Ernst Haeckel: The Great Nature “Plagiator”

[Jakarta, LTTW] It’s about time we had some good news in 2020, amidst all the disasters occuring around us. Scientists discovered the world’s longest animal; the 150-ft siphonophore, a string-like deep-sea predator. This is good news, not only because this finding has added to nature’s list of wonders, but it also a gentle reminder on how little we know about our home – let alone the universe.

There’s a scientific illustration book entitled “Art Forms in Nature” by Ernst Haeckel which depicted the mysteriousness shrouding the siphonophore – the “hidden” beauty of nature. Although it is an old book, the content within is undoubtedly timeless. You can clarify this yourself just by looking at the examples of his portfolio below.

Haeckel’s siphonophores | Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo Courtesy of “Art Forms in Nature”

A scientific illustration / drawing is contrary to the artistic drawing, as the its purpose is to record structures and specific details of living beings visually; something of which occurs most often in the biological sciences. Hence, unlike artistic illustrations, the scientific illustration depicts a total absence of aesthetics, emotions, ideas and multi-interpretational possibilities in the implementation and perception – in other words, it is dictated purely by nature. To create a scientific illustration, one must be highly curious, perfect technical drawing skills, pay considerable attention to detail, and perhaps most importantly, possess an awe-inspiring sense of wonder towards the natural world.

According to Wikipedia, Ernst Haeckel was a German zoologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor, marine biologist, and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree interconnecting all life forms, and coined much biological terminology, example including ecology and phylum among others.

As for Listen to the World, Ernst Haeckel is simply a humble man who surrenders to the majesty of nature.

You can click here to see the E-Book version



Global Warming and the Revival of Prehistoric Viruses

[Jakarta, LTTW] According to recent Google Search Trends, “Coronavirus” and “Virus” have become increasingly popular, and have now overtaken climate change related topics that were previously dominating the search engine. While many of us shun climate change as an issue and responsibility at the moment, it is of significant importance to become aware of the fact that climate change (and industrial mining) could be the predominant factors of ancient virus revivals in the future.

For decades, scientists found various ancient viruses that were previously dormant beneath the layers of permafrost in places such as Siberia, for thousands, and even millions of years. Up until today, there are an abundance of studies investigating and studying these ancient viruses.

Global warming melts away layers of permafrosts which in turn could reawaken these prehistoric viruses from their “hibernation”. Aside from melting permafrost, drilling and mining operations could also contribute to reawakening viruses, by digging deep into the earth and uncovering things that remained unperturbed for ages bygone.

Though some of the viruses were confirmed to be ultimately harmless to humans, the unknown threat is uncertain since the quantity and variance of these viruses currently remains a mystery. Imagine now, if one of these viruses were released and proved to be pathogenic to human beings; without man-made vaccine readily prepared for such outbreak, and with the possibility that it might be even deadlier than Covid-19, we may not even begin to comprehend of the consequences that could ensue from such a potentially gargantuan pandemic.

If anything, these precautions serve not only to warn us, but they also remind us that whether we like it or not, ecological destruction and viruses will most likely come hand in hand as the cause and affect of one another.



The Sound of Covid-19

[Jakarta, LTTW] Would you ever think that, beside using microscopes, creating musical compositions could also help scientists in their pursuit of understanding the novel virus?

That’s what MIT Professor, Markus Buehler, believes. He converted the novel coronavirus behaviour into a piece of music as an alternative means of understanding it from a novel perspective.

Coronavirus is highly contagious due to its “spike” proteins, that spread the infection by poking out of the main body of the virus, and in turn bind to human cells that give it the appearance of a crown – or “corona” in Latin. The spikes itself are formed of protein building blocks called amino acids.

By assigning each of these amino acids to a musical note, MIT converted this infrastructure into sounds, and used an algorithm to convert the data into piece of music that reflect how the arrangement of the proteins. In an interview with MIT News, Buehler stated that the musical composition method could not only help scientists better understand how the virus infects human bodies, but could also be instrumental for designing drugs that fight the virus.



Complications in Combating Environmental Deterioration and Coronavirus

[Jakarta, LTTW] On March 12, WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. With the virus on spotlight, climate change and green living are no longer “trending” topics, despite best efforts. Here are some examples:

  • SINGLE-USE PLASTIC: Single use coffee cup and plastic bags are re-encouraged, whilst personal drinking cups and tot-bags are shunned.
  • WATER: We use more running water to wash our hands.
  • TISSUE: Washing hands more means more single-use tissue (thankfully soap is not environmentally harmful)
  • FACE MASK: Many face masks, including surgical masks, are made from polypropylene, which is difficult to dissolve (and yes, it lies in our oceans)

Covid-19 has meant home quarantine (social distancing), which is useful for minimising air pollution, although the emergence and ramifications of Covid-19 have largely risen as a consequence of environmental deterioration.

Such information is crucial to address right now, not to cause alarm or to discern right from wrong, but to invigorate mindsets to take appropriate action in the near future. We now live in a globalised world, where means many local issues are now global, which emphasises the importance for us to adapt our mindsets to perceive and treat matters holistically instead of subjectively.



The National Museum of Women in the Arts

[Jakarta, LTTW] It is all too well known that men throughout the ages have continuously objectified women, which has unfortunately also occurred within the arts. Issues surrounding the mistreatment of women in the art world keeps increasing; from gender pay gaps, to sexual harassment, to discrimination, making the lives and wellbeing of many women difficult to endure. Despite the ongoing negative issues afflicting several women, progress is nonetheless being made, as exemplified by The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA); an art museum in the US dedicated exclusively to female artists of all periods and nationalities.

Photo courtesy of NMWA

And it is about time that a museum dedicated to the achievements of women has emerged! The fact that such a museum even had to exist in the first place is a reflection of human ignorance, as exemplified by the fact that women have only begun to enjoy the rights and freedoms of artists as men in living memory for several people. The existence of such a museum should serve as a reminder that the differentiation between genders is not for competitive reasons, but as part of the process in finding proportion and harmony.

Photo courtesy of NMWA | by Lee Stalsworth