Curie’s house and anti-Semit­ic papers, dis­sat­is­fied with label­ing the pio­neer­ing sci­en­tist a mere home wreck­er, declared—erroneously—that she was Jew­ish. The time­line was tweaked to sug­gest that Curie had tak­en up with Langevin pri­or to her husband’s death. Fel­low radio­chemist Bertram Bolt­wood seized the oppor­tu­ni­ty to declare that “she is exact­ly what I always thought she was, a detestable idiot.”

In the midst of this, Ein­stein, who had made Curie’s acquain­tance at the con­fer­ence, proved him­self a true friend with a “don’t let the bas­tards get you down” let­ter, writ­ten on Novem­ber 23. Oth­er than a del­i­cate allu­sion to Langevin as a per­son with whom he felt priv­i­leged to be in con­tact, he refrained from men­tion­ing the cause of her mis­for­tune.

A friend­ly word can go a long way in times of dis­grace, and Ein­stein sup­plied his new friend with some stout­ly unequiv­o­cal ones, denounc­ing the scan­dal­mon­gers as “rep­tiles” feast­ing on sen­sa­tion­al­is­tic “hog­wash”:

High­ly esteemed Mrs. Curie,

Do not laugh at me for writ­ing you with­out hav­ing any­thing sen­si­ble to say. But I am so enraged by the base man­ner in which the pub­lic is present­ly dar­ing to con­cern itself with you that I absolute­ly must give vent to this feel­ing. How­ev­er, I am con­vinced that you con­sis­tent­ly despise this rab­ble, whether it obse­quious­ly lav­ish­es respect on you or whether it attempts to sati­ate its lust for sen­sa­tion­al­ism! I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intel­lect, your dri­ve, and your hon­esty, and that I con­sid­er myself lucky to have made your per­son­al acquain­tance in Brus­sels. Any­one who does not num­ber among these rep­tiles is cer­tain­ly hap­py, now as before, that we have such per­son­ages among us as you, and Langevin too, real peo­ple with whom one feels priv­i­leged to be in con­tact. If the rab­ble con­tin­ues to occu­py itself with you, then sim­ply don’t read that hog­wash, but rather leave it to the rep­tile for whom it has been fab­ri­cat­ed.

With most ami­ca­ble regards to you, Langevin, and Per­rin, yours very tru­ly,

A. Ein­stein

PS I have deter­mined the sta­tis­ti­cal law of motion of the diatom­ic mol­e­cule in Planck’s radi­a­tion field by means of a com­i­cal wit­ti­cism, nat­u­ral­ly under the con­straint that the structure’s motion fol­lows the laws of stan­dard mechan­ics. My hope that this law is valid in real­i­ty is very small, though.

That delib­er­ate­ly geeky post­script amounts to anoth­er sweet show of sup­port. Per­haps it for­ti­fied Curie when a week lat­er, she received a let­ter from Nobel Com­mit­tee mem­ber Svante Arrhe­nius, urg­ing her to skip the Prize cer­e­mo­ny in Stock­holm. Curie reject­ed Arrhe­nius’ sug­ges­tion thus­ly:

The prize has been award­ed for the dis­cov­ery of radi­um and polo­ni­um. I believe that there is no con­nec­tion between my sci­en­tif­ic work and the facts of pri­vate life. I can­not accept … that the appre­ci­a­tion of the val­ue of sci­en­tif­ic work should be influ­enced by libel and slan­der con­cern­ing pri­vate life.

For a more in-depth look at Marie Curie’s night­mar­ish Novem­ber, refer to “Hon­or and Dis­hon­or” the six­teenth chap­ter in Bar­bara Goldsmith’s Obses­sive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Marie Curie Attend­ed a Secret, Under­ground “Fly­ing Uni­ver­si­ty” When Women Were Banned from Pol­ish Uni­ver­si­ties

Albert Ein­stein Impos­es on His First Wife a Cru­el List of Mar­i­tal Demands

Marie Curie’s Research Papers Are Still Radioac­tive 100+ Years Lat­er

How Amer­i­can Women “Kick­start­ed” a Cam­paign to Give Marie Curie a Gram of Radi­um, Rais­ing $120,000 in 1921

Marie Curie Invent­ed Mobile X‑Ray Units to Help Save Wound­ed Sol­diers in World War I

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements: Visualizing the Chemical Elements That Could Vanish Before You Know It

The Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments lists the 118 chem­i­cal ele­ments that make up every­thing in our world. Some you’re famil­iar with–Hydrogen, Oxy­gen, Nitro­gen, etc. Oth­ers maybe less so–Vanadium, Ger­ma­ni­um and Yttri­um.

Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal Soci­ety, 44 of those 118 ele­ments might dis­ap­pear by cen­tu­ry’s end. Enter the Peri­od­ic Table of Endan­gered Ele­ments (shown above). The most endan­gered ones, high­light­ed in red, are Zinc, Gal­li­um, Ger­ma­ni­um, Arsenic (is this a good or very bad thing?), Sil­ver, Indi­um, Tel­luri­um, and Hafni­um. Made avail­able under a Cre­ative Com­mons license, the Peri­od­ic Table of Endan­gered Ele­ments can be viewed in a larg­er for­mat here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Inter­ac­tive Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments Shows How the Ele­ments Actu­al­ly Get Used in Mak­ing Every­day Things

The Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments Scaled to Show The Ele­ments’ Actu­al Abun­dance on Earth

Peri­od­ic Table Bat­tle­ship!: A Fun Way To Learn the Ele­ments

“The Peri­od­ic Table Table” — All The Ele­ments in Hand-Carved Wood

World’s Small­est Peri­od­ic Table on a Human Hair

“The Peri­od­ic Table of Sto­ry­telling” Reveals the Ele­ments of Telling a Good Sto­ry

Chem­istry on YouTube: “Peri­od­ic Table of Videos” Wins SPORE Prize

Free Online Chem­istry Cours­es

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A New Animation Explains How Caffeine Keeps Us Awake

Let’s pref­ace this by recall­ing that Hon­oré de Balzac drank up to 50 cups of cof­fee a day and lived to the ripe old age of … 51.

Of course, he pro­duced dozens of nov­els, plays, and short sto­ries before tak­ing his leave. Per­haps his caf­feine habit had a lit­tle some­thing to do with that?

Phar­ma­cist Hanan Qasim’s TED-Ed primer on how caf­feine keeps us awake top loads the pos­i­tive effects of the most world’s com­mon­ly used psy­choac­tive sub­stance. Glob­al con­sump­tion is equiv­a­lent to the weight of 14 Eif­fel Tow­ers, mea­sured in drops of cof­fee, soda, choco­late, ener­gy drinks, decaf…and that’s just humans. Insects get theirs from nec­tar, though with them, a lit­tle goes a very long, poten­tial­ly dead­ly way.

Caffeine’s struc­tur­al resem­blance to the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter adeno­sine is what gives it that spe­cial oomph. Adeno­sine caus­es sleepi­ness by plug­ging into neur­al recep­tors in the brain, caus­ing them to fire more slug­gish­ly. Caf­feine takes advan­tage of their sim­i­lar mol­e­c­u­lar struc­tures to slip into these recep­tors, effec­tive­ly steal­ing adenosine’s park­ing space.

With a bioavail­abil­i­ty of 99%, this inter­lop­er arrives ready to par­ty.

On the plus side, caf­feine is both a men­tal and phys­i­cal pick me up.

In appro­pri­ate dos­es, it can keep your mind from wan­der­ing dur­ing a late night study ses­sion.

It lifts the body’s meta­bol­ic rate and boosts per­for­mance dur­ing exercise—an effect that’s eas­i­ly coun­ter­act­ed by get­ting the bulk of your caf­feine from choco­late or sweet­ened soda, or by dump­ing anoth­er Eif­fel Tower’s worth of sug­ar into your cof­fee.

There’s even some evi­dence that mod­er­ate con­sump­tion may reduce the like­li­hood of such dis­eases as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and can­cer.

What to do when that caf­feine effect starts wear­ing off?

Gulp down more!

As with many drugs, pro­longed usage dimin­ish­es the sought-after effects, caus­ing its devo­tees (or addicts, if you like) to seek out high­er dos­es, neg­a­tive side effects be damned. Ner­vous jit­ters, incon­ti­nence, birth defects, raised heart rate and blood pres­sure… it’s a com­pelling case for stick­ing with water.

Ani­ma­tor Draško Ivez­ić (a 3‑lat­te-a-day man, accord­ing to his studio’s web­site) does a hilar­i­ous job of per­son­i­fy­ing both caf­feine and the humans in its thrall, par­tic­u­lar­ly an egg-shaped new father.

Go to TED-Ed to learn more, or test your grasp of caf­feine with a quiz.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wake Up & Smell the Cof­fee: The New All-in-One Cof­fee-Mak­er/Alarm Clock is Final­ly Here!

Physics & Caf­feine: Stop Motion Film Uses a Cup of Cof­fee to Explain Key Con­cepts in Physics

This is Cof­fee!: A 1961 Trib­ute to Our Favorite Stim­u­lant

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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