Superpurrsition

Diesel Sweeties by Richard Stevens 3 (CC BY-NC 2.5)
Diesel Sweeties by Richard Stevens 3 (CC BY-NC 2.5)

There are comics that are card-carrying “science comics” that teach science (egBoxplot by Maki Naro) and express truths about the experience of being a scientist (egPiled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham). There are those that are super-nerdy all the time, like xkcd by Randall Munroe.

Then there are the comics that occasionally brush up against the scientific world – dropping a punchline that hints at larger concepts, drawing in those who understand and inviting inquiry from those who don’t. This strip from Diesel Sweeties by Richard Stevens 3 is part of that tradition.

Nature Makes Pretty Things, Not Art

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Nature is an artist & lets paint swirl together in this pic of Saturn’s rings & cloud layers – @NASA 12:23PM 23 Nov 2014

For one moment, I’m going to be that guy who insists on taking a metaphor literally. Artists are not defined by their methods, nor by their ability to make pretty things.

The job of artists is to touch draw us out through sensory experiences in ways that convey understanding, challenge preconceptions, and move us in new, unique, and effective ways. Beauty is but one tool that can serve the artistic purpose.

I cannot define art coherently. I simply know that we need both robotic space probes taking pictures of other planets and creative human beings here on Earth devoted to artistic exploration – and that we conflate the two at our own peril.

Science for the People: Bodies Everywhere

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This week, Science for the People is looking at the morbid and fascinating history of our attempts to grapple with disease and death. We’re joined by medical historian Richard Barnett to talk about his book The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration.

And we’ll speak to mortician and blogger Caitlin Doughty about her new book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, and her ongoing YouTube series “Ask a Mortician“, about the history, science and cultural attitudes attached to dealing with the deceased.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

The Art of Science: Voyage Redux, with bonus!

Michele Banks, Micro/Macro 3, Ink on Mylar,  2013
Michele Banks, Micro/Macro 3, Ink on Mylar, 2013

Voyage of Discovery, an art exhibition I created together with Jessica Beels and Ellyn Weiss, will reopen on Thursday for a two-month run at the McLean Project for the Arts in McLean, VA.

The artwork in Voyage of Discovery has its roots in the idea of a journey of scientific exploration, in the tradition of Darwin, Wallace, and the thousands of scientists who constantly travel the globe in search of new findings. This imaginary voyage takes viewers to a polar region where the iconic, seemingly eternal, landscape of ice and snow is in profound and rapid transition due to climate change.

The pieces in the show – ranging from ink paintings to wire and paper and wax sculptures to a massive 30 foot fabric installation – reflect our artistic responses to the transformation of land and sea as the planet warms. The show looks at many aspects of climate change – not only the obvious, like the melting of glaciers and the thawing of permafrost, but also more subtle effects, like the movement of previously unknown species and microbes into the Arctic and the dramatic shift of the color of the land from white to green to black.

Voyage of Discovery, which ran for 5 months at the American Association for the Advancement of Science earlier this year, will open with a reception and gallery talk this Thursday, from 7-9 pm, at the McLean Project for the Arts’ Emerson Gallery, at 1234 Ingleside Avenue in McLean. (details here)

As a special bonus for science fans, the reception takes place on the same day that renowned science writers Carl Zimmer and Sam Kean are speaking in the same building as part of “Fall for the Book”. Their talk starts at 7:30.  So if you arrive at 7, you can take in the art, have a glass of wine, and then go downstairs and hear more about some fascinating science. Win-win.

Science Caturday: All the Artz

hoominartMichele is busy this weekend presenting her art to “hoomins” at Artscape (18-20 July in Baltimore). Your regular Science Caturday service will resume next week.