June 4, 2012

Torah Kachur

Merging science and art has been attempted for centuries, from Da Vinci's flying machines to Seed Magazine the connection between appreciating the beauty of the natural world and studying it should be an easy mix.


          da Vinci Flying Machine Science in Seconds


Instead, scientists wear plaid, write like 3 year olds and don't exactly appreciate the new avant-garde nudist exhibit.  We like to think of ourselves as free-thinkers and that science requires a creative mind, but there aren't very many da Vinci's amongst us.


And yet, scientists can create incredible art as the The Art of Science competition from Princeton University shows every year.  Beautiful images like the one shown below are submitted every year proving, quite remarkably, that scientists can combine more than just primary colors.



Unfortunately, the description reads "This image shows a simple deterministic model illustrating the geomagnetic reversals. The model is based on the non-linear interaction between two magnetic modes (dipole and quadrupole) and one velocity component of the Earth's core flow, and the image shows typical trajectories in the 3D phase space."   Hardly a money-grabbing tag line.  


Maybe an image like this could inspire a cryptic, ethereal caption you see in modern art exhibits that people pretend to understand like "Symbolizing the neverending quest for equality between elephants and rhinocerus', the dominant effervescence of this image invokes a sense of peace yet trepidation".


It is often left to the artists to try and cross the bridge to science, like the European artist Eduardo Kac who commissioned a transgenic GFP-bunny whose skin glows green under UV light.  The exhibit began in 2000 and started a lively discussion about the ethics of transgenics and whether Alba the bunny was suffering.  The art world began the debate and for the most part, the discussion of the science was left to the artists - after all, Alba wasn't created for science so why discuss it.  


Now, Bjork's new album Biophilia has seen a music artist, a weird music artist but a musician nonetheless, fuse a passion for tune with the passion for truth.  Each song has an app with a particular theme like a virus loving a cell to death or "discovering the elusive places we meet nature".  Another app is called Dark Matter where you can learn about scales in music and magnetism or a Moon app where use the tides to give you musical patterns.  Needless to say the apps are incredibly inventive, imaginative and forward thinking.  This is still not mainstream, Bjork, as talented as she is, is still a fringe artist wearing swans or blue hair.  She will not have a sex tape or seek the spotlight for doing absolutely nothing.  


Art and science can collide to make beautiful music with Tesla coils or design flying machines, now if only scientists could appreciate it.





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