Gakken Updates, June 30

Still very little to report regarding Gakken activity. Nothing going on at the main webpage. There are 2 recent posts on the Facebook page, but they’re only announcements of an event being held soon.

Both posts are for the Hakubutsu (Natural science) Festival, to be held at the Kitanomaru Park Museum of Science and Technology, July 23rd and 24th. Following the links, I located an announcement on the hakubutsu blog talking about what looks like new science kits for children.

I tried posting the pictures for the new kits, but the host site seems to be blocking cross-posts. You can see them at the bottom of the hakubutsu blog. One is for the blue slime above. Another is for an “anime machine”, which looks like a zoetrope with a strobe light. The third is for the metal dinosaurs and metal insects line. Most of the metal kits are already on the shelves, but there’s a new one, the metal legend dragon, that I like the look of. If it’s under 2,000 yen I’ll have to get that one.

Joseph Wright of Derby

There’s a photo-heavy science magazine in Japan called Newton. They bill themselves as a “graphic science magazine”, and they’re kind of a competitor to Scientific American, but maybe dumbed down a bit for a more general audience. Recently, they had an issue on the discovery of Nihonium, (actually, it was first reported in 2003, but it wasn’t officially recognized as element 113 until 2015, and the new name was assigned this June). The feature article is on the periodic table, with examples of all the elements, but there are also stories on the Hubble telescope, SACLA (the Japanese free electron laser), and a photo essay on Oshidori (the Japanese Mandarin duck). The pictures of the duck alone are worth getting the magazine for.

Anyway, the editors decided to use a painting by 18th century British artist Joseph Wright of Derby (1734 – 1797) to illustrate the intro to the elements section. I’ve never heard of Wright before, even though he’s described as “the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution.” The wiki article has a number of his paintings as examples, but I think the ones related to science and technology are the most fascinating. What really bugs me is that I’ve never heard of him before. “Alchemist” is beautiful, and “Iron Forge” is absolutely amazing. It’s like looking at science fiction book covers.

(The Alchemist Discovering Phosphorus)

(An Iron Forge)

I’ve never seen anything like the machine forge shown here. I’d love to learn more about how the wheel levers the hammer up and down to pound the iron bar.

(An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump)

The detail in “Experiment” is fantastic, and to me this painting looks like something that could have been created today (exempting the clothing the people are wearing). I’d love to see more of this kind of artwork in the art galleries. ( has hand-painted reproductions of Wright’s work available, starting around $150. Hmm…)