NOTE (07/2020): This project has been on pause for over a year now. One day I hope to get back to it. For now, please enjoy whatever you can find here.
This web-project is dedicated to science and art as disciplines of creativity and novelty. Some of the main objectives are to investigate and explore
(1) the awesomeness of science and art,
(2) connections between science and art (e.g. like explored at this and this conferences),
(3) how do people become successful scientists and artists,
(4) why it is OK to think that mathematics, philosophy, stop motion, painting, illustration…
are the coolest career choices.
How am I going to attempt to do this?
(1) Interviewing successful scientists and artists and learning from them,
(2) Searching for connections between science and art (science in movies, mathematics in art…),
(3) Popularising science – through art when possible (and vice versa?),
(4) Searching for self-development tricks and habits that are essential in creative work,
(5) In the form of a blog and a podcast.
Why bats and seahorses?
In the header there is a seahorse, but no bat. Instead there are mathematical scribbles. To compensate, here is an ink drawing of a bat…
I have chosen ‘bats’ to symbolise science and ‘seahorses’ to symbolise art. In fact they both symbolise both. Recently I have encountered bats in a variety of scientific contexts and maybe I’ll write more about this in my blog. In 1979 philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote a paper titled “What is it like to be a bat?” where he used the example of echolocating bats as creatures about whom (1) we believe that they have some form of consciousness, but (2) we might never understand what kind of experiences they have (i.e. what is it like to be them).
Seahorses are indirectly related to neuroscience, because an important part of our brain is named after them — the hippocampus which in Latin means seahorse. But this is of course not the reason why I chose seahorses to represent art. I have some personal reasons to associate them with art, but also I find seahorses romantic and beautiful. This can only be appreciated if we take our scientist hats off and wear poetic artist hats instead. For example, it is a fact that seahorses only mate at full moon… If you went checking whether that’s true, you forgot to take your scientist hat off 😉 Medieval people believed that bats are carrying evil forces, maybe even aligned with Satan. Today this kind of beliefs (or ‘ideas’ or ‘fantasies’) can be expressed in art, but no longer in serious science. Or can they?… In art you can make things up while in science you can’t. Or can you…?
What is common between science and art?
Aren’t they opposites of each other? Science is all about rigour, precision and math while art is about fantasy, vagueness and emotion. Yes, but they share two important things: creativity and novelty. An artist’s search for ways to express an idea or an emotional state is akin to scientist’s search for models of empirical data or rigorous proofs of a mathematical idea. In some sense, scientists are making things up, just with a different purpose, context and state of mind. There is a popular belief that music and mathematics go hand-in-hand and I hope to investigate this topic in my blog. But I don’t see any reason why music out of all art, and mathematics out all science, should be privileged in this way. Or perhaps music to art is like mathematics to science? A composition consists of many small details like
note’s lengths, pauses, tonalities and counterpoints which all melt together into the experience of a music piece as a whole in a similar way as a mathematical proof is composed of small details each of which is no less important than the next one, but together they give rise to the experience of understanding of the big picture where small details seem to melt into one. Whatever the relationship is and whether or not the popular belief is justified, there certainly is something in common, not only between math and music, but between scientific and artistic endeavours both of which share many characteristics of creativity and novelty.
Challenges for Science and Art Careers
Are you studying painting or photography at an art school? Are you studying literature, philosophy or abstract mathematics? Do you encounter people asking “How are you planning to get a job?”, “What are the opportunities in your area?” and if you have already graduated and actually are producing artistic or scientific achievements, you might be getting confused responses like “So, you teach, right?” or “Seriously? You get paid for that?”. Or maybe you aren’t an artist nor a scientist in which case you might find yourself asking those questions? Surprised to find out that many people actually make money by just drawing or thinking?
When a science or art student is repeatedly challenged by questions about her career’s implausibility, it
seems as if what she wants to do has low value, because people distrust her ability to support herself with that thing. And even when she is already doing it, people don’t seem to believe it. Such social pressure makes it difficult to believe in oneself and might lead to abandonment and horrific situations where people actually end up doing something they don’t like or enjoy. I am not saying that there isn’t a grain of truth: science and art careers do have their challenges, but so do many other careers which is only made worse if you pursue them knowing you could be just drawing instead.
Consider a party where A tells B that she has a “PhD in physics”. What happens? First B thinks of Albert Einstein or Sheldon Cooper. Then he thinks “no, she can’t be that great” (or “that crazy”). The next picture in B’s mind is his physics teacher at school, so he asks “So, you are teaching?”. Or, if A says she is an artist, B will think of Picasso and the same thing happens. It’s just difficult to handle the idea that someone is in the same gang with those people, even if they are not as great (yet). This is a symptom of lack of knowledge of what science and art are, and why some people consider them to be the coolest things in the world.
Anyway, welcome to the website!
Finally, this is me in Vienna between the Art and Science History Museums: