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« The "Akinator" knows ... | Main | "Empire of the Summer Moon" »

July 10, 2011


Way cool!

The salient point of course is that there is not any physical activity we can do, (walking, talking, painting, thinking, cooking, singing or sleeping) that does not fall into one or more realms of science - physics, chemistry, biology or math. But do we always know the scientific principle behind our pursuits to do it well? Not at all. I was a student of chemistry and am a pretty good cook. Is there is a correlation between the two aptitudes? Perhaps but we don't know for sure. I am not sure why the writers are making a big deal out of this especially since they concede towards the end that the artist most probably had no idea as to what the heck fluid dynamics are.

Speaking of artists who were indeed trained in physics once, here is one I once talked about. Older readers are familiar with her; newer visitors please check her out.

Whether one needs to know the scientific background behind the art is moot to me, Ruchira.
For instance, I know of several connoisseurs of Carnatic music who can expound at length on the precise frequencies of the 'Kakali nishadam' vs. the "Kaisiki nishadam". Their singing to illustrate the point, would however make the listener want to bolt out of the room.

Exactly my point, Sujatha. That is why I don't understand why the authors have bothered to make a deal out of something which is actually not even particularly intriguing.

When my son was in the 2nd grade, I used to volunteer in his school as a Picture Lady. Some of us art loving parents got together once every month for a couple of hours to introduce the youngsters to famous artists and their works. (The volunteer program was meant to be a meager attempt to replace the regular art classes that had been slashed due to school budget cuts). We would bring prints of paintings to the class, speak a little about the artists' lives and then ask the children to create a piece of art work in the same style as they had just seen. We had considered Pollock and rejected him precisely because the children would have to splash and wiggle standing over a piece of paper that would lie horizontal on the floor. We did not want to leave the class room in a mess. We had amazing results with Mondrian, Paul Klee, Jon Miro and some others whose works are conspicuously idiosyncratic in style and execution. There was no mention of physics.

Poor confused physicist. Poor confused journalist. Did you know that if you throw Jackson Pollock, one of his paintings, Lisa Freeman, and Andrzej Herczynski from the roof of a high building at the same time, they'll all land at the same time? You didn't?! Well, I've scooped 'em.

There are in fact genuinely interesting, newsworthy cases of art's intersections with technology and history. One of my favorites, probably mentioned here before, is the work in the 1980s by physicists at UC Davis in collaboration with bibliographer and manuscript historian Paul Needham on the ink content of Gutenberg Bibles. Here you have a story of true collaboration, rather than a simple-minded slow news day gee-whiz.

Pssst... Dean. You should try out the honey experiment with your son, when you get the chance. Let him do the pouring while you pull the paper roll. And, schedule it before bath time, of course.

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