Art Monday: Science Checkmate

A couple of days ago, I used Photoshop to edit my painting, Science Chess Accommodating Religion. I want to try changing the relationships of the pieces, and making the image more graphic and cartoony so it could appear on a t-shirt. I am thinking about captioning it "Science Checkmate".

Michael Barton, of
The Dispersal of Darwin suggested placing the pieces around the fallen bishop. Great Idea, Michael! It changes the way they appear utterly. Finally, I will need to punch up the whites and reds so it can be printed on fabric with more vibrant and clear colour.
I have to say, I'm working with Photoshop Elements these days, a program that came in in the box with my Wacom Intuos 3 tablet. I didn't use it on my old computer, but Elements (so far) appears to be superior to me old Photoshop CS. The selection brush is one of the coolest things ever. I thought it was just for tracing and it took a moment after selecting the outline of the Mendel piece to realize it simply expands the selection field to wherever you've brushed! It was a magic moment.

I'll post the final cartoony image and t-shirt another day, once it's in the repro shop.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery
*** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Science Checkmate

Using my oil painting Science Accommodating Religion, I've been noodling around with the image.

This might look good on a t-shirt if I punch up the colours to a less painterly, more graphic cartoony look. Hmm. I saved the image with all the pieces in separate layers so I can move them around and resize them easily. Now that I look at it, perhaps the pieces should not be so evenly spaced.

Looking for opinions: how should I tweak it for a shirt in my repro shop?

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Contest winner!

Winner of my first contest:


Bora, you will receive a signed print of Science-Chess Accomodating Religion some time in the next few weeks.

Holy Monkey that was close.

I had to call in a second judge to weigh in accuracy factors and the timing of entries. I've also already, (appropriately, I think) tweeted the winning announcement.

Here are my original ideas, and a breakdown of how Coturnix won the print:
Pieces in the back, left to right:
-Darwin's tree of life drawing
-Wave-particle duality
-Kekule's dream of an ourobouros representing the benzene ring
-Mendel's peas
-Copernican heliocentrism
-Red bishop as religion, transparent, cracked, alone and with a halo, the halo being a symbol that most religions incorporate into their visual iconography
Toppled in the foreground, left to right:
-Stem cells
-Needle representing vaccines

But dude, this was close.

Basically, by mine and my second judge's tally, Scicurious actually had all of the correct answers - but the last after contest closing at noon today. Sorry Sci! I had to draw a line.

The piece representing wave-particle duality was the toughie - some of the answers had me scurrying to look up science concepts or history I was unaware of! Anonymous-Trish had it almost bang-on, but if I am looking at the difference between Coturnix's "radioactivity" answer and Anon-Trish & James' "
Curie's theory of radioactive decay and using it for carbon dating", I chose the earlier answer.

Thanks to everyone who played along - this was fun. And I like Bora's suggestion to see this on a t-shirt. And I think I need to send Greg Laden a Mr. Bill made out of plasticine.

Thanks everyone!
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

"Science-Chess Accommodating Religion"...contest!

"I'm thinking scientific accommodation of religion is akin to letting someone take your King's Rook off the board because you're winning."

This painting was originally created due to the above Twitter tweet I made, inspired by the writing of Jerry Coyne, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers, Mike Haubrich, Stephanie Zvan, Greg Laden, Jason Thibeault, Russell Blackford and Richard Dawkins. This painting is an homage to your writing, and the other atheists out there unafraid to speak up (I am sure I have left many out). Mike liked it enough to add it to his rotating quotes, and that got me thinking about how I would visualize it.

Since I began blogging my art, I have struggled with themes of secularism and atheism without being cartoonish or overly mocking. Science and my surreal riffs are fun and fascinating for me, but atheist painting concepts have been a challenge.

The contest
: identify all the pieces. I will give the first person to figure them all out a signed print from my reproduction store. Blog comments here at this Flying Trilobite post only to qualify (not Twitter or Facebook at this time, please, it will be hard to see who was first). A higher quality view of the image can be seen in my
Reproduction Shop.

Let's order of left to right, with the two toppled pieces in the foreground following the red piece in sequence?
I will be away for my usual Art Monday, so let's leave this contest in its stead.
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Flying & Asthma

The Flying Trilobite already receives a lot of pageviews due to a steady stream of people searching about being an asthmatic and flying (in an airplane, I presume). I thought it may be somewhat useful for me to therefore pen a post on the subject. The reason so many asthma-sufferers find this blog, I believe is because of the post I did of a drawing called, Asthma Incubus back in May of 2007.

If you are reading this blog for the first time, then welcome! Drop in for the asthma, stay for some paintings inspired by the awe of modern science. I am an artist living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Please don't be frightened by the atheism. With atheism comes a healthy dose of skepticism, which you will need if you are suffering from asthma and don't know where to turn next. And anyway, the way I see it, when it comes to asthma relief, it just means instead of thanking god(s), I thank the fine scientists, pharmacists and chemists that have helped save more lives than prayer ever has.

Without skepticism someone may try to wave their hands over you or ask you to carry a small doll to cure your asthma, and while both could be entertaining, you and I both know it's hard to laugh when your lungs feel like they weigh 200 pounds and are made out of bags of rusty harmonicas.

So to begin: a caveat, a warning, a caution. I am an artist, not a medical respirologist. If you are looking for relief from your wheezy lungs, I strongly, mightily urge you to seek out a "Western" medically-trained respirologist and asthma clinic that keeps up on the latest advances in drugs to ease your lungs back into contributing members of your chest cavity. All I will share in this blog are anecdotes, individual stories about asthma, which is not how you should make a diagnosis! Medicines and remedies using double-blind, empirical and statistical trials are the ones to trust. Your respirologist will know which ones. I would also suggest checking out The Asthma Society of Canada for some up-to-date "'evidence-based', market-tested, " information on a regular basis.

Also to begin: some reassurance. I am a skeptic, and I will not try to sell you on the idea of water-pills, drinking urine, homeopathy, acupuncture, taking something just because it is "all-natural", or rearranging mythical chakras. If people seriously think they are helping you with this advice, I would strongly advise you to laugh, ask them to explain further, laugh some more, and do nothing they tell you to treat your asthma. If you are unsure of whether something someone suggests is pure nonsense or not, look for information that has piles of trustworthy studies behind it. To get you started, check out The Skeptic's Dictionary, particularly under "Alternative Medicine".

Oh, and get your children vaccinated too. It doesn't cause asthma, and will save their lives.

So, flying with asthma.

I have flown a number of times in my life so far, probably about 8 trips there and back again. As I said, I live in Toronto, and I have flown as far away as Aruba and Calgary, some 6 or 7 hours at a stretch. I have taken numerous shorter flights from Toronto to Montreal on a variety of airlines; Air Canada, Westjet and Porter, small planes and large ones.

My asthma has been diagnosed as "brittle", though that seemed to be a mistake; I have never fallen unconscious, even in my worst heart-pounding, suffocating moments. The most recent diagnosis was "moderate persistent asthma".

I haven't had any trouble flying with asthma. Whew! I know, all this preamble to find out you should be okay! Modern planes are pressurised so the air will not be thin as you fly up to 35'000 feet. A smaller plane, you may feel light-headed I guess. I have hiked in the Blue Mountains of Virginia before up to 4'000 feet, and I could still breathe and carry a 60 pound backpack.

Flying in a plane is exciting, and I am not jaded by the experience yet. So, sometimes I will need to take a puffer during the duration of the flight, but ask your doctor, or use your own experiences to see if this is necessary. For myself, I do not experience any sudden tightening of the chest, and I suspect I may take it in those moments larger as a psychological comfort. Perhaps the next time I fly I'll skip it if I can and see how it goes.

Most puffers are pressurised canisters, and there seem to be no negative effects on these in a plane. They do not explode or leak. Again, a pressurised cabin would give the canister a steady barometric pressure, and it will function as though you are on the ground. Take your medications in-flight with you in your carry-on luggage. Be comfortable, and relax. Get a window seat and enjoy the flight.

Currently, I take two medications to treat my asthma. One is preventative, and another for fast relief in moments of distress. A while ago, I switched away from a ventolin inhaler to Airomir, and I find I am sleeping better at night. I recommend it. (Ask your doctor!) My wife also informs me that I am not jerking my full body in my sleep anymore the way I used to once a night. There are a lot of options on the market, and you should work with your respirologist to see what works for you. A new medication, which I will not name, gave me some anxiety attacks when in combination with another puffer. My doc said it happens in a small samples of patients, about 5% of cases. So I switched.

I hope this has been helpful. Asthma is manageable, and sufferers have many options to help nowadays. If, however, I am wrong and there is some folklore I do not know about and people are finding this blog to learn about flapping their arms like Icarus and flying while suffering some asthmatic-like effects afterward, I have only one response.

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All original artwork on
The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.

Just a spoonful of Mamenchisaurus to help the medicine go down!

Pachycephalosaurus: overlooked source to cure gout, pinkeye, and disobedient children?

Yahoo News has reported that central Chinese villagers from the Henan province have been grinding up dinosaur fossils and using them as traditional medicine to cure dizziness and leg cramps. Their belief has been that the calcium-rich fossils are dragon bones.

And here's the good news. The scientist who reported this story, Dong Zhiming, also said that once the villagers found out what it was they were consuming, they stopped. Someone please, please fly this man to a certain 'museum' in Kentucky! His powers of persuasion must be truly awesome.

Really though. Folkloric animal-based medicines like shark-cartilege and tiger penises have been persuasive medicines for the desperate, the traditional, and the New Age set for, well, since prehistory, I would guess. And I think the two easiest ways to spot a false cure are 1. when it cures a disparate set of ailments, such as the "dizziness & leg cramps", or 2. when it cures something suspiciously too-related to what body part it is from, like tiger penis for sexual dysfunction. Makes me suspicious. Oh yeah, and lack of double-blind empirical testing is not a good sign either.

Good for these folks though. Stopped drinking dinosaur-calcium soup straight away. Perhaps last month's Seed magazine was right, and China is successfully pushing its science-based agenda thoughout the country. Hm.

The Flying Trilobite happily recommends Dinobase for an excellent source of dinosaur related science. And, next week, my wife and I will be visiting family in Alberta! I hope to produce more dinosaur sketches like the one above while I am there. Any of this blog's readers out in Calgary?