Lisa Roberts blog


Art or science?

Filed under: Literature, Science — Tags: — Lisa @ 09:19

Paragraphs to Stimulate Discussion of Poetry and Science

from Jared Smith

November 21, 2010

Source: Jasmin Discussions, 30 Nov 2020

I think that we can all start out with the assumption that anybody who is reading Leonardo on a regular basis or is participating in this YASMIN discussion already understands at least intuitively that both the arts and the sciences are related to pattern-thinking, as well as to a striving to recognize within each newly perceived or hard won pattern something which is larger or more magnificent than anything which we have ever perceived before. Each of us, whether scientist or artist, rushes along one corridor or another of linear thought which will propel us to a desired level of sensitivity to the world about us or to a level of desired control over that which we can control, and then suddenly those who are luckiest among us find our linear paths exploded by other linear paths that come from congruent angles or by parallel awarenesses stemming from perhaps sub-quantum foci that suddenly explode our past arguments or awareness and carry us toward even greater appreciations of what surrounds us and what we are composed of. Wonderful discussions of the parallels between creative thought in the arts and creative thought in the sciences can be found in such books as Arthur Kostler’s Act of Creation, or in the proceedings of
Myron Color’s Creative Science Seminar series, or of course in the archives of any issue of Leonardo.

What determines the degree of value we place upon an insight or a thought process that allows us to determine whether it is art or science, then? That is harder to define. Oppenheimer wrote and translated French Romantic poetry: was that separate from his work with nuclear physics? Coleridge and Shelley and Lord Byron were Romantic poets, yet they shared in-depth intellectual discussions with the leading scientists of their day and published at times in the same small-circulation journals bending their intellects on both sides, artistic and scientific through both linear and nonlinear junctions to such matters as what defines the spark of life that animates men and is that spark if recreated by scientific or technological means then the same as life itself. (I refer you to Richard Holmes remarkable book (The Age of Wonder.) Were these the same questions that reverberated through the marble sculptures and the earthen tones of paint that Michelangelo wove his visions around, and with which he illustrated a vision of touch and singularity that arises from a man’s extended finger and the hand of that which is greater than he? Do any of these things that we think of in our deeper moments, that we quest for, have any discernible value to define them as arts or sciences separate from each other when measured in the scope of our existence—or do we
merely severely limit ourselves by defining them as first one and then another? If T.S. Eliot was right in his determination and definition of an “objective correlative” in art or in poetry as being a series of images which when read by any careful reader (any scientist who is trained in the art?) will produce within that reader only one vision or understanding which is the same in each person who reads it thusly, cannot one say that the words of a poet must be wielded with as much care
and knowledge and skill as the mathematics of quantum physics scrawled out in hard earned bursts of joy on university blackboards. Are not the visions brought by the words of one poet to a select and educated few as dramatic in their meaning and intent, and as decisive in their creation, as that of a director at CERN to a similarly well educated and small, select group? Can those two groups overlap, and is there value in that?

Well, yes, perhaps, you might say so, if we could only know which poet or which artist were wielding the right vision and sharpening with the right tools or words. But how could we know? Who could verify?

This is important because as we all know in science and with regard to technology, when we mix ingredients or procedures together while controlling all variables, we will always get the same action and reaction, the same objective correlative. And that action and reaction may have value, or they may not. And if they do have value, it may take many decades or even hundreds of years to determine what that value is and whether it lies within the intellectual or material realm. We have a great many institutions of learning which turn out a great many men and women of considerable intellect who are trained to study each scientific theorem as it evolves and to place it within other theorems for greater substance and meaning.

At times, this study and evolving is a time-curdling process where the mind grows infinitely older and achieves little; but at times, it can take flight in new and unexpected colonies of bacilli blossoming into definable space on a petri dish, taking shape as a poem from the small things we know about the expanding world around us. Call it art. Call it nonlinear spontaneity. And when it sings in the back rooms of our minds, when it speaks in a language that reverberates not only with our higher brain functions but also within the reptile brain we have so little understanding of, when it creates a song that we know is worth listening to in the quietness of our non-salaried time, and makes us feel alive as individuals in ways we cannot explain with out mathematical formulas or our surface linguistics, let’s call it poetry with the honor it so deserves.

Poetry at its best is the only art that combines linear thought with musical rhythms and meter to produce an exacting language that transcends the speech of our time.

–Jared Smith, 11/21/10


Martin Kemp

Filed under: Conferences, Iconography, Science, writing — Lisa @ 10:10

Through the Yasmin on-line forum, 11 November 2010, Vítor Reia-Baptista posts,

Just to let you know that Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon will held a cicle of Conferences under the general theme «Image in Science and Art», starting with a conference by Martin Kemp (full program down in this message).

Martin Kemp has written and broadcast extensively on imagery in art and science from the Renaissance to the present day. Leonardo da Vinci has been at the centre of this endeavour, and has been the subject of a number of his books and exhibitions, including Leonardo (Oxford University Press, 2004). His wider research has involved the sciences of optics, anatomy and natural history in various key episodes in the history of naturalism. In 1989 he published The Science of Art. Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat (Yale University Press). Increasingly, he has focused on issues of visualization, modeling and representation. The broad thrust of more recent work is devoted to a “New History of the Visual,” which embraces the wide range of artefacts from science, technology, and the fine, applied and popular arts that have been devised to create models of nature and to articulate human relationships with the physical world. A scientific diagram or computer graphic model of a molecule is as relevant to this new history as a painting by Michelangelo. He writes a regular column on ‘Science in Culture’ in the science journal
Nature, an early selection of which has been published as Visualisations (OUP, 2000). Many of the themes of the Nature essays are developed in Seen and Unseen (OUP 2006), in which his concept of
’structural intuitions’ is explored. Forthcoming books include The Human Animal (Chicago).

Ciclo de Conferências Image in Science and Art



17 Novembro 2010 | 18.00

?Taking it on Trust? in Images of Nature

Martin Kemp


15 Dezembro 2010 | 18.00

The Problem of a Picture of an Atom

Christopher Toumey

19 Janeiro 2011| 18.00

Visiting Time: The Renegotiation of Time through Time-Based Art

Boris Groys

2 Fevereiro 2011 | 18.00

Functional Images of the Brain: Beauty, Bounty, and Beyond

Judy Illes



Av. de Berna, 45 A ? 1067-001 LISBOA

T. 21 782 35 25 | E. |


Videodifusão |


Blob motility

Filed under: Iconography, Literature, Science — Lisa @ 07:48

Blob motility

My friend Natalie Shell, of Think, Talk, Walk, sends this link to Blob motility:

Blob Motility is an early phase of a new “actuated shape display using programmable matter.” With it, A gel substance can be programmed to a specific geometry and topology, resulting in organic shape-changing in real space—not unlike a “metaball” in computer graphics, as the lab points out.

The hardware is composed of electromagnets arranged in a honeycomb structure underneath, with control circuits that create a dynamic magnetic field. The blob, a magnetic fluid known as “pBlob,” responds to this field, changing shape in response.

For a demo of the magnetic non-organism that will one day float you to work, see the video above. They explain a little bit there as well, but to get the full story, including the method of blob creation, mechanism details, the language of transformation control, and proposed application, you’ll have to wait until the International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction in 2011, where the design team will present their work.

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