Strange Bedfellows: Science as Art

Peter Kublik
23 January 2012

Nikon’s small world photomicrography competition is one of the oldest examples of finding beauty in the work scientists. The competition,which started in 1974, is a contest exclusively for microscope photography and draws competitors from around the globe. Entries are judged according to both scientific and artistic criteria such as technical proficiency, informational content, and visual impact. This is the first time in human history we’ve been able to artistically explore a world smaller than what we can see with our eyes. I’ve included a few of my favourites here:

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A recent exhibition that has me personally very excited is Measure for Measure. It is a traditional art exhibition curated by a Harvard physicist, Dr. Lisa Randall. The concept behind Measure for Measure is to explore the idea of scale, which is fundamental to both science and art. In science, when we approach the extremely large (galaxies) or the extremely small (atoms) we find that many fundamental rules and laws behave in unexpected ways. In art,the clever use of scale can communicate ideas or evoke feelings. On a similar note, Calgary’s Glenbow Museum was recently host to The Perceptions of Promise: Biotechnology, Society and Art, which was an interesting, if esoteric, artistic exploration of biotechnology.

On a lighter note, Dance Your PhD is an extremely entertaining contest that is starting to gather momentum. I don’t think I can describe the motivation for this innovative contest better than their official website;

“The dreaded question. “So, what’s your Ph.D. research about?” You take a deep breath and launch into the explanation. People’s eyes begin to glaze over…

At times like these, don’t you wish you could just turn to the nearest computer and show people an online video of your Ph.D. thesis interpreted in dance form?”

Needless to say, the winners are extremely entertaining. I could say more, but I think the dances speak for themselves:

Microstructure-Property relationships in Ti2448 components produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story from Joel Miller on Vimeo.

I am constantly reassured to see a growing number of people and projects that explore science and art together. It enriches both disciplines and the results, as you can see, are often beautiful and unique.

Learn More!

A few of my favourites from the Nikon small world contest:

http://www.nikonsmallworld.com/gallery/year/1996/1

http://www.nikonsmallworld.com/gallery/year/1990/1

http://www.nikonsmallworld.com/gallery/year/2003/20

http://www.nikonsmallworld.com/gallery/year/2003/1

Article first published November 9, 2011

Peter Kublik

Peter is a freelance science writer from Calgary, Alberta. He has been granted several exciting opportunities to share his passion for science outreach and education in the media, most recently during a four month media fellowship with CBC Radio's Calgary morning show, the Eyeopener. Outside of the lab he is an amateur photographer, an avid outdoorsman, and an enthusiastic technophile.


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