Natural Philosophy

33 types of moth

Angle shades
Autumnal rustic
Blotched emerald
The brick
The clay
Clouded-bordered brindle
Cocaine tussock moth
Common footman
Common marbled carpet
Common wave
Coxcomb prominent
Dark dagger
Dusky brocade
The engrailed
Feathered thorn
Figure of eighty
The flame
Flame shoulder
The Gothic
Green oak tortrix
Lunar underwing
May highflyer
Minsmere crimson underwing
Pine processionary
Poplar kitten
The satellite
Setaceous Hebrew character
The shark
The snout
Snowberry clearwing
Svensson's copper underwing
True lover's knot 

(source: wikipedia)



From the study Metamorphosis revealed: time-lapse three dimensional imaging inside a living chrysalis, by Tristan Lowe, Russell J. Garwood, Thomas J. Simonsen, Robert S. Bradley, Philip J. Withers, published 15 May 2013 by The Royal Society:

"Studies of model insects have greatly increased our understanding of animal development. Yet, they are limited in scope to this small pool of model species: a small number of representatives for a hyperdiverse group with highly varied developmental processes. One factor behind this narrow scope is the challenging nature of traditional methods of study, such as histology and dissection, which can preclude quantitative analysis and do not allow the development of a single individual to be followed. Here, we use high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT) to overcome these issues, and three-dimensionally image numerous lepidopteran pupae throughout their development. The resulting models are presented in the electronic supplementary material, as are figures and videos, documenting a single individual throughout development. [...] In the future, this form of time-lapse CT-scanning could allow faster and more detailed developmental studies on a wider range of taxa than is presently possible."

White Male Human Privilege

I just want to say something brief in regards to the use of live animals in art exhibitions, because it has recently re-re-re-emerged as an annoying trend. Most recently I encountered the dog that is living in the gallery at LACMA as part of Pierre Huyge's retrospective. While I personally believe that living beings have no place as part of human economic transactions (which art exhibits usually are in one way or another), I wont try to convince anyone that it is morally wrong, because there is endless far worse exploitation of animals occurring every second of every day all around us. Instead, I'll just say that I find it artistically pathetic. There is almost always in these cases a white male "provocateur" behind it, who clearly believes that including a non-human living being in the art work is in some way novel or edgy - congratulating themselves for provoking an emotional response from a viewer based on concern and empathy which they mock or play with from their meta-human meta-animal perspective. What's pathetic is that they think they are breaking with a tradition when instead all they are doing is cynically exploiting a tradition by breaking only its most superficial of rules. It's still objectification and commodification based on white, male, human privilege. It isn't novel, and it could hardly be a stodgier, more classical idea. Pierre Huyge could simply have rescued the dog and provided a good home for it, but that would hardly provide him and others who think like him with the false sense of provocation they depend upon to escape real ideas. And the monkey used in a video piece shatters at every moment any concept or artistic intent in the piece by clearly being a bored and confused monkey in a room. The crabs, lobsters and fish are almost certainly bred by businesses that exploit animals or captured wild - both of which are in a real and concrete way environmentally destructive, undercutting Huyge's otherwise interesting ecological constructions. The only way to enter into the meaning of the piece is to ignore these facts, and thats the same way of thinking that exists everywhere. It'd be fucking boring if it wasn't vile. Maybe it's just another banality of evil. It's unfortunate because I admire much about Huyge's work - but empathy and real politics are not in vogue in the very elite and lucrative echelons of international conceptual art exhibitions, or for those who aspire to be included in it.


Nicholas Monsour
Extinction Phone, 2014

Aluminum, thermoplastic, PVC, plywood, paper, refurbished pay phone, crystal oscillator timer circuit, Arduino control circuit, audio circuit, lead-acid batteries, recordings of extinct species, phone book containing scientific names of extinct species.

The extinction phone rings every time a unique species goes extinct on Earth, which is 73,000 times per year, or 200 times per day, or every 7.2 minutes.

This project is a site-specific, interactive art installation.  The phone is controlled by an Arduino microcontroller, and uses an AdaFruit Waveshield to playback audio.  The phone also includes custom built timer and interaction circuitry.  The recordings of extinct animals were gathered from various libraries and collections around the world.

The directory that hangs from the pay phone contains the most up to date and comprehensive list of identified species believed to be extinct.  The phone book can be purchased here.


Taken from


Arranged Exhibition Slide comprised of Diatoms, Sponge Spicules, and Plates and Anchors of Synapta; Imaged using Darkfield lighting technique.

Arranged mount of Sponge Spicula by A.C. Cole, imaged using Darkfield lighting.


Arranged slide, Watson & Sons "Eggs of Butterflies, Etc." shown in detail.

Three arranged slides on opaque backgrounds for incident lighting

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The book has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a book dealer who purchased it in 1912.

The pages of the codex are vellum. Some of the pages are missing, but about 240 remain. The text is written from left to right, and most of the pages have illustrations or diagrams. Many people have speculated that the writing might be nonsense. However, in 2013, Marcelo Montemurro of the University of Manchester and Damian Zanette of the Bariloche Atomic Centre published a paper documenting their identification of a semantic pattern in the writing; this suggests that the Voynich manuscript is a ciphertext with a message.

The Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II. No one has yet succeeded in deciphering the text, and it has become a famous case in the history of cryptography. The mystery of the meaning and origin of the manuscript has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript the subject of novels and speculation. None of the many hypotheses proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified.

The Voynich manuscript was donated by Hans P. Kraus to Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1969, where it is catalogued under call number MS 408. A digitized high-resolution copy is also accessible freely at their website. (Wikipedia)

Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

In 2012, a group of neuroscientists attending a conference on "Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals" at Cambridge University in the UK, signed 

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.  

(Download a copy of the Declaration).

Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

"The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates."

The hummingbird people

Regard Eloigne

"To the Yanomami, each person has an ‘image-essence’, a double called a utupë, to which they are joined until death.  A utupë can present itself in the image of many different living creatures, including a bird, mammal or insect. There are also spirits of trees, waterfalls and wild honey." (Survival International)

One by one the spirits arrived. The toucan spirits arrived with their big ear sticks and bright red loin cloths, describes Davi. The hummingbird people arrived and flew around. The moka frog spirits were there with quivers of arrows on their backs. Then came the peccary spirits, the bat people and the spirits of the waterfall.

My soul began to shine.

All came and slung their hammocks in my chest.

Kestrel's Eye

This intrepid documentary by Swedish filmmaker Mikael Kristersson follows two European falcons as they go about their daily activities. Two years in the making, the film is shot without any supplemental audio, allowing the two birds to be the sole focal point. As the birds hunt for food and care for their offspring, viewers are treated to a literal bird's-eye view from their nest at the top of an old church steeple. (Netflix)

Dark Current

I am delving into dark currents, the scientific poetry of video.  This is what mimesis seeks to screen out: the medium.  Or more specifically, the primacy of the pheno-text.  I would even call it the accountability of the image.  The video image is imagined as immaterial, and yet the material itself is expressive — literally.  As Roland Barthes put it, "The 'grain' is the body in the voice as it sings, the hand as it writes, the limb as it performs." (IMAGE/MUSIC/TEXT, p.188)

In physics and in electronic engineering, dark current is the relatively small electric current that flows through photosensitive devices such as a photomultiplier tube, photodiode, or charge-coupled device even when no photons are entering the device.  It is referred to as reverse bias leakage current in non-optical devices and is present in all diodes. Physically, dark current is due to the random generation of electrons and holes within the depletion region of the device that are then swept by the high electric field.

The charge generation rate is related to specific crystallographic defects within the depletion region. Dark-current spectroscopy can be used to determine the defects present by monitoring the peaks in the dark current histogram's evolution with temperature.

Dark current is one of the main sources for noise in image sensors such as charge-coupled devices. The pattern of different dark currents can result in a fixed-pattern noise; dark frame subtraction can remove an estimate of the mean fixed pattern, but there still remains a temporal noise, because the dark current itself has a shot noise. (WIKIPEDIA)


Tropic of Chaos

Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

By Christian Parenti 

Nation Books, 304 pages 

From Africa to Asia and Latin America, the era of climate wars has begun. Extreme weather is breeding banditry, humanitarian crisis, and state failure. In 

Tropic of Chaos

, investigative journalist Christian Parenti travels along the front lines of this gathering catastrophe--the belt of economically and politically battered postcolonial nations and war zones girding the planet's midlatitudes. Here he finds failed states amid climatic disasters. But he also reveals the unsettling presence of Western military forces and explains how they see an opportunity in the crisis to prepare for open-ended global counterinsurgency.  Parenti argues that this incipient "climate fascism"--a political hardening of wealthy states-- is bound to fail. The struggling states of the developing world cannot be allowed to collapse, as they will take other nations down as well. Instead, we must work to meet the challenge of climate-driven violence with a very different set of sustainable economic and development policies.