Why Andy Warhol Still Makes Headlines

Even before Occupy Wall Street invaded the National Mall in Washington, DC, and closed down the National Air and Space Museum, Andy Warhol had already occupied several other museums for the winter. In Warhol: Headlines, which runs through January 2, 2012 at the National Gallery of Art, and Andy Warhol: Shadows, at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden through January 15, 2012, American culture’s preoccupation with Warhol and how he not only continues to make headlines, but also to tell us what those headlines really mean continues. Stretching back to work done in the mid-1950s, Warhol: Headlines reminds us that the news of the past looks startlingly like the news of the present and that Warhol warned us long ago how the headlines that “get us” might eventually “get us” in a different way.

Warhol hungrily consumed media all his life, sometimes even storing newspapers into “Time Capsules” for future reference. When Warhol first began to make art related to newspapers and newspaper headlines, he would mimic actual front-page news but insert himself and his friends into the stories. Over time, however, Warhol and friends disappeared from the art, but “Warhol” the brand became more evident in his shift to a stylistic presence over one in “print.” As Molly Donovan explains in the immensely enjoyable catalog, “Warhol’s headline works—from paintings and drawings to prints, photographs, sculpture, and time-based media—reveal an artist managing to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”

Donovan tracks Warhol’s transition from being self-inserted into the headline to being hidden behind as a parallel development to Warhol’s Pop Art renditions of commercial products such as the Campbell’s Soup cans or Brillo boxes. For Donovan, Warhol “point[s] to the commodity status of the news and to our status as its consumers” in his later headline works. The news becomes just another item to buy, and just as emptily disposable. As innocuous or harmless as Warhol’s headlines might seem, there is a dark side that the catalog essayists explore. Donovan masterfully explains the paradox of the headline for Warhol: the sensationalism draws us in, yet the untruthfulness (or as Stephen Colbert would call it, the “truthiness”) simultaneously repels us. Even worse, as Anthony E. Grudin discusses in the catalog, the myth of the headline as democratic, as something anyone can attain and something anyone can participate in, falls prey to “a working-class suspicion that the world of popular culture, despite its promises to the contrary, was being channeled to [the masses] unilaterally, without the possibility of the consumers ever really participating in its production.” In other words, people don’t make the headlines, the headlines make people.

One set of headlines that fascinated Warhol for decades surrounded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Warhol even made a film in 1966 titled Since in which he recreated the shooting in Dallas in his Factory using his “superstars” to act out still from the partially released Zapruder film. In 1968, Warhol created a whole portfolio of screenprints titled Flash - November 22, 1963 (example shown above) featuring images from the shooting accompanied by Teletype news text giving the news “flashes” as they aired that fateful day. John G. Hanhardt sees this as Warhol’s exploration of “the uncanny ways that news events and popular culture become larger-than-life forces in people’s lives, with the headlines serving to highlight those events.” If you’ve ever found yourself caught up in the minutiae of an “O.J. trial”-esque news happening, Warhol’s already been there, and done that, and held up a mirror to your face.

It’s amazingly appropriate that the Occupy movement is making headlines just as Warhol: Headlines occupies the NGA. The movement believes that new headlines—made by the people and not the financial and political powers that be—are called for. (Even Andy Warhol: Shadows, 102 silkscreened and hand-painted canvases featuring distorted photographs of shadows generated in the artist’s studio hung side by side for almost 450 linear feet, seems an apt metaphor for the shadow world of dubious securities, etc., that got us all in this mess.) For all the darkness of Warhol’s exploration of headlines, however, “which warn of inevitable fate,” Donovan concludes, they also “heroically affirm life.” Andy Warhol still makes headlines, and you should, too.

[Image: Andy Warhol. Flash - November 22, 1963, 1968. Portfolio of eleven screenprints with eleven corresponding pages of Teletype text by Phillip Greer, plus three additional screenprints and cloth cover. Sheet: 53.34 x 53.34 cm (21 x 21 in.). Overall size: 54.61 x 53.98 cm (21 1/2 x 21 1/4 in.). Other: 57.15 x 113.67 cm (22 1/2 x 44 3/4 in.). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.]

[Many thanks to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, for providing me with the image above, press materials, and a review copy of the catalog to Warhol: Headlines, which runs through January 2, 2012.]

Drill, Baby, Drill: What will we look for when we’re mining on Mars?

It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back

Photo Credit: National Geographic/Richard Donnelly
Surprising Science
  • In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
  • Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
  • The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points

Want to go to Mars? It will cost you. In 2016, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that manned missions to the planet may cost approximately $10 billion per person. As with any expensive endeavor, it is inevitable that sufficient returns on investment will be needed in order to sustain human presence on Mars. So, what's underneath all that red dust?

Mining Technology reported in 2017 that "there are areas [on Mars], especially large igneous provinces, volcanoes and impact craters that hold significant potential for nickel, copper, iron, titanium, platinum group elements and more."

Were a SpaceX-like company to establish a commercial mining presence on the planet, digging up these materials will be sure to provoke a fraught debate over environmental preservation in space, Martian land rights, and the slew of microbial unknowns which Martian soil may bring.

In National Geographic Channel's genre-bending narrative-docuseries, MARS, (the second season premieres tonight, November 12th, 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT) this dynamic is explored as astronauts from an international scientific coalition go head-to-head with industrial miners looking to exploit the planet's resources.

Given the rate of consumption of minerals on Earth, there is plenty of reason to believe that there will be demand for such an operation.

"Almost all of the easily mined gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, antimony, and phosphorus we can mine on Earth may be gone within one hundred years" writes Stephen Petranek, author of How We'll Live on Mars, which Nat Geo's MARS is based on. That grim scenario will require either a massive rethinking of how we consume metals on earth, or supplementation from another source.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, told Petranek that it's unlikely that even if all of Earth's metals were exhausted, it is unlikely that Martian materials could become an economically feasible supplement due to the high cost of fuel required to return the materials to Earth. "Anything transported with atoms would have to be incredibly valuable on a weight basis."

Actually, we've already done some of this kind of resource extraction. During NASA's Apollo missions to the Moon, astronauts used simple steel tools to collect about 842 pounds of moon rocks over six missions. Due to the high cost of those missions, the Moon rocks are now highly valuable on Earth.

Moon rock on display at US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL (Big Think/Matt Carlstrom)

In 1973, NASA valuated moon rocks at $50,800 per gram –– or over $300,000 today when adjusted for inflation. That figure doesn't reflect the value of the natural resources within the rock, but rather the cost of their extraction.

Assuming that Martian mining would be done with the purpose of bringing materials back to Earth, the cost of any materials mined from Mars would need to include both the cost of the extraction and the value of the materials themselves. Factoring in the price of fuel and the difficulties of returning a Martian lander to Earth, this figure may be entirely cost prohibitive.

What seems more likely, says Musk, is for the Martian resources to stay on the Red Planet to be used for construction and manufacturing within manned colonies, or to be used to support further mining missions of the mineral-rich asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

At the very least, mining on Mars has already produced great entertainment value on Earth: tune into Season 2 of MARS on National Geographic Channel.

For thousands of years, humans slept in two shifts. Should we do it again?

Researchers believe that the practice of sleeping through the whole night didn’t really take hold until just a few hundred years ago.

The Bed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Surprising Science

She was wide awake and it was nearly two in the morning. When asked if everything was alright, she said, “Yes.” Asked why she couldn’t get to sleep she said, “I don’t know.” Neuroscientist Russell Foster of Oxford might suggest she was exhibiting “a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern." Research suggests we used to sleep in two segments with a period of wakefulness in-between.

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Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
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