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.