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50 Shades of Gray from the First Comprehensive Guide to Color Naming

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Robert Ridgway was a famous ornithologist who wrote an eight-volume work on The Birds of North and Middle America. (Three more volumes were completed by a colleague after his death.) He saw a need for standardized color naming in ornithology and other sciences that had to classify large quantities of natural specimens, and published a system for identifying and naming 1115 colors in 1912.

Ridgway's Color Standards and Color Nomenclature was not the first attempt to standardize colors. Taxonomies of 100 to 400 color names had been published through the 19th century and more rigorous systems based on spectrum analysis or color-wheel placement had used symbols or numbers to represent exact combinations of color features (hue, tone, light, shade, etc.). Ridgway's, however, was the first to provide such a finely divided color categorization that also used words from natural language, which, he argued, despite their imprecision, were more useful to naturalists.

The book was printed with 1115 painstakingly produced color plates, including more than 100 shades of gray. The names for those grays include mellifluous terms like plumbeous (the color of lead), plumbago (a flower with lead-colored petals), glaucous (from the Latin/Greek for bluish-gray), vinaceous (wine-colored), cinerous (cinder-colored), and heliotrope (a flower with purplish petals). Varley is named for landscape painter John Varley and Payne after painter William Payne. After you read this list, you can proudly tell all your friends you were intellectually stimulated by reading 50 shades of gray.

1. Cadet Gray
2. Carbon Gray
3. Castor Gray
4. Cinereous
5. Clear Blue-Green Gray
6. Court Gray
7. Dawn Gray
8. Drab-Gray
9. French Gray
10. Glaucous-Gray
11. Dark Glaucous-Gray
12. Deep Glaucous-Gray
13. Gull Gray
14. Light Gull Gray
15. Hathi Gray
16. Heliotrope-Gray
17. Dark Heliotrope Slate
18. Iron Gray
19. Lavender-Gray
20. Lilac-Gray
21. Mineral Gray
22. Mouse Gray
23. Blackish Mouse Gray
24. Neutral Gray
25. Dusky Neutral Gray
26. Olive-Gray
27. Payne's Gray
28. Light Payne's Gray
29. Pale Payne's Gray
30. Pearl Gray
31. Plumbeous
32. Blackish Plumbeous
33. Plumbeous-Black
34. Dark Plumbeous
35. Plumbago Gray
36. Dark Plumbago Gray
37. Puritan Gray
38. Purplish Gray
39. Pallid Purplish Gray
40. Sky Gray
41. Slate Color
42. Slate-Gray
43. Slate-Black
44. Blackish Slate
45. Smoke Gray
46. Storm Gray
47. Varley's Gray
48. Vinaceous-Gray
49. Deep Vinaceous-Gray
50. Violet-Gray

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science
Microscopic Videos Provide a Rare Close-Up Glimpse of the Natural World
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Courtesy of Nikon

Nature’s wonders aren’t always visible to the naked eye. To celebrate the miniature realm, Nikon’s Small World in Motion digital video competition awards prizes to the most stunning microscopic moving images, as filmed and submitted by photographers and scientists. The winners of the seventh annual competition were just announced on September 21—and you can check out the top submissions below.

FIRST PRIZE

Daniel von Wangenheim, a biologist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, took first place with a time-lapse video of thale cress root growth. For the uninitiated, thale cress—known to scientists as Arabidopsis thalianais a small flowering plant, considered by many to be a weed. Plant and genetics researchers like thale cress because of its fast growth cycle, abundant seed production, ability to pollinate itself, and wild genes, which haven’t been subjected to breeding and artificial selection.

Von Wangenheim’s footage condenses 17 hours of root tip growth into just 10 seconds. Magnified with a confocal microscope, the root appears neon green and pink—but von Wangenheim’s work shouldn’t be appreciated only for its aesthetics, he explains in a Nikon news release.

"Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water, or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients," said von Wangenheim, who studies how plants perceive and respond to gravity. "One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space—to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions."

SECOND PRIZE

Second place went to Tsutomu Tomita and Shun Miyazaki, both seasoned micro-photographers. They used a stereomicroscope to create a time-lapse video of a sweating fingertip, resulting in footage that’s both mesmerizing and gross.

To prompt the scene, "Tomita created tension amongst the subjects by showing them a video of daredevils climbing to the top of a skyscraper," according to Nikon. "Sweating is a common part of daily life, but being able to see it at a microscopic level is equal parts enlightening and cringe-worthy."

THIRD PRIZE

Third prize was awarded to Satoshi Nishimura, a professor from Japan’s Jichi Medical University who’s also a photography hobbyist. He filmed leukocyte accumulations and platelet aggregations in injured mouse cells. The rainbow-hued video "provides a rare look at how the body reacts to a puncture wound and begins the healing process by creating a blood clot," Nikon said.

To view the complete list of winners, visit Nikon’s website.

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Art
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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