• 2 minute Read

Altered States, Instant Classics, Magnetic Attractions

Very Short List delivers one excellent item to your inbox, daily: Books, films, music, web-things, and dispatches on science and technology. Today, rediscover the 50 states, meet Iceland’s most prolific songwriter, and see an amazing video created by NASA’s in-house artists.


Altered states
venn diagram



The 50 States Project

Earlier this year, a phalanx of American photographers set out to document 12 months in the life of our nation. There are 50 of them in all — one for each state — and what they’ve come up with so far may surprise you.

The project’s instigator — a British photographer named Stuart Pilkington — gives the shutterbugs one assignment every two months. As of this writing, they’ve completed the first: “People.” Vermont’s Seth Butler picked a pair of hirsute farmers to represent his state. Ohio’s Andrew Borowiec shot a snow-covered cemetery. American Idol winner Ruben Studdard and Hootie and the Blowfish front man Darius Rucker are the stand-ins for their home states (Alabama and South Carolina). Check them out today, and check back in May, when the replies to Pilkington’s second assignment — “Habitat” — go up online.

CHECK OUT the 50 States Project

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Instant classics
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Found Songs

Ólafur Arnalds was a very busy man last week: The 21-year-old composer, who lives in Reykjavik, wrote and recorded a new piece every day and posted it online for anyone to download. Each of the compositions is free, and all of them are lovely.

Day one’s piece, a waltz, was written for a friend named Elsa. The third composition — “Romance” — reminded Arnalds of a 19th-century opera. On day six, we heard a somber, year-old piece that Arnalds pulled off the shelf and reworked on the fly. And on the eve of the final day, the composer sent out a tweet in which he promised to end the week on a positive note. He delivered that note — a lovely duet for piano and violin — on Sunday, and it just might be our favorite of the bunch. At this rate, Arnalds can have a week of our time anytime.

HEAR Found Songs by Ólafur Arnalds

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Magnetic attractions
venn diagram



“Magnetic Movie”

Created by two artists-in-residence at NASA’s Space Science Laboratories, “Magnetic Movie” takes a stunning, spooky look at the magnetic fields and solar winds that surround us.

The short (just-under-five-minute) film is narrated by NASA scientists; the artists used computer-imaging software to synch the magnetic waves up to the vibrato in their voices. You’ll see strange energy loops that seep through walls, levitating “hairballs” of electrical energy, and invisible force fields — all of them rendered in bright neon colors. The effects are unexpectedly beautiful, not least because they’re all around us but totally invisible to the naked eye. You’ll never look at a compass the same way again.

WATCH “Magnetic Movie”

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