Thursday, June 9, 2016

Final Essay

Monday, June 6, 2016

Event Blog 3 - California Academy of Sciences

I visited the California Academy of Sciences up in San Francisco during a trip home on May 30th. The academy has been one of my favorite museums since I was young, but I hadn't visited in a long time, so the return trip was really nice. The museum is divided up into several different sections, including an aquarium, a rainforest dome, and a planetarium.

Map of museum

In the context of this course, the museum is an excellent example of the interconnection between science and art. The museum is envisioned as a center for scientific education, with detailed exhibits that explain not only what is there, but why it is there. Each animal exhibit has a description of the animal's locale, living habits, and particular traits that help it survive and thrive in its environment. That said, the excellent educational text is enhanced by the artistic layout and design of the exhibits. My favorite part of the museum has always been the rainforest dome - a huge, three story tall transparent dome that encloses a recreation of an actual rainforest, complete with birds, insects, and other animals that are free to fly around rather than being confined to cages and tanks. The concept is unique because visitors can fully immerse themselves in the rainforest environment, which lends itself to a whole new level of experience beyond your typical museum that just lets you watch from a distance.

Picture of me with museum guides outside the rainforest exhibit

One other smaller exhibit that stood out to me in a different sense was the Foucault Pendulum, a large swinging pendulum hung from an installation in the ceiling that aimed to demonstrate the effects of the Earth's rotation as it changes the path of its movement to gradually knock down colored pegs. The beauty of its construction is captivating, and also rewarding of patience - a peg is knocked down only once every 33 minutes, but the swinging of the pendulum drawing ever closer to the next peg is as soothing as it is a fascinating display of the motion of the Earth.

The Foucault Pendulum


Image 1 - Bouknight, Ray. "Map of Main Floor, California Academy of Sciences." Flickr. Yahoo!, 10 November 2014. Web. 06 June 2016.

Image 2 - Self taken

Image 3 - Self taken

Braginsky, Vladimir B., Aleksander G. Polnarev, and Kip S. Thorne. "Foucault Pendulum at the South Pole: Proposal For an Experiment to Detect the Earth's General Relativistic Gravitomagnetic Field." Phys. Rev. Lett. Physical Review Letters 53.9 (1984): 863-66. Web.

"California Academy of Sciences." California Academy of Sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

Calacademy. "The Foucault Pendulum." California Academy of Sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

Krane, Kenneth S. "The Pendulum: A Case Study in Physics." Phys. Today Physics Today 59.7 (2006): 52-53. Web.

"Foucault Pendulum." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

Event Blog 2 - Nonlinear Perspectives Exhibition and LASER

I attended the Nonlinear Perspectives art exhibition and following LASER talks with professor Walter Gekelman on May 19th. This was a two part event; the first hour being an art exhibition put on by the Art Science Undergraduate Society, and the next two being a series of talks and discussion.

Exhibition promotional material

The exhibition's theme was 'chaos and entropy'. I have a fairly minimal understanding of entropy based on my coursework, but it appeared that the artists' pieces were mainly centered around the general idea of chaos rather than the textbook thermodynamic definition of entropy. The artwork was very interesting, with a total of five or six separate pieces which each of the student artists said a few brief words on. I thought the coolest part of the exhibit was actually in the students' backgrounds - among them were biologists, mathematicians, and engineers alike, who also happened to be passionate about art.

Selfie at the beginning of the LASER talks

After hanging around the exhibition, we then moved to a different room for the LASER talks. We had a total of three presenters - the first was a former PhD in physics who decided to switch gears and focus on art. The second was an artist who drew inspiration from neuroscience and used oxytocin mixed in with paint for her pieces. The last was professor Walter Gekelman, a physicist who works with plasma in UCLA's Basic Plasma Science Facility. His talk was the most interesting for me, as he is clearly very deeply entrenched in the physics world, but also shows a distinct interest in art. The images drawn from his plasma research had a distinctly beautiful element to them:

3D magnetic fields generated from plasma collision


Image 1 - "NONLINEAR PERSPECTIVES + FOURTH STATE OF MATTER." Home Page. UCLA Art | Sci Center, n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

Image 2 - Self taken

Image 3 - Gekelman, Walter. "Basic Plasma Science Facility at UCLA." BaPSF. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

Moore, Nathaniel B., Walter Gekelman, and Patrick Pribyl. "Ion Energy Distribution Function Measurements by Laser-induced Fluorescence in a Dual Radio Frequency Sheath." Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology A: Vacuum, Surfaces, and Films J. Vac. Sci. Technol. A 34.2 (2016): 021303. Web.

Gekelman, Walter, Patrick Pribyl, Henry Birge-Lee, Joe Wise, Cami Katz, Ben Wolman, Bob Baker, Ken Marmie, Vedang Patankar, Gabriel Bridges, Samuel Buckley-Bonanno, Susan Buckley, Andrew Ge, and Sam Thomas. "Drift Waves and Chaos in a LAPTAG Plasma Physics Experiment." Am. J. Phys. American Journal of Physics 84.2 (2016): 118-26. Web.

Niemann, C., W. Gekelman, C. G. Constantin, E. T. Everson, D. B. Schaeffer, A. S. Bondarenko, S. E. Clark, D. Winske, S. Vincena, B. Van Compernolle, and P. Pribyl. "Observation of Collisionless Shocks in a Large Current-free Laboratory Plasma." Geophys. Res. Lett. Geophysical Research Letters 41.21 (2014): 7413-418. Web.

"Home Page." Home Page. UCLA Art | Sci Center, n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

"Art Science Undergraduate Society." Home Page. UCLA Art | Sci Center, n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Week 9 - Space + Art

This week's topic was the intersection of space and art. When I first looked at the course material for the week I was excited to see the famous 'Powers of Ten' video - I was fortunate enough to have seen it before in high school, and I always found it fascinating how much mankind knows about and yet cannot even see. I looked at the powers of ten blog and saw this image/infographic, which paints a similar but slightly more relatable picture:

Depth of Challenger Deep. Image credit: The Apricity - A European Cultural Community.

The principle here, of course, is that there are many incredibly tall (and deep) terrestrial forms that we are just barely beginning to discover. Space, however, is something entirely different. There is a level of complexity that most of us struggle to wrap our heads around, let alone actually begin to understand at a functional level. Just taking a look at the inside of a spacecraft's control room is enough to blow the mind:

Still, space is inspiring in many ways. I find it so incredibly impressive both that humans are able to study this vast, harsh region to such a great extent without leaving our own ground, and even more so that we have been able to actually break free of our planetary constraints and send some of our own up there. On the artistic side, though, space and space objects are just so wonderfully beautiful. NASA gives us an enormous number of images with all of their missions, both manned and unmanned. My favorite illustration is shown below, though - I find that not just the visuals are beautiful, but the idea that mankind has been able to convert the hostile, airless environment of space into a network that connects the entire planet even further is quite amazing and still makes me marvel no matter how much I think about it.


Image 1 - Marlow. "Challenger Deep." Powers of Ten Blog. Eames Office, 3 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 May 2016.

Image 2 - Hadfield, Chris. Shuttle Cab. Digital image. Reddit. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2016.

Image 3 - Epstein, Zach. "Every Single Satellite Orbiting Earth, in a Single Image."BGR. BGR, 06 Mar. 2014. Web. 29 May 2016.

EamesOffice. "Powers of Ten™ (1977)." YouTube. YouTube, 26 Aug. 2010. Web. 29 May 2016.

Vesna , Victoria, dir. Space Part 1. 2012. Film. 29 May 2016. <!>

“Leonardo Space Art Project Visioneers.” Leonardo Space Art Project. MIT Press, 1996. Web. 29 May 2016.

"Dancing on the Ceiling: Art & Zero Gravity Curated by Kathleen Forde : EMPAC Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center : Troy, NY USA." Dancing on the Ceiling: Art & Zero Gravity Curated by Kathleen Forde : EMPAC Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center : Troy, NY USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2016.

Gekelman, Walter. "Basic Plasma Science Facility at UCLA." BaPSF. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2016.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Week 8 - Nanotech + Art

This week's topic was the intersection of nanotechnology and art. The primary point of interest for this topic is in the way that modern science's ability to manipulate matter on a level that is not visible to the naked eye has affected the way we experience the world around us, including artistic pieces. "Nanotechnology" is a very broad term that can essentially refer to anything one so chooses as long as it involves very small components. The prevalence of this kind of technology brings into question whether long-standing human perceptions of reality are truly accurate compared to new found understanding of the makeup of objects on the atomic level.

Gimzewski and Vesna, The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of fact and fiction in the construction of a new science

One thing I found interesting about this week's material is the incorporation of this new understanding of how things around us are composed on a small scale, and the adaptation of this understanding to the creation of new artistic pieces. The pieces in the John Curtin Gallery ("art in the age of nanotechnology") are compelling because they showcase the beauty of the tiny and unseen, and illustrate things that are invisible to the naked eye in a visible manner.

"A Mote it is...1" image
"A Mote it is...1", from the John Curtin Gallery

My personal favorite example of nanotechology in action is superhydrophobicity. Materials are modified on the molecular level to be more hydrophobic (repel water). An example is shown in the video below:


Image 1 - Gimzewski, Jim, and Victoria Vesna. "The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of Fact & Fiction in the Construction of a New Science." The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of Fact & Fiction in the Construction of a New Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.

Image 2 - "Art in the Age of Nanotechnology." Art.Base. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.

Video - UltraTech International. "The SECOND Official Ultra-Ever Dry Video - Superhydrophobic Coating - Repels Almost Any Liquid!" YouTube. YouTube, 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 23 May 2016.

Crichton, M. (2002) World Briefing | Asia: China: Science Nods To Dinosaur Fiction. New York Times, 11th December, p. 8.

Whitfield, J. (2002) New Bug found on bug: Marine microbe sets miniaturization records. Nature, Science Update.

Gao, Zhengxin, Miaolian Ma, Xianglin Zhai, Ming Zhang, Deli Zang, and Chengyu Wang. "Improvement of Chemical Stability and Durability of Superhydrophobic Wood Surface via a Film of TiO 2 Coated CaCO 3 Micro-/nano-composite Particles." RSC Adv. 5.79 (2015): 63978-3984. Web.

Gimzewski, J. (2002) Nanoarchitectonics. IN: The Proceedings of The Second International Symposium on Nanoarchitectonics using Suprainterationcs (NASI2), University of Califonria, Los Angeles, 26-28, March.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Week 7 - Neuroscience and Art

This week's topic was the intersection of neuroscience and art. At a glance, this connection seems like a bit of a stretch, especially in light of the divide between the two fields as we have mentioned before in our discussion of the two cultures. However, it stands to reason that the mind is intimately related to the creation of artistic works - at its core, we generally accept that the brain is what controls everything about ourselves and thus the mind is what ultimately creates works of art. At the same time, the brain is also what perceives, processes, and interprets those works in other people. An understanding of how the brain works, therefore, can lend itself to understanding both sides of artistry, the creative aspect and the viewing aspect.

An illustration of Jung's archetypes of the collective unconsciousness

I found Jung's concept of the collective unconsciousness to be an interesting concept from this week's lectures. This concept states that there is a level of the human mind that is shared among all people and contains certain basic motifs ("archetypes") that are intrinsic, and that the individual then branches out from this baseline but is always affected by it. It was difficult for me to wrap my head fully around this idea, but it makes sense to a certain extent when applied to myths and stories from different cultures. It is easy to draw parallels in old stories from cultures separated both geographically and ideologically, from the wise old man or lady to an evil, tempting animal figure. Jung's argument seems to claim that these parallels stem from a species-wide collective neurological commonality.

Brainbows from Livet et. al.

The brainbow concept was also very interesting to me, partly because the images generated are pretty, and partly because the science behind this fluorescent expression is really interesting to me as a scientist. I think that there is still a great deal of research that needs to be done for this beautiful display to yield more functional results, but in the meantime I think that this sort of artistic illustration of the cellular makeup of the brain is a great way to bridge a gap in understanding between the scientific community and society at large.


IMAGE 1 - "Collective Unconscious and Cultural Insight (Introduction to Archetypes)."Inspector Insight. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.

IMAGES 2&3 - "Brainbow." Center for Brain Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.

"Collective Unconscious and Cultural Insight (Introduction to Archetypes)."Inspector Insight. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.

Corbett, Lionel. Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality beyond Religion. New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal, 2007. Print.

"Brainbow." Center for Brain Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.

Livet, Jean, Tamily A. Weissman, and Jeff W. Lichtman. "Transgenic Strategies for Combinatorial Expression of Fluorescent Proteins in the Nervous System." Nature 450 (2007): 56-62. Web. 16 May 2016.

Lichtman, Jeff W., Jean Livet, and Joshua R. Sanes. "A Technicolour Approach to the Connectome." Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9 (2008): 417-22. Web. 16 May 2016.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Week 4 - Medicine+Technology+Art

This week's topic was the intersection of medical technology and art. As a Bioengineering major, the discussion of medicine and its influence on art (and vice versa) is very relevant to many of the classes I am taking in my own field. In this week's discussion we focus on how medical advances affect artistic creations and how art can drive facets of medicine.

A Body Worlds piece

Professor Vesna discusses in detail in her lectures how advances in our understanding of the human body have driven numerous works of art. My personal favorite is the exhibit "Body Worlds," (image above) which is an artistic and scientific exhibition showing preserved bodies of humans and other animals in various poses and levels of transparency. The goal of this exhibition is both to showcase the beauty of the innerworkings of the body and to educate people on how this incredibly complex system functions through a visual medium. While other works are perhaps less overt and graphic, the journey of discovery of the human body by science has paved the way for a variety of interesting physiologically inspired creative works, like Emily Watson's organ-inspired jewelry, below:

Jewelry by Emily Watson

On the flip side, the drive for aesthetics has inspired medical advances as well - Professor Vesna discusses the origins of plastic surgery, which I find to be a fascinating field within medicine. She explains that the field of plastic surgery has its origins in wartime, when cosmetic injuries were very common and many wished to edit them out. While the subject is controversial even today, I find it pretty amazing that medical science has advanced far enough for small cosmetic fixes and changes to become relatively commonplace. I was particularly intrigued by the discussion of the artist "Orlan," who uses cosmetic surgeries as a performance art (shown below). Some may find it obnoxious or superficial, but as Orlan demonstrates, there is an inherent beauty in our ability to choose the way we look.



White, Ryan. "Guests Advised of Sensitive Imagery Prior to BODY WORLDS Vital’s Calgary Run." CTV News Calgary. CTV News Calgary, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

"Metal & Enamel Jewelry." Emily Watson. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Heise, Axcel. "Contoversial Artist Orlan The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan."Creative Mapping. Creative Mapping, 04 Aug. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Von Hagens, Gunther. "Prelude." Body Worlds. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

"Artiste Transmédia Et Féministe. Météorite Narratif Du BIO ART. Son Oeuvre Questionne Le Statut Du CORPS Dans La Société. Ses Sculptures, HYBRIDATIONS Et Autoportraits Réinterprètent Le Rôle Des Nouvelles Technologies." Orlan. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Week 3 - Art and Robotics

This week's topic was the intersection of art and robotics, specifically with regards to industrialization and society's reaction to it. This topic piqued my interest primarily because of its overlaps with a previous Desma class (Desma 8, Media Histories) that I took at UCLA previously. For that class, I had the pleasure of viewing LACMA's exhibit, "Haunted Screens," which provided insight on the German Expressionist film movement.

The robot of Metropolis, seen in LACMA.

This exhibit really captures the beauty of film as a medium, and speaks on two levels to this week's discussion topic - on one hand, it shows that industrialization and advancing technology can in fact give way to new forms of artistic expression, and on the other, that technological progress can become itself an inspiration for art. Walter Benjamin seems to disagree with this point, saying that the reproduction of a piece of art by mechanical means will diminish its 'aura' - but I think that the reproduction provides value of its own.

Arduino Uno

The mention of Arduino in the lecture also provides me a point of connection to this topic. For my senior Engineering project, my team worked in depth with the Arduino Uno microcontroller to run our own, new diagnostic device. In working with the chip, I discovered just how many interesting, innovative applications are out there, made possible by a simple but powerful technology. While they may not qualify as 'art' in a traditional sense, these creations, powered by the worldwide reach of simple robotic controllers, serve as inspiration to many who would otherwise relegate themselves to a less creative life.

An 8x8 LED cube - just one example of an incredible combination of engineering and art


Miranda, Carolina A. "Wild Architecture Makes German Cinema Come Alive at LACMA." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

W. Benjamin. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." 1936. Print.

"WHAT IS ARDUINO?" Arduino. Arduino, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

Chrmoe. "LED Cube 8x8x8 Running on an Arduino." YouTube. YouTube, 31 Dec. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

D. Davis. "The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction." 1995. Leonardo, Vol. 28, No. 5. Third Annual New York Digital Salon. pp. 381-386. Print.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Week 2 - Mathematics and Art

This week’s topic is the influence of mathematics in art. I don’t personally have much experience with art concepts because I, as Professor Vesna alludes to in her lecture, have been trained to focus only on math and science as opposed to art and other creative topics. In spite of my general lack of artistic knowledge, I was able to connect to some of the topics mentioned in the lecture and found it very interesting that math and art are so interconnected. I remember doing a short project in grade school on the Golden Ratio, which we find in this week’s material is found very often in nature, as shown in the first image below:

The idea that mathematical concepts are mirrored in nature is not a particularly surprising to me, but it does turn out quite beautiful – my favorite piece from this week was the explanation of the Mandelbrot fractal and how natural shapes can be derived from this mathematic concept:

It is rather obvious that math and art have come together in recent years due to the prevalence of computers and the migration of a large portion of artistic creations to the digital medium. However, the connection to nature is what I found most interesting about this week’s topic. After hearing it through the class, it seems like a straightforward connection to make, from math to nature to visual appeal. That said, I never really stopped to think about that connection, and certainly didn’t have exposure to the examples in the course resources section for this week. I was also intrigued by the music and computing link, because digital music is a form of artistic expression that I hear nearly all of my waking hours, but unfortunately I have not yet had time to read through the whole site and have put a bookmark in that for now.


"The Golden Ratio – Fingerprint Of “God” – 19 August 2012." Lucas 2012 Infos. N.p., 19 Aug. 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

DlimitR. "Fractals - Mandelbrot." YouTube. YouTube, 17 June 2006. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Burk, Phil, Larry Polansky, Douglas Repetto, Mary Roberts, and Dan Rockmore. "Music and Computers." Music and Computers. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Abbott, Edwin Abbott. "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions." Flatland. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

"Mandelbrot Set." Wolfram MathWorld. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Week 1 - Two Cultures

This week's topic is the concept of the "two cultures," a term coined by C.P. Snow in his essay The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution to describe the separation between people in the fields of literature and science. Snow explains that this gap's source lies in the public education system, which entertains and encourages the idea of the two disciplines being distinct from one another and without crossover. He later augmented this view with a prediction in a later essay, predicting a third group that would serve as a bridge between the two separate sides.

As a UCLA student and a Chinese American citizen, the separation between science and literature has always been very evident in my life. The layout of the academic campus speaks for itself - while I won't waste space rehashing what others have said before, the physical separation between North and South Campus at UCLA reinforces the idea that there shouldn't be intermixing between fields of study. The culture I was raised in doesn't pull punches either; my ethnically Chinese family told me repeatedly through my upbringing that the science and engineering path led to jobs, while the literature and art path did not. Having been a student all my life, I have always been surrounded by this very compartmentalized way of thinking, and to a great extent my choices have reflected it.

In spite of this separation, I would argue that UCLA attempts to bridge the gap between worlds. Many have brought forth their own views on what the "third culture" is - John Brockman posits that modern-day scientists are this third group, while our own Professor Vesna suggests that it is instead digital artists who open up communication between the scientists and the literary intellectuals. I personally find the efforts to identify one particular group or another as this bridge to be too limiting. I think that rather than being able to point to one group, we should instead focus on attaining the breadth of knowledge and understanding of the two sides necessary to be a part of the bridge, and regardless of which side we align to, strive to always be open to the other. By taking this class, especially, I hope to gain a better understanding of how both sides contribute to the development of human society and how I can play a role in advancing that in the future.


Snow, C. P. “Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.” Reading. 1959. New York: Cambridge UP, 1961. Print.

Brockman, John. The Third Culture. N.p.: n.p., 1995. Print.

Snow, C.P. The Two Cultures: And a Second Look. N.p.: n.p., 1963. Print.

Vesna, Victoria. "Toward a Third Culture: Being In Between." Leonardo. 34 (2001): 121-125. Print.

 "An Update on C. P. Snow's "Two Cultures"" Scientific American. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.