Why Renaissance Masters Added Egg Yolk to Their Paints: A New Study Sheds Light

Today we think of the Renais­sance as one of those peri­ods when every­thing changed, and if the best-known arti­facts of the time are any­thing to go by, noth­ing changed quite so much as art. This is reflect­ed in obvi­ous aes­thet­ic dif­fer­ences between the works of the Renais­sance and those cre­at­ed before, as well as in less obvi­ous tech­ni­cal ones. Egg yolk-based tem­pera paints, for exam­ple, had been in use since the time of the ancient Egyp­tians, but in the fif­teenth cen­tu­ry they were replaced by oil paints. When chem­i­cal analy­sis of the work of cer­tain Renais­sance mas­ters revealed traces of egg, they were assumed to be the result of chance con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

Now, thanks to a recent study led by chem­i­cal engi­neer Ophélie Ran­quet of the Karl­sruhe Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy, we have rea­son to believe that painters like Bot­ti­cel­li and Leonar­do kept eggs in the mix delib­er­ate­ly. Oil replaced tem­pera because “it cre­ates more vivid col­ors and smoother col­or tran­si­tions,” writes Smithsonian.com’s Tere­sa Nowakows­ki.

“It also dries slow­ly, so it can be used for longer after the ini­tial prepa­ra­tion.” But “the col­ors dark­en more eas­i­ly over time, and the paint is more sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age from light expo­sure. It also has a ten­den­cy to wrin­kle as it dries,” vis­i­ble in Leonar­do’s Madon­na of the Car­na­tion below.

Putting in a bit of egg yolk may have been a way of using oil’s advan­tages while min­i­miz­ing its dis­ad­van­tages. Ran­quet and her col­lab­o­ra­tors test­ed this idea by doing it them­selves, re-cre­at­ing two pig­ments used dur­ing the Renais­sance, both with egg and with­out. “In the may­olike blend” pro­duced by the for­mer method, writes Sci­ence­News’ Jude Cole­man, “the yolk cre­at­ed stur­dy links between pig­ment par­ti­cles, result­ing in stiffer paint. Such con­sis­ten­cy would have been ide­al for tech­niques like impas­to, a raised, thick style that adds tex­ture to art. Egg addi­tions also could have reduced wrin­kling by cre­at­ing a firmer paint con­sis­ten­cy,” though the paint itself would take longer to dry.

In prac­tice, Renais­sance painters seem to have exper­i­ment­ed with dif­fer­ent pro­por­tions of oil and egg, and so dis­cov­ered that each had its own strengths for ren­der­ing dif­fer­ent ele­ments of an image. Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Tay­lor Michael writes that in The Lamen­ta­tion Over the Dead Christ, seen up top, “Bot­ti­cel­li paint­ed Christ, Mary Mag­da­lene, and the Vir­gin, among oth­ers, with tem­pera, and the back­ground stone and fore­ground­ing grass with oil.” Thanks to the oxi­diza­tion-slow­ing effects of phos­pho­lipids and antiox­i­dants in the yolk — as sci­en­tif­ic research has since proven — they’ve all come through the past five cen­turies look­ing hard­ly worse for wear.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Car­avag­gio Paint­ed: A Re-Cre­ation of the Great Master’s Process

Dis­cov­er Harvard’s Col­lec­tion of 2,500 Pig­ments: Pre­serv­ing the World’s Rare, Won­der­ful Col­ors

The Largest & Most Detailed Pho­to­graph of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch Is Now Online: Zoom In & See Every Brush Stroke

A 900-Page Pre-Pan­tone Guide to Col­or from 1692: A Com­plete High-Res­o­lu­tion Dig­i­tal Scan

A 3,000-Year-Old Painter’s Palette from Ancient Egypt, with Traces of the Orig­i­nal Col­ors Still In It

The Old­est Known Globe to Depict the New World Was Engraved on an Ostrich Egg, Maybe by Leonar­do da Vin­ci (1504)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

Parrots Taught to FaceTime Each Other Become Less Lonely, a New Study Shows

It’s telling that the avian par­tic­i­pants in a recent study where­in pet par­rots, assist­ed by their own­ers, learned to make video calls to oth­ers of their kind were recruit­ed from the online edu­ca­tion­al forum Par­rot Kinder­garten.

In the above footage, the humans’ hope­ful, high-pitched cajol­ing, as they encour­age their birds to inter­act with a new “friend”, car­ries a strong whiff of those Mom­my and Me class­es where a dozen or so adults sit cross­legged in a cir­cle, shak­ing tam­bourines and bright­ly war­bling “Twin­kle, Twin­kle, Lit­tle Star,” while an equal num­ber of tod­dlers wan­der around, marked­ly less invest­ed in the pro­ceed­ings.

Though, real­ly, who am I to judge? I don’t have a par­rot, and it’s been over two decades since my youngest child required parental inter­fer­ence to foment social inter­ac­tion…

Eigh­teen pet par­rots enrolled in the study, hang­ing out with one anoth­er dur­ing self-ini­ti­at­ed video chats, to see how and if such inter­ac­tions might improve their qual­i­ty of life.

No one was forced to make a call if they weren’t feel­ing it, or to remain on the line after their inter­est flagged.

I’m hunch­ing the aver­age parrot’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy clocks in far south of the aver­age Amer­i­can toddler’s, which may explain why they com­plet­ed a mere 147 calls over the course of two months (and 1000 hours of com­bined footage.)

That said, I can eas­i­ly imag­ine a sce­nario in which the aver­age human tod­dler, hav­ing suc­cess­ful­ly got­ten their beak, excuse me, hands on a touch­screen tablet, los­es all inter­est in Face­Tim­ing with a peer, pre­fer­ring the soli­tary plea­sures of Bal­loon Pop or Peek-a-Zoo.

Typ­i­cal­ly, human tod­dlers have more oppor­tu­ni­ties for “inter­species eth­i­cal enrich­ment” than crea­tures whose lives are pri­mar­i­ly spent in a cage. As the authors of the study note, “over 20 mil­lion par­rots are kept as pets in the US, often lack­ing appro­pri­ate stim­uli to meet their high social, cog­ni­tive, and emo­tion­al needs.”

The par­rot par­tic­i­pants may not have thrown them­selves into the pro­ceed­ings with the vig­or of Bye Bye Birdie’s teenaged tele­phone cho­rus, but all placed calls, the major­i­ty exhib­it­ed “high moti­va­tion and inten­tion­al­i­ty”, and their humans indi­cat­ed that they would glad­ly con­tin­ue to facil­i­tate this social exper­i­ment.

The human con­tri­bu­tion is not incon­sid­er­able here. It took vast amounts of time and patience to ori­ent the birds to the sys­tem, and care­ful mon­i­tor­ing to make sure calls didn’t run off the rails. Noth­ing like hav­ing your iPad screen smashed by a par­rot who’s got beef in an online forum…

Sev­er­al legit friend­ships formed over the course of the exper­i­ment — a Goffin’s cock­a­too and an African grey who made each other’s vir­tu­al acquain­tance dur­ing the pilot study were still chat­ting, a year after they met.

Data col­lect­ed in the field shows that the num­ber and dura­tion of out­go­ing calls were close­ly tied to the num­ber and dura­tion of incom­ing calls. The most pop­u­lar birdies did not take their con­nec­tions for grant­ed.

It’s a find­ing humans would do well to absorb if we are to com­bat feel­ings of iso­la­tion from with­in our own species.

Read Birds of a Feath­er Video-Flock Togeth­er: Design and Eval­u­a­tion of an Agency-Based Par­rot-to-Par­rot Video-Call­ing Sys­tem for Inter­species Eth­i­cal Enrich­ment here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

What Kind of Bird Is That?: A Free App From Cor­nell Will Give You the Answer

Explore an Inter­ac­tive Ver­sion of The Wall of Birds, a 2,500 Square-Foot Mur­al That Doc­u­ments the Evo­lu­tion of Birds Over 375 Mil­lion Years

Cor­nell Launch­es Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Ani­mal Sounds, with Record­ings Going Back to 1929

Par­rot Sings AC/DCs “Whole Lot­ta Rosie”

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


Carl Sagan Explains How the Ancient Greeks, Using Reason & Math, Discovered That the Earth Isn’t Flat Over 2,000 Years Ago

The denial of sci­ence suf­fus­es Amer­i­can soci­ety, and no mat­ter what the data says, some con­ser­v­a­tive forces refuse efforts to cur­tail, or even study, cli­mate change. Astro­physi­cist Katie Mack calls this retrench­ment a form of “data nihilism,” writ­ing in an exas­per­at­ed tweet, “What is sci­ence? How can a thing be known? Is any­thing even real???” Indeed, what can we expect next from what Isaac Asi­mov called the Unit­ed States’ anti-intel­lec­tu­al “cult of igno­rance”? A flat earth lob­by?

Welp… at least a cou­ple celebri­ty fig­ures have come out as flat-earth­ers, per­haps the van­guard of an anti-round earth move­ment. Notably, [Dal­las Mav­er­icks] guard Kyrie Irv­ing made the claim on a pod­cast, insist­ing, Chris Matyszczyk writes, that “we were being lied to about such basic things by the glob­al elites.” Is this a joke? I hope so. Neil DeGrasse Tyson—who host­ed the recent Cos­mos remake to try and dis­pel such sci­en­tif­ic ignorance—replied all the same, not­ing that Irv­ing should “stay away from jobs that require… under­stand­ing of the nat­ur­al world.” The weird affair has played out like a sideshow next to the main­stage polit­i­cal cir­cus, an unset­tling reminder of Carl Sagan’s pre­dic­tion in his last book, The Demon Haunt­ed World, that Amer­i­cans would soon find their “crit­i­cal fac­ul­ties in decline, unable to dis­tin­guish between what feels good and what’s true.”

Sagan devot­ed much of his life to coun­ter­ing anti-sci­ence trends with warmth and enthu­si­asm, park­ing him­self “repeat­ed­ly, arguably com­pul­sive­ly, in front of TV cam­eras,” writes Joel Achen­bach at Smith­son­ian. We most remem­ber him for his orig­i­nal 1980 Cos­mos minis­eries, his most pub­lic role as a “gate­keep­er of sci­en­tif­ic cred­i­bil­i­ty,” as Achen­bach calls him. I think Sagan may have chafed at the descrip­tion. He want­ed to open the gates and let the pub­lic into sci­en­tif­ic inquiry. He char­i­ta­bly lis­tened to unsci­en­tif­ic the­o­ries, and patient­ly took the time to explain their flaws.

In the very first episode of Cos­mos, Sagan addressed the flat-earth­ers, indi­rect­ly, by explain­ing how Eratos­thenes (276–194 BC), a Libyan-Greek schol­ar and chief librar­i­an at the Library of Alexan­dria, dis­cov­ered over 2000 years ago that the earth is a sphere. Giv­en the geo­g­ra­ph­er, math­e­mati­cian, poet, his­to­ri­an, and astronomer’s incred­i­ble list of accomplishments—a sys­tem of lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude, a map of the world, a sys­tem for find­ing prime numbers—this may not even rank as his high­est achieve­ment.

In the Cos­mos clip above, Sagan explains Eratos­thenes’ sci­en­tif­ic method: he made obser­va­tions of how shad­ows change length giv­en the posi­tion of the sun in the sky. Esti­mat­ing the dis­tance between the cities of Syene and Alexan­dria, he was then able to math­e­mat­i­cal­ly cal­cu­late the cir­cum­fer­ence of the earth, as Cyn­thia Stokes Brown explains at Khan Acad­e­my. Although “sev­er­al sources of error crept into Eratos­thenes’ cal­cu­la­tions and our inter­pre­ta­tion of them,” he nonethe­less suc­ceed­ed almost per­fect­ly. His esti­ma­tion: 250,000 sta­dia, or 25,000 miles. The actu­al cir­cum­fer­ence: 24,860 miles (40.008 kilo­me­ters).

No, of course the Earth isn’t flat. But Sagan’s les­son on how one sci­en­tist from antiq­ui­ty came to know that isn’t an exer­cise in debunk­ing. It’s a jour­ney into the move­ment of the solar sys­tem, into ancient sci­en­tif­ic his­to­ry, and most impor­tant­ly, per­haps, into the sci­en­tif­ic method, which does not rely on hearsay from “glob­al elites” or shad­owy fig­ures, but on the tools of obser­va­tion, infer­ence, rea­son­ing, and math. Pro­fes­sion­al sci­en­tists are not with­out their bias­es and con­flicts of inter­est, but the most fun­da­men­tal intel­lec­tu­al tools they use are avail­able to every­one on Earth.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2017. This ver­sion has been light­ly edit­ed and updat­ed.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Carl Sagan Pre­dicts the Decline of Amer­i­ca: Unable to Know “What’s True,” We Will Slide, “With­out Notic­ing, Back into Super­sti­tion & Dark­ness” (1995)

Hear Carl Sagan Art­ful­ly Refute a Cre­ation­ist on a Talk Radio Show: “The Dar­win­ian Con­cept of Evo­lu­tion is Pro­found­ly Ver­i­fied”

Carl Sagan Presents His “Baloney Detec­tion Kit”: 8 Tools for Skep­ti­cal Think­ing


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

Beethoven’s Genome Has Been Sequenced for the First Time, Revealing Clues About the Great Composer’s Health & Family History

Lud­wig van Beethoven died in 1827, a bit ear­ly to be sub­ject­ed to the kinds of DNA analy­sis that have become so preva­lent today. Luck­i­ly, the Ger­man-speak­ing world of the ear­ly nine­teenth cen­tu­ry still adhered to the cus­tom of sav­ing locks of hair from the deceased — par­tic­u­lar­ly lucky for an archae­ol­o­gy stu­dent named Tris­tan Begg and his col­lab­o­ra­tors in the study “Genom­ic analy­ses of hair from Lud­wig van Beethoven,” pub­lished just this month in Cur­rent Biol­o­gy. In the video from Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty just above, Begg intro­duces the research project and describes what new infor­ma­tion it reveals about the com­pos­er whose life and work have been so inten­sive­ly stud­ied for so long.

“Work­ing with an inter­na­tion­al team of sci­en­tists, I iden­ti­fied five genet­i­cal­ly match­ing, authen­tic locks of hair and used them to sequence Beethoven’s genome,” Begg says. “We dis­cov­ered sig­nif­i­cant genet­ic risk fac­tors for liv­er dis­ease and evi­dence that Beethoven con­tract­ed the Hepati­tis B virus in, at the lat­est, the months before his final ill­ness.”

And “while we could­n’t pin­point the cause of Beethoven’s deaf­ness or gas­troin­testi­nal prob­lems, we did find mod­est genet­ic risk for Sys­temic Lupus Ery­the­mato­sus,” an autoim­mune dis­ease. His­to­ry remem­bers Beethoven as a not par­tic­u­lar­ly healthy man; now we have a clear­er idea of which con­di­tions he could have suf­fered.

But this study’s most rev­e­la­to­ry dis­cov­er­ies con­cern not what has to do with Beethoven, but what does­n’t. The famous lock of hair “once believed to have been cut from the dead com­poser’s head by the fif­teen-year-old musi­cian Fer­di­nand Hiller” turns out to have come from a woman. Nor was Beethoven him­self “descend­ed from the main Flem­ish Beethoven lin­eage,” which is shown by genet­ic evi­dence that “an extra­mar­i­tal rela­tion­ship result­ed in the birth of a child in Beethoven’s direct pater­nal line at some point between 1572 and 1770.” This news came as a shock to “the five peo­ple in Bel­gium whose last name is van Beethoven and who pro­vid­ed DNA for the study,” writes the New York Times’ Gina Kola­ta. But then, Beethoven’s music still belongs to them — just as it belongs to us all.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Stream the Com­plete Works of Bach & Beethoven: 250 Free Hours of Music

Beethoven’s Unfin­ished Tenth Sym­pho­ny Gets Com­plet­ed by Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Hear How It Sounds

The Sto­ry of How Beethoven Helped Make It So That CDs Could Play 74 Min­utes of Music

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Cre­ativ­i­ty Machine Learns to Play Beethoven in the Style of The Bea­t­les’ “Pen­ny Lane”

Hear a “DNA-Based Pre­dic­tion of Nietzsche’s Voice:” First Attempt at Sim­u­lat­ing Voice of a Dead Per­son

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

Behold an Astonishing Near-Nightly Spectacle in the Lightning Capital of the World

Extreme weath­er con­di­tions have become a top­ic of grave con­cern. Are floods, earth­quakes, tor­na­does and cat­a­stroph­ic storms the new nor­mal?

Just for a moment, let’s trav­el to a place where extreme weath­er has always been the norm: Lake Mara­cai­bo in north­west­ern Venezuela.

Accord­ing to NASA’s Trop­i­cal Rain­fall Mea­sur­ing Mis­sion’s light­ning image sen­sor, it is the light­ning cap­i­tal of the world.

Chalk it up to the unique geog­ra­phy and cli­mate con­di­tions near the con­flu­ence of the lake and the Cata­tum­bo Riv­er. At night, the moist warm air above the water col­lides with cool breezes rolling down from the Andes, cre­at­ing an aver­age of 297 thun­der­storms a year.

Watch­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er Jonas Pio­ntek’s short film doc­u­ment­ing the phe­nom­e­non, above, it’s not sur­pris­ing that chief among his tips for shoot­ing light­ning at night is a point­ed warn­ing to always keep a safe dis­tance from the storm. While view­able from as far as 400 kilo­me­ters away, the area near­est the light­ning activ­i­ty can aver­age 28 strikes per minute.

More than 400 years before Pio­ntek shared his impres­sions with the world, Span­ish poet Lope de Vega tapped Cata­tum­bo light­ning in his epic 1597 poem La Drag­ontea, cred­it­ing it, erro­neous­ly, with hav­ing  thwart­ed Sir Fran­cis Drake’s plans to con­quer the city of Mara­cai­bo under cov­er of night. His poet­ic license was per­sua­sive enough that it’s still an accept­ed part of the myth.

The “eter­nal storm” did how­ev­er give Venezue­lan naval forces a gen­uine nat­ur­al assist, by illu­mi­nat­ing a squadron of Span­ish ships on Lake Mara­cai­bo, which they defeat­ed on July 24, 1823, clear­ing the way to inde­pen­dence.

Once upon a time, large num­bers of local fish­er­men took advan­tage of their prime posi­tion to fish by night, although with recent defor­esta­tion, polit­i­cal con­flict, and eco­nom­ic decline dec­i­mat­ing the vil­lages where they live in tra­di­tion­al stilt­ed hous­es, their liveli­hood is in decline.

Mean­while the Eter­nal Storm has itself been affect­ed by forces of extreme weath­er. In 2010, a drought occa­sioned by a par­tic­u­lar­ly strong El Niño, caused light­ning activ­i­ty to cease for 6 weeks, its longest dis­ap­pear­ance in 104 years.

Envi­ron­men­tal­ist Erik Quiroga, who is cam­paign­ing for the Cata­tum­bo light­ning to be des­ig­nat­ed as the world’s first UNESCO World Her­itage Weath­er Phe­nom­e­non warns, “This is a unique gift and we are at risk of los­ing it.”

See more of Jonas Piontek’s Cata­tum­bo light­ning pho­tographs here.

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Leonardo’s Lost Sketches Suggest That He Theorized Gravity Before Galileo & Newton

It would be clichéd to describe Leonar­do da Vin­ci as a man ahead of his time. But in the case of the quin­tes­sen­tial Renais­sance poly­math, it may well be one of those clichés firm­ly root­ed in truth. In fact, that root­ing has just grown even firmer with the dis­cov­ery of a tri­an­gle that Leonar­do sketched in one of his note­books, the Codex Arun­del (cir­ca 1478–1518). That tri­an­gle, as the New York Times’ William J. Broad writes, had “an adjoin­ing pitch­er and, pour­ing from its spout, a series of cir­cles that formed the triangle’s hypotenuse.” This image sounds sim­ple, but it reveals that Leonar­do approached an under­stand­ing of the laws of grav­i­ty before Galileo, and well before New­ton.

This find­ing is the work of Morteza Gharib, a pro­fes­sor of aero­nau­tics at the Cal­i­for­nia Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy. Cap­ti­vat­ed by this sketch, he “used a com­put­er pro­gram to flip the tri­an­gle and the adja­cent areas of back­ward writ­ing,” which clar­i­fied what Leonar­do was attempt­ing to do.

His dia­gram turned out “to split the effects of grav­i­ty into two parts that revealed an aspect of nature nor­mal­ly kept hid­den.” The first part was grav­i­ty’s “nat­ur­al down­ward pull”; the sec­ond was the move­ment of the pitch­er itself along a line. That Leonar­do drew “the pitcher’s con­tents falling low­er and low­er over time” implies his under­stand­ing that “grav­i­ty was a con­stant force that result­ed in a steady accel­er­a­tion.”

Along with co-authors Chris Roh and Flavio Noca, Gharib has pub­lished a paper on “Leonar­do da Vinci’s Visu­al­iza­tion of Grav­i­ty as a Form of Accel­er­a­tion” in this mon­th’s issue of Leonar­do — an appro­pri­ate­ly named jour­nal in this case, though one ded­i­cat­ed less to the study of Leonar­do the man than to the study of the inter­sec­tion of art and sci­ence he occu­pied. As Gharib and oth­ers see it, Leonar­do “was far more than an artist and sug­gest­ed that his fame as a pio­neer­ing sci­en­tist could sky­rock­et if more tech­ni­cal­ly knowl­edge­able experts probed the Codex Arun­del and oth­er sources” — the kind of experts who can tell that, with his pitch­er and tri­an­gle, Leonar­do man­aged to deter­mine the strength of gravity’s pull to an accu­ra­cy of about 97 per­cent. Which leads us to won­der: What else about the nature of real­i­ty must he have worked out in the mar­gins of his note­books?

via Art­net

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Vision­ary Note­books Now Online: Browse 570 Dig­i­tized Pages

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Ele­gant Design for a Per­pet­u­al Motion Machine

How Leonar­do da Vin­ci Made His Mag­nif­i­cent Draw­ings Using Only a Met­al Sty­lus, Pen & Ink, and Chalk

Down­load the Sub­lime Anato­my Draw­ings of Leonar­do da Vin­ci: Avail­able Online, or in a Great iPad App

A Com­plete Dig­i­ti­za­tion of Leonar­do Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanti­cus, the Largest Exist­ing Col­lec­tion of His Draw­ings & Writ­ings

The Old­est Known Globe to Depict the New World Was Engraved on an Ostrich Egg, Maybe by Leonar­do da Vin­ci (1504)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

The Map of Engineering: A New Animation Shows How All of the Different Fields in Engineering Fit Together

In his lat­est ani­ma­tion, physi­cist and sci­ence writer Dominic Wal­li­man maps out the entire field of engi­neer­ing and all of its sub­dis­ci­plines. Civ­il engi­neer­ing, chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing, bio engi­neer­ing, bio­med­ical engi­neer­ing, mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing, aero­space engi­neer­ing, marine engi­neer­ing, elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing, com­put­er engineering–they’re all cov­ered here.

In the past, we’ve fea­tured Wal­li­man’s oth­er edu­ca­tion­al ani­ma­tions that cov­er Biol­o­gy, Physics, Chem­istry, Math­e­mat­ics, Quan­tum Com­put­ing, Com­put­er Sci­ence, and more. Click the links to explore each video.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here.

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!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

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

How a Lavish 17th-Century Study of Fish Almost Prevented the Publication of Newton’s Principia, One of the Most Important Science Books Ever Written

The exalt­ed sta­tus of Isaac New­ton’s Philosophiæ Nat­u­ralis Prin­cip­ia Math­e­mat­i­ca is reflect­ed by the fact that every­body knows it as, sim­ply, the Prin­cip­ia. Very few of us, by con­trast, speak of the His­to­ria when we mean to refer to John Ray and Fran­cis Willugh­by’s De His­to­ria Pis­ci­um, which came out in 1686, the year before the Prin­cip­ia. Both books were pub­lished by the Roy­al Soci­ety, and as it hap­pens, the for­mi­da­ble cost of Willugh­by and Ray’s lav­ish work of ichthy­ol­o­gy near­ly kept New­ton’s ground­break­ing trea­tise on motion and grav­i­ta­tion from the print­ing press.

Accord­ing to the Roy­al Soci­ety’s web site, “Ray and Willughby’s His­to­ria did not prove to be the pub­lish­ing sen­sa­tion that the Fel­lows had hoped and the book near­ly bank­rupt­ed the Soci­ety. This meant that the Soci­ety was unable to meet its promise to sup­port the pub­li­ca­tion of Isaac New­ton’s mas­ter­piece.”

For­tu­nate­ly, “it was saved from obscu­ri­ty by Edmund Hal­ley, then Clerk at the Roy­al Soci­ety” — and now bet­ter known for his epony­mous comet — “who raised the funds to pub­lish the work, pro­vid­ing much of the mon­ey from his own pock­et. ”

Hal­ley’s great reward, in lieu of the salary the Roy­al Soci­ety could no longer pay, was a pile of unsold copies of De His­to­ria Pis­ci­um. That may not have been quite the insult it sounds like, giv­en that the book rep­re­sent­ed a tri­umph of pro­duc­tion and design in its day. You can see a copy in the episode of Adam Sav­age’s Test­ed at the top of the post, and you can close­ly exam­ine its imagery at your leisure in the dig­i­tal archive of the Roy­al Soci­ety. In the words of Jonathan Ash­more, Chair of the Roy­al Society’s Library Com­mit­tee, a brows­ing ses­sion should help us “appre­ci­ate why ear­ly Fel­lows of the Roy­al Soci­ety were so impressed by Willughby’s stun­ning illus­tra­tions of piscine nat­ur­al his­to­ry.”

Though Sav­age duly mar­vels at the Roy­al Soci­ety’s copy of the His­to­ria — a recon­struc­tion made up of pages long ago cut out and sold sep­a­rate­ly, as was once com­mon prac­tice with books with pic­tures  suit­able for fram­ing — it’s clear that much of the moti­va­tion for his vis­it came from the prospect of close prox­im­i­ty to New­to­ni­ana, up to and includ­ing the man’s death mask. But then, New­ton lays fair claim to being the most impor­tant sci­en­tist who ever lived, and the Prin­cip­ia to being the most impor­tant sci­ence book ever writ­ten. Almost three and a half cen­turies lat­er, physics still holds mys­ter­ies for gen­er­a­tions of New­ton’s suc­ces­sors to solve. But then, so do the depths of the ocean.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Sir Isaac Newton’s Papers & Anno­tat­ed Prin­cip­ia Go Dig­i­tal

Beau­ti­ful & Out­landish Col­or Illus­tra­tions Let Euro­peans See Exot­ic Fish for the First Time (1754)

The Bril­liant Col­ors of the Great Bar­ri­er Revealed in a His­toric Illus­trat­ed Book from 1893

How Isaac New­ton Lost $3 Mil­lion Dol­lars in the “South Sea Bub­ble” of 1720: Even Genius­es Can’t Pre­vail Against the Machi­na­tions of the Mar­kets

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

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