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Why Bob Ross Permed His Hair (Even Though He Hated It)

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The soft halo of hair sported by Bob Ross was so perfectly in tune with his gentle persona that it almost seemed too good to be true—because, in fact, it was.

The story behind the hair isn’t one of a style choice or contrivance dreamed up by TV execs. That was not the Bob Ross way. It has to do with two things we all know something about: saving money and personal branding.

Back in the early ‘80s, Ross was embarking on his new career as a painter and instructor after serving in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. His mentor, Bill Alexander, was preparing to retire and asked Ross to take over his classes. Ross agreed, and set out to tour the country on his own in a motor home, traveling and teaching people the Alexander “wet-on-wet” technique. He told his wife Jane that he’d try it out for one year, and if he didn’t make enough money, he would return to Alaska.

Success didn’t come easy—or at all—during his time on the road. As a way of penny-pinching, Ross decided to save money on haircuts by getting his locks permed. That clever, if unorthodox, method of saving probably wouldn’t have stood the test of time if it weren’t for an emerging brand in need of some merchandise.

“When we got a line of paints and brushes, we put his picture on,” Bob Ross Company co-founder Annette Kowalski told me. “The logo is a picture of Bob with that hair, so he could never get it cut. He wasn’t always happy about that.”

Still, Ross was no fool and kept the ‘fro around because he too knew that it was good for business. He would go on to maintain his trademark bushy hairdo for the rest of his life. Today, it's hard to imagine Ross straying at all from his signature simple button-up and well-maintained curls, but a look back on episodes of The Joy of Painting does reveal some small, amusing deviations.

Even more amusing: A look at the man before all the hair, via Uproxx:

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Thomas Quine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Weird
Take a Peek Inside One of Berlin's Strangest Museums
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Thomas Quine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Vlad Korneev is a man with an obsession. He's spent years collecting technical and industrial objects from the last century—think iron lungs, World War II gas masks, 1930s fans, and vintage medical prostheses. At his Designpanoptikum in Berlin, which bills itself (accurately) as a "surreal museum of industrial objects," Korneev arranges his collection in fascinating, if disturbing, assemblages. (Atlas Obscura warns that it's "half design museum, half horror house of imagination.") Recently, the Midnight Archive caught up with Vlad for a special tour and some insight into the question visitors inevitably ask—"but what is it, really?" You can watch the full video below.

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Courtesy of Nikon
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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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