The Prosthetic Eyeball Is a Work of Art

Originally published at Making a realistic eye takes more than technical skill: an Object Lesson.

The eye is about the size of a quarter, resting gently in Kurt Jahrling’s hand as he adds faint washes of yellow and blue to the white surface. The ocularist has already laid tiny, reddish-pink threads of silk over the surface to mimic the curves of blood vessels, tiny rivers winding from either corner toward the iris. A hazel centerpiece surrounds a black dot meant to mimic the pupil; as the finishing touch, he adds the arcus, a grey ring that hugs the outer edge of some aging irises.

The result is an astoundingly close approximation of the missing right eye of a 63-year-old Bostonian named Kevin. Kevin had his eye surgically removed eight months prior. Today, he’ll wear this tiny piece of acrylic home: an illusion, a practical placeholder, and a little piece of art.

Read the full article at The Atlantic.

Image: Victor Ruiz Garcia / Reuters

Blue Line 15: Pep Pep

Mix of mostly instrumental, electronic, ambient music, and other sounds. An homage to the free-roaming chihuahuas of southern Arizona.

  1. The Sun Roars Into View by Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld

  2. Have Love Will Travel by The Thing

  3. Recovery by Sonne

  4. Arpeggiated Love by The Field

  5. Empire Systems by Rafael Anton Irisarri

  6. Birds Fly By Flapping Their Wings by Biosphere

  7. No Eyes by Donny McCaslin


Harnessing the Knowledge of Plants, Online

Originally published in American Forests Magazine Winter/Spring 2016 issue

Botanical gardens are building the first online catalog of every known plant species in the world. It could be a game-changing tool for conservation.

For more than 400 years, humans have been collecting bits of leaf and twig, pressing them flat and dry for safe-keeping and writing about them in journals and books, all to better understand the world’s plants and, more recently, to protect them.

Our knowledge has become exponentially more sophisticated over those years, but the information we’ve accumulated remains scattered all over the world and is often difficult to access. As biologists race to protect biodiversity, there’s an effort underway to change that, a global partnership to build World Flora Online — the first online catalog of the estimated 400,000 vascular plant species of the world.

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What Exactly is Christmas Tree Flocking?

Originally published at Mental Floss on Christmas morning 2015. Of the many curious holiday traditions (figgy pudding? wassailing?), one of the oddest has to be spraying down small trees with a mixture of adhesive and cellulose fibers to satisfy our longing for a white Christmas.

That’s what’s happening when you adorn a tree with artificial snow, otherwise known as flocking. And yet, when decorated and lit up, there’s something beautiful and warmly nostalgic about a well-flocked Christmas tree. Here’s how professionals manufacture this Christmas miracle.

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Sorry Bill Gates, But Billions for Energy Research Is Not How to Win the Climate Battle

Originally published in Inside Philanthropy, December 4, 2015. Bill Gates has rounded up a squad of billionaires to save the day when it comes to climate change, using their investment wisdom and bank accounts to further energy tech. Too bad they aren’t putting their money where it would really help — advancing policy and grassroots efforts.

Not long ago, we issued a challenge to a set of mega-donors to pour billions of their collective wealth into the problem of climate change. Now, it seems that Bill Gates, one of our biggest targets, has rallied 28 investors behind a two-pronged plan to devote a pool of private funding to clean energy breakthroughs, and to convince governments to do the same.

I’m not quite self-aggrandizing enough to think Gates read our post and decided to start such a coalition, but this is great news, right?

Yes and no. While Gates deserves praise for moving money on the issue, banking on a tech breakthrough to save us is not where we really need the world’s billionaires to focus at this exact moment...

Read the full article here.

Blue Line 14: Hartland

Mix of mostly instrumental, electronic, ambient music and other sounds, including the frogs and crickets of rural Vermont this round.

  1. Le Goudron, Brigitte Fontaine

  2. Focus On Sanity, Ornate Coleman

  3. Scud Books, Hudson Mohawke

  4. Ages Upon Ages Upon You, Prefuse 73

  5. Pandi, The Bug

  6. Nattoget Spokelser, Dirty Knobs

  7. Sweet Slow Baby, The Field

  8. Total Strife Forever I, East India Youth

A New Program Is Using Yoga to Enhance Social Work

Originally published at Boston Magazine online, September 3, 2015. Rosie’s Place, the first women’s shelter in the United States, recently awarded Roslindale social worker Theresa Okokon the Kip Tiernan Social Justice Fellowship—a $40,000 grant. Through the grant, Okokon created, a new program that will bring yoga classes to local shelters.

Legit will use a method called trauma-sensitive yoga, which uses the practice to help people deal with traumatic stress.

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A Pitch to Billionaire Climate Donors: You Made the Pledge; Let’s Get To It

Originally published in Inside Philanthropy on October 12, 2015. Billionaires, we’d like just a moment of your time.

No, not you David Koch or John Paulson, this probably isn’t your kind of thing. We’re talking to a specific set of business titans, here—you guys who have more than a billion in the bank, have pledged to give most of it away, and are deeply concerned about climate change.

Namely, we’re talking to Mike Bloomberg, Eric Schmidt, Tom Steyer, Jeff Skoll, and Paul Allen. Here’s our idea. Sorry, we don’t have a slide deck.

The Elevator Pitch

You five have made it clear that you know climate change is a serious and imminent threat. We’re at a pivotal moment for action and curbing the worst effects, but things aren’t happening fast enough. Collectively, you have unique access to many billions of dollars, plus you’ve publicly committed to giving most of it away before you die. Some of you are already funding climate change efforts in a big way. But you all need to go bigger. We want you to give at least 10 percent of your wealth to fight climate change in the next five years, start a historic movement, and help save the world.


We recognize that is a big ask. For Mike Bloomberg alone, that’s a $3.8 billion check. But this is a big problem, an existential threat the likes of which neither philanthropy nor industry have ever encountered before...

Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.

And the first post in this series on Climate Change and Philanthropy: Dear Climate Funders: The Clock is Ticking. Use Your Endowments