Pick Of The Week: Giant Balloon Sculptures

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'Science Friday' Video:

Flora Lichtman, Science Friday's digital media producer, talks about an artist who crafts giant balloon sculptures after finding inspiration in the natural world.

IRA FLATOW, host:

Time now for our weekly feature. I see Flora sitting here next to me. Flora Lichtman, our Science Friday "Pick of the Week." Hi, Flora.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Hi.

FLATOW: What have you got for us this week on our sciencefriday.com video site?

LICHTMAN: This week, we have a little science and arts, mostly art, I have to say.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: We visit with Jason Hackenwerth, who is an artist outside of New York - and who's in New York city. And he makes these giant balloon sculptures.

FLATOW: Balloons, he takes lots of balloons and...

LICHTMAN: OK, so think of a clown who makes like a poodle.

FLATOW: Right, at a party or something.

LICHTMAN: Right, multiply that by, you know, thousands. He uses thousands of balloons and they're huge, I mean, you know, 20 feet long.

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: At - but they're light as a feather, obviously.

FLATOW: Hmm. And what's his favorite thing that he makes out of it?

LICHTMAN: He loves to make creatures, so he has one exhibit that is based on bedbugs called "Mega Mites," and there wearable sculptors. And the - what we watch him make in this video is a flower.

FLATOW: A gorgeous giant flower out of lots of balloons.

LICHTMAN: It's beautiful. And so, he's running - the reason why he's doing it, is that he's running this experiment to see how the flower wilts basically over time. Because the air seeps out of the balloon, it's not just through the knot, as I asked. Also...

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: But we all take it seeps out of the knot.

LICHTMAN: It's not the knot.

FLATOW: It's not the knot.

LICHTMAN: Myth busters!

FLATOW: It goes through the plastic - the rubber.

LITCHMAN: It's the membrane, yeah.

FLATOW: Yeah.

LITCHMAN: And apparently the bigger the balloon, the thicker the latex, and so it actually leaks less quickly. So, he designs with that in mind, so that something sort of wilt more quickly and become saggy.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. So, you went to his studio, where was it?

LICHTMAN: It's in this building called the Graffiti Building or Five Pointz in Long Island City, Queens. And it's just covered in graffiti, but it has all these artists in studios in it.

FLATOW: And he - now, does he blow the balloons up with his mouth, I mean, I'd go - I'd be dizzy after.

LICHTMAN: So, I asked him that too, and he was like, well, I used to do it, but six puffs, and I get a little bit dizzy if I were doing a hundred balloons. So, he got this inflator, so he mostly uses the inflator.

FLATOW: Yeah. So, you take us to your story on sciencefriday.com. It's called - what - does it have a name this...

LICHTMAN: Bending balloons into giant flowers, you'll see it.

FLATOW: Yeah, you'll see it on the left side, bending balloons into giant flowers. And we watch his whole processes of him making this giant flower which is gorgeous.

LICHTMAN: Yeah, check it out, and let me know what you think of it.

FLATOW: Yeah, and of course, we're always looking - Flora's always looking for your videos, and if you have other videos or other video ideas, or you know people who would be great subjects for videos, right?

LICHTMAN: Yes, always looking for ideas.

FLATOW: We'd go out and we'll make them rock stars.

LICHTMAN: Science rock stars.

FLATOW: Science Friday rock stars as only Flora can do. Flora, thank you very much.

LICHTMAN: Thanks.

FLATOW: And if you want to see that video, that is on our website. It's sciencefriday.com, and with a bunch of - all other videos that Flora has done...

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