The most recent guest on This Week in Virology (or TWiV) is none other than our own Michele Banks. Michele welcomes host Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University into her home for an extended conversation about the hows and whys of her science-inspired art.
For those of you who are not regular readers of Michele’s Art of Science series, what I have always found fascinating about discussing art and the process of creation with Michele, is her engagement with the current art world and the history of art, with an honesty and clarity that is quite brave – when so many artists armor themselves (like scientists) against public judgment in overly complex jargon.
I can’t send Michele to everyone’s living room to have that conversation with you; but, thanks to TWiV, I can send Michele’s living room to you.
From p305 of “The British Miscellany: or, coloured figures of new, rare, or little known animal subjects, etc. vol. I., vol. II” by James Sowerby
The British Library’s Flickr account is a bloody rabbit hole of lovely. And, all the images are being released for free without copyright restrictions*. I won’t guarantee that there is something there for every flavor of nerdery, but, if you don’t find your interests represented by something here, I think you need to seriously question your life choices.
*The British Library does offer you the option to purchase higher-than-screen quality images, which seems like a workable model to me.
The technology to receive HBO in 1989 was predicted a hundred years earlier…from p134 of the “The Conquest of the Moon: a story of the Bayouda” by André Laurie – pseud. [i.e. Paschal Grousset.]
There are a lot of things to love in this piece from Christie Aschwanden about why retractions, studies that don’t hold up to reproduction, and even sub-fraudulent “p-hacking” do not mean that science is broken, but it is, simply, very hard. Among those things are the great visuals from Ritchie King – including a fun “p-hacking” demonstration tool.
For me, the real take home message goes beyond the “science is hard” catchphrase. Science isn’t just hard in the way implied by Tom Hanks’ Jimmy Duggan character in A League of Their Own:
It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.
Contrary to the rhetoric that would portray “science is hard” as an endorsement of success over a monumentally difficult task, this is not the point.
As Ashwanden addresses, science is hard because it is messy and complicated and requires a communal effort from members of a species that is only dubiously social outside of relatively narrow local groups.
If we’re going to rely on science as a means for reaching the truth — and it’s still the best tool we have — it’s important that we understand and respect just how difficult it is to get a rigorous result.
There are things like sampling variance and mistakes and uncontrollable environmental variables and resource limits and the fabled “orthologous methods” that inject all sorts of inconsistency and challenges into the textbook scientific method. This is why the great philosophers of science* spoke about disproof rather than proof, about independent reproducibility, about probability rather than certainty.
These issues do not indicate that science is broken. There simply is no other way it could work in the hands of mere humans. What may be broken is the way we perceive science. We need to understand that it is a gradual and a community effort. We need to understand that our mythos of science – of the great, usually in the stories, man performing a great experiment and making a great discovery – are almost always false summaries which are convenient and inspiring, but do not represent why science is truly hard.
*It is also why those who dismiss the philosophy of science as a waste of time – I’m looking at you Neil DeGrasse Tyson – deserve nothing but the most vigorous of side-eyes on that point.
Ferrolic uses magnets, “Ferro Fluid1“, and the unpredictability/non-intuitive behavior of fluid dynamics2 to tell you the present things like the time in hynoptically beautiful ways.
Because the fluid behaves in an unpredictable way, it is possible to give the bodies, perceived in the Ferrolic display, a strong reference to living creatures. It is this livelihood that enables Ferrolic to show a meaningful narrative such as having the creatures play tag. In addition the natural flow of the material, Ferrolic can be used to form recognisable shapes and written characters. – Ferrolic
1From the Latin words for “iron” and “ewww, that’s damp”.
2Depending on whom you ask.
HT: Rob Beschizza at BoingBoing
In his interview with Ian McKellen on the WTF Podcast, Marc Maron said one the smartest things I’ve heard about modern niche marketing:
I don’t have a demographic. I have a disposition.
You should listen to the rest of the interview too.