Things are Queer (1973) by Duane Michals
This piece by Duane Michals comprises nine photographs, each one a detail of the one that follows. The first shot shows a bog-standard bathroom. Then the camera pulls back to reveal what is either an oversized man, or an undersized bathroom: the man’s foot is the size of the lavatory-bowl. During the ensuing sequence, it emerges that the photograph of the man in the tiny bathroom is itself a picture in a book being read by another man in an alley. Then it turns out that the man reading the book in the alley is also a picture of a picture in a frame which is hanging on a wall. The final twist in this circuitous tale is the revelation that this picture of the man reading the book in the alley is itself a picture hanging on the original bathroom wall. Things are Queer neatly challenges the viewer’s assumptions about the photographic version of reality. The sequence taken as a whole has a cheeky intrigue - at no point can we actually identify the perspective of the camera, the reality of each shot is superseded by the next.
Googols and Googols
In 1938, mathematician Edward Kasner asked his nine-year-old nephew for a name for a large number—and his nephew promptly replied: “Googol.” A googol is a number equal to 10^100, or if you wanted to write it out, it would be a 1 with 100 zeroes following it. Already, this number is larger than the number of elementary particles in the known universe, which only amount to approximately 10^80. As if this wasn’t enough, the term was then extended to an even bigger number: a googolplex, which is 10 to the power of a googol—i.e., 10^(10^100). To write this out, it would be a 1 followed by a googol number of zeroes. Here’s where it gets intensely cool: you cannot physically write this number out in its entirety, because there is not enough space in the universe. Even if you wrote in unreadable one-point font, it would take up about 3.5×10^96 metres, while observable universe is only estimated to be 8.80×10^26 meters. So, you’d still need more paper than you could stuff into the entire universe—and furthermore, if you wrote at an average rate of two digits per second, it would take you more time to write it out than the age of the universe so far. And yet, even a googolplex comes nowhere near infinity. Numbers are awesome.
NUMBERS AND MATH ARE NOT AWESOME.
In the Australian summer of 2008–2009, the shores of the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria were awash with an algae known as Noctiluca scintillans. A remarkable chain of events led to this never-seen-before occurence. In 2006, Victoria suffered from alpine bushfires that ravished over a million hectares for 69 days, including the catchment for the chain of Gippsland Lakes. Torrential rainfall followed the fires, causing a once-in-a-century flood that washed ash and nitrogen-rich soil from the bushfire into the lakes, increasing salinity and leading to an outbreak of the Synechococcus algae. This only gave the water a disconcerting greenish tinge, but soon a new species arose, Noctiluca Scintillans, which began to prosper by feeding on the Synechococcus. At night it produced a brilliant form of bioluminescence, glowing whenever the water was disturbed, such as when waves washed on the shore or ripples broke the surface. Phil Hart, a specialist in astrophotography and a long-time visitor to the lake, captured the amazing phenomenon.