Monday, May 11, 2015

Science Meets Art on the Ronald H. Brown

This post was written by Miguel Jimenez-Urias, 

At every cast, our CTD makes its descent to great depths, saying hello to our friendly companion the Kraken, yielding real time measurements on its downcast, and allowing us to collect water samples with our Niskin bottles at a wide range of depths as it comes back to the surface. It's one of the most powerful tools we have in oceanography. 

While the fact that our CTD can reach great depths is a critical capability for our science, we can also use it for art. We take a Styrofoam mannequin head of standard size, decorate it according to our specific artistic inspiration. We've had a great example out here in Bruce Cowden, our chief bosun and avid self-taught artist. We secure our decorated heads to the CTD before a cast in such a way that does not interfere with our instruments. About 4 hours later, after the CTD has made it all the way to the bottom and said hi to our friend the Kraken, our CTD returns with shrunken Styrofoam heads. A spectator unaware of the nature of the pressure force would be amazed by the fact that our heads return shrunken but still keeping its relative proportions. That is, our head becomes a smaller head without getting deformed. 

This is the nature of the Pressure Force: It acts perpendicular to the surface of the object with equal magnitude on each side, thus compressing our Styrofoam heads equally, and leaving the original shape intact. The end result: a unique artistic creation with tiny octopus, sea turtles, Day of the Dead or even a miniature world map. Our art is unique, in the sense that it had a very specific and unorthodox procedure: Submerge it to an ocean depth of 5000 meters and bring it back. Where else, but in the middle of a deep ocean, can we recreate this art?

Styrofoam heads decorated by (from left to right) Miguel Jimenez-Urias, Annie Foppert, James Allen, and Anai Novoa. 

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