Today I’ve got to give a guest lecture in a class of KC Cole’s at USC’s Annenberg School. I’m supposed to talk on the theme of Art and Science. I’ll cover a number of aspects, I expect (have not written it yet), but it put me in mind of two posts I did a while back on the subject. One was over at Correlations (remember that?) and the other, called Transcendence, was here. I thought I’d reproduce some of the Correlations post, called Essence, here. The back story was that I was working up a contribution to SEED magazine (the December 2007 issue I think) which was doing a cover story on Science and Art, and… well, I’ll let the 2007 me tell you the rest:

While working on the contribution, I was hugely conflicted, for many reasons (variety of themes, variety of pieces, art forms, only 100 words, etc…) and another major theme struggled for dominance – “essence”. How both science and art strive to identify the essential truth about a subject. My original contribution that I submitted to the editors to get their feedback on whether I was on the right track for what they were looking for therefore had a bit more of this in it, and referred to two pieces of art (I eventually chose one and focussed on developing and rewriting around that, using the “transcendence” theme). The piece I used that did I did not use for the final article is perfect for illustrating the “essence” theme, and so to provoke some thoughts in you […] I include it here, along with some fragments of the paragraphs I was playing with at the time:

“Art in all its forms, in both the creating and the witnessing, has several resonances with what we do as scientists. There are so many pieces of art of widely varying types that inspire me in various ways. Most fundamentally, for me the primary point of commonality with my field that I seek in a piece is the push-and-pull dance of representation and expression employed in the capturing of some essential truth about the chosen subject. I’m particularly inspired by simplicity and economy in achieving this with a given idea or technique. […] The deconstruction of the bull in Picasso’s series of wonderful lithographs is playful but deadly serious. Read in either direction, it is also a lesson in much of what we do in physics.”



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