Tag Archives | Neil deGrasse Tyson

Keep your eye on the man, not the dog: A(nother) mosaic about weather vs. climate

“Keep your eye on the man, not the dog.” That’s what Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us to do as he clearly and simply explains the difference between weather and climate. I included this same video in the blog post I did about my previous weather vs. climate mosaic, so for a refresher on the subject (and why the confusion between the two drives me batty) please refer back to that post.

This piece was commissioned by a friend and fellow mosaic artist (it’s that same commission that fell into my lap at SAMA in Philly). I was honoured to have been asked to make something for her, especially because I really look up to her as an artist. On the flip side, however, this made the whole process inherently nerve-racking. It’s intimidating to make something for a mosaic person, because they know. 

I was given complete freedom with the piece and just told to “have some creative fun on [her] nickel” (more daunting than I would’ve thought!)—the only requirement was that I had to use red somewhere, somehow. Since I got the commission at SAMA on the same day that I sold “Weather is not climate” in the silent auction, I thought a sister piece would be appropriate. The man/dog analogy had been stuck in my head since doing the last weather vs. climate piece, so I took that as my point of departure. Since I had carte blanche to do whatever I wanted, I decided to try something completely new for me: building something to pop off the substrate and bend and snake in three dimensions. Of course, as I felt my way through the process I was totally kicking myself for not having taken Marian Shapiro‘s “Bend, fold, undulate” class at SAMA… (Funnily enough, the friend I was making this for actually did take that class!)

"Follow the man, not the dog" mosaic by Julie Sperling

“Follow the man, not the dog” (2015), 10″ x 10″ — marble, limestone (Ottawa), slate, shale (Pennsylvania and Ottawa), bituminous coal, cinca, glass tile, smalti

Is it just me, or is this path eerily similar to the one I ended up creating?

Is it just me, or is this path eerily similar to the one I ended up creating?

I actually didn’t go back and watch the video until it was time to write this post, and it’s crazy how similar the bends are in my ribbon and the dog’s trajectory in the video. I also hadn’t even remembered that the straight line that NDG walks in the video was red until I went back and watched. Perhaps it’s coincidence. Perhaps it’s my brain working in mysterious ways.

The materials I used weren’t chosen specifically for their personal significance, but the connections and meaning of some of them are kind of neat. The black marble (and fibreglass strands I used to strengthen the ribbon) and Marcellus shale came from two separate mutual mosaic friends. The grey rock was scavenged from my favourite place along the Ottawa River in celebration of my second Touchstone anniversary—significant because (a) I took my friend scavenging there and (b) we actually met at Touchstone. And the coal came from a fellow Touchstone classmate of ours. I love these kinds of connections.

So there you have it. A second mosaic about how weather is not the same thing as climate. You know if I dealt with the subject twice, it must mean that it really bugs me. So please stop saying “What happened to global warming?” on those frigid winter days, ok? Don’t make me make a third piece…

"Follow the man, not the dog" mosaic by Julie Sperling

"Follow the man, not the dog" mosaic by Julie Sperling

A side view of the ribbon / snake

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Weather vs. climate: A mosaic about one of my pet peeves

batman slap robin climate change

If my mosaic were a meme, it would be this.

My blood boils every time I hear someone say, “Man, it’s so cold out! So much for global warming, eh?” We’re talking a fist-clenching, teeth-grinding level of frustration and anger. So what do I do about it (other than correct someone every time they make such a boneheaded statement)? I make a mosaic about it, of course!

So let’s get things straight, shall we? First let’s talk about the difference between climate change and global warming. Climate change is not exclusively about things getting warmer—this is why we don’t refer to it as global warming anymore—climate change affects both warm and cold regions of the world and is about more than just temperature (e.g., precipitation, sea level, etc.).

And the distinction between weather and climate can be summed up with the phrase: “Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get,” which basically boils down to the fact that weather is what you see on any given day out your window (the short-term, immediate stuff), while climate is the global average taken over a much longer time period. Climate is not weather, and cold or snowy weather does not disprove climate change (much to the chagrin of snowball-throwing Republican senators). But here, how about we take 2 minutes and let a real scientist—Neil deGrasse Tyson—explain it to us using a really simple example: Follow the man, not the dog.

With that cleared up, now let’s have a look at the mosaic I made. The terracotta trendline is meant to represent rising global temperatures from a variety of climate models (they may all be slightly different, but they’re all headed in the same general direction). I used the copper wire because it’s a good conductor of heat, which I thought was appropriate. And the blue smalti punctuating the piece here and there? Those are those pesky snowy, cold blips. They’re there, yes, but they don’t disturb the trend. Not much else to say about this piece. It was a fun one, and I’m thinking of maybe doing a second one on the same theme (just a different way of representing it visually), so stay tuned!

Julie Sperling "Weather is not climate" mosaic

“Weather is not climate” (2015), 10″ x 10″, marble, stone, terracotta, smalti, beads, copper wire

Julie Sperling "Weather is not climate" mosaic

A closer look at the trendline with the cold-weather blips

Julie Sperling "Weather is not climate" mosaic

Close-up of the little copper outliers poking up here and there

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