Painting With Light, Artists Make Images That Glow Watch artists Michelle McSwain and Ryan Warnberg, collectively known as MRI, demonstrate how to paint with light. Vision expert Stephen Macknik, of the Barrow Neurological Institute, explains what the images teach us about the human visual system.
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Painting With Light, Artists Make Images That Glow

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Painting With Light, Artists Make Images That Glow

Painting With Light, Artists Make Images That Glow

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And now, our video Pick of the Week. Flora Lichtman, our video editor and producer, is here. Welcome.


FLATOW: What wonderful video can we find at today?

LICHTMAN: This week, we have a science and art video. There are two artists in New York, Michelle McSwain and Ryan Warnberg, who go by MRI, that make light paintings.

FLATOW: Light paintings?


FLATOW: Using light.

LICHTMAN: Right. So, here's the premise.


LICHTMAN: They take LEDs, which are, you know, these bright light-emitting diodes, and they use long photographic exposures on their camera. And they produce these really kind of ghostly mesmerizing images. You can kind of think of it like, if your camera were recording what your eye sees over the span of 30 seconds, but then it shows it to you all at once - that's kind of what a light painting is.

FLATOW: So, you're like tracing the rays of light as they're happening?


FLATOW: And you're seeing them all collapsed in time?

LICHTMAN: Right. All collapsed in time. Right, I think that's a good point.

FLATOW: Wow. And they're gorgeous pictures that come out.

LICHTMAN: They're gorgeous, I mean, they're really beautiful. They're all different colors, and they've done them - you know, we were in a studio in Chelsea, but they've done them outside and traced plants and have, you know, people in them. They're cool. They're, I think, worth a look.

FLATOW: All right, that's at That's our video Pick of the Week on the left side of the page. Also, there's some music in there, is there not?

LICHTMAN: Yes, so, we do have some music in there, and, you know, I think this is a good time to bring up that we're also always looking for music to use in our videos because...

FLATOW: We love music.

LICHTMAN: We love music. It enhances it.

FLATOW: (Laughing) So, what's special about this music that we have?

LICHTMAN: This music is by the band Synthar. And they gave us a CD, and the music is sort of synthy and poppy but we - I think, you know, want to take the opportunity to thank them for providing us with the music and tunes.

FLATOW: Yes and...

LICHTMAN: And we have another band, too, that I think we should thank, which is called Knife Crazy, that actually has a song called "Let's be Scientists" that...

FLATOW: We've heard on your other videos.

LICHTMAN: Yeah, that we've heard on other videos. So, if you are a musician out there, the point is, send us your music.

FLATOW: We're always looking for videos and Flora will take a look at your videos. Please, send us your videos at You'll see a little link to Flora's email message, because we want to see your videos, and we're always happy to have them.

LICHTMAN: And I think we're going to hear some of this music that we have in the video now. So this is Synthar.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: And it's Flora's video Pick of the Week. Flora, thank you. Flora Lichtman is our video editor and producer.

LICHTMAN: Thanks, Ira.

FLATOW: Thanks for the choice. We'll see you next week.

(Soundbite of credits)

FLATOW: And please, send us your mail, your videos, your audios and go to our Web site at for the video Pick of the Week. And also, you can podcast there, and we're blogging there, and you can see how to join the folks - the avatars in Second Life. And we'd be very happy to take your audio and video suggestions. I'm Ira Flatow in New York.

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