Tag Archives: science

Where Art and Science Meet.

Art and science are normally thought of as being very separate entities.  Yet there are many areas in which art and science come together, and visualization is one of them.  This past week I came across two separate things that showed how important visualization can be – from understanding our hominid ancestors to seeing sound.

In an article on Wired Science, Brandon Keim writes about the 3D renderings of  hominids created by paleoartist Viktor Deak, with pictures of the very lifelike creatures he creates and a little bit about the way he uses computers and animation to help him.

On TEDtalks Evan Grant demonstrates cynatics, a process for making sound waves visible in patterns that seem to be already present in nature, and in work much older than our own era.  It is interesting the think about where and how these sound created patterns already entered our consciousness, and the way they might have been created.

Whose Shoulders Do We Stand On?

CropThinking_Soft

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton.

Newton acknowledged that his revolutionary theories found their roots in the work of others. Building knowledge is a cumulative process, and the results, for better or for worse, accumulate around us. As knowledge becomes accepted more widely then human ideas lead to human creations that become objects and concepts we integrate into our lives.

It’s a good thing we never have to start from scratch. Consider the difficulties – we would have no home, no clothes, no farming, no way of cooking – nothing we did not create ourselves. Should we find time for creating images, we artists would have to make our colours from earth and clay and plants, and paint on rocks or other natural surfaces. Writers would have to tell stories instead of write them, carry their stories with them to share with one or two or a few instead being able to send their words in books or files around the world. Because every one of these things and many, many others we take for granted were created by someone else who developed them based on knowledge developed by someone else before them, starting at a time so long ago and in a place so far from here that we find it hard to imagine a world in which such knowledge and skills did not exist. We stand and build our lives on the shoulders of many, many who have gone before, whether or not we acknowledge it.

Why would I bring this up? Because we so often ignore the fact that we are nothing without all the things that those who came before us learned and passed on. We would not even be able to read this if someone else had not invented the alphabet we use – never mind enjoy the benefits of printing, books, computers. Counting would be pretty difficult too, if others had not figured out how to do it and then how to write down numbers. Someone had to figure out how to measure things, draw maps and charts to guide others, make the wheel – never mind engines. The list goes on and on.

What kind of people created the many things we take for granted? We will never know about the lives of many of the early inventors and explorers, but we can be sure that they were people who observed, learned, explored, analysed, created. Perhaps they had to create new things to survive; perhaps they invented new things to meet a need; perhaps they simply enjoyed the pleasure of achieving a new understanding, finding new way of doing things.

In the end, I’m not sure that their motivation matters. But I do think we owe it to all who have struggled to understand and to create to treat the gifts of knowledge they have left us with respect, to acknowledge them, use them well and add, if we can, our own little bit to the store. For those who will stand on our shoulders.

Arts and Sciences – two sides of the same coin?

Mae Jemison: On teaching arts and sciences together

Who better to talk about the arts and sciences, what connects them and why they need to be taught together, to be re-integrated with each other in popular culture than someone who embodies that integration? Mae Jemison is an astronaut, a doctor, an art collector, and a dancer. Her words come from experience, knowledge, and thoughtful analysis. Of all the words she spoke, these particularly caught my attention:

“Science provides an understanding of a universal experience, art provides a universal understanding of a personal experience.”

What Would Leonardo Be?

DaVinciImage

What Would Leonardo Be?

One of my joys has been poring through the parts of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks that have been printed. Full of intricate diagrams, observations and theories, they give some insight into a man who was both scientist and artist.

Then today I opened the twice-weekly letter from Robert Genn to find him exploring a subject near to my heart – the idea that scientists and artists are not separate species, but have much in common. He began by talking about Frank Oppenheimer’s Exploratorium . To quote Robert:

“Frank Oppenheimer believed that artists and scientists were cut from the same cloth, destined to be the sensitive eyes and ears of mankind and the creators of human progress.”

Much has been written on the subject, and examinations of the processes by which great scientists and great artists have reached beyond the known to open new areas to exploration certainly seem to suggest that they have much in common.

Breakthroughs are based on both width and depth of knowledge, exploration, categorization, experimentation and a rigorous method for assessing the new knowledge gained. And an ability to know what matters, and what should be put aside.

Those are the broader themes. On the personal level, it seems to me that the links between the artist and the scientist include the ability to visualize, to see patterns, to weed out unnecessary distractions, and to play with ideas and concepts both consciously and unconsciously.

Like Leonardo. Or Einstein. Or Frank Oppenheimer.