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The hyper-real sculpture of Duane Hanson

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If not for the title of this blog, you might be asking yourself "Who are those confused tourists?" In fact, they're made not from flab and polyester -- as real tourists are -- but from fiberglass and epoxy. They're a 1988 work called "Tourists II" by Duane Hanson, probably the foremost hyper-real sculpture artist in the world. By taking direct body molds of real people and then meticulously creating three-dimensional casts from synthetic resins, Hanson is able to fool the eye -- often in person, as well as in photographs of his work.
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It's far from a simple process, however. Each figure is cast in several sections before being joined together, and then painted in careful detail. Props, clothing and hair are selected. The entire process often took more than a year per sculpture. Some of his works are made from material durable enough to survive outdoors for long periods, like his sculpture "Man Riding Lawnmower," below:

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Hanson died after a long battle with cancer in 1996, but the hyper-realness of his work has yet to be surpassed. Here's a nice explication of the sentiment behind his work, from a USA Today article (of all things):

In 1973, Hanson moved from New York City to Florida, where he focused on representing what he considered the familiar and ordinary Americans, such as tourists, shoppers, and sunbathers. Like the Pop artists of the 1960s, he was interested in depicting the commonplace in uncommon ways. Although his realism sometimes was unflattering or even brutal, his stated intention was to ennoble his subjects by turning them into art. Despite his apparent shift away from politically engaged themes, the emotionalism of these earlier works remained, depicting quiet suffering, melancholic introspection, or resignation of these people. Hanson's "slice-of-life" figures and their ordinary activities are frozen forever in their poses and actions. Perhaps the ultimate paradox of Hanson's realism is that his lifelike figures seem incapable of escaping their situations. In the end, the courage with which they seem to endure this fate expresses the dignity and nobility that Hanson found in the common American.

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To see larger versions of these works, click here.

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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