The Science of Art

How an artist or a photographer sees a flower, and how a scientist sees a flower, do not have to be separate. There’s no right or wrong. Everyone feels art and sees science in different ways. The science of art – or, if you prefer, the art of science – are both a means of investigation, observation and exploration. The two naturally overlap and cannot exist without each other.

It’s subjective, not objective. It’s not only one perspective, but many forms from unique visions and minds of people that surround us.

Or… everything would be the same.

In ancient Greece, the word for art was techne, from which technique and technology are derived—terms applied to both scientific and artistic practices.

Techne is typically translated as “art,” but also as “craft,” “skill,” and “expertise.” It was regarded as a branch of knowledge and a form of practical science. Techne is always directed to some ulterior end: health in the case of the physician, statues in the case of the sculptor, etc. (Aesthetics and Art History: An Historical Introduction)

people think if you're a scientist ann druyan quote the science of art

Expressing yourself artistically, or sharing your science passionately, is a freedom we all have. We need to listen unconditionally to others and keep the conversation real and without judgment. If we all saw the things before us in exactly the same way, how stagnant would life be.

There are reasons why we like a quiet museum or gallery so we can absorb what we see. Equal to the night sky, we soak up constellations all the while loving their familiarity and seasonal diversity. Heck yeah… it’s a museum in the sky!

On a lucky day, you may see an Iridium flare or a shooting star. Some might ponder the fascinating science of light and space, while others are touched by the momentary awe and beauty from the tapestry of shimmering, interwoven universal magic.

To me, the world is an extension of the laboratory and nature is the most beautiful artist.

I love when people see art in a Cadillac bumper, a rusty water pump or Prince Rupert’s Drops.

Maybe you see the beauty of a Hawk for its strength, an Anhinga for its grace, or a Stellar’s Jay for its colors. If you took a photo and magnified it, you might see details as if their feathers were painted by hand. No one bird is better than another. It’s your own perspective and personal experience.

Roses or sunflowers? Pure yellow might give you goose bumps and a red rose may remind you of your Dad’s Rose garden you grew up with as a child. Perhaps aspen trees are your fave with their brilliant golden leaves, or it’s the stoic Redwood that leaves you in awe.

Sunrises, sunsets… or does a full moon take your breath away? I love a tiny crescent moon myself. A small sliver and sweet smile of a moon melts my heart.

Nature is always changing. It’s lovely and intriguing. Comforting and stimulating. You can study it, or romanticize it.

I stumbled across a tweet the other day from @brainpickings about beloved physicist Richard Feynman which got me thinking about the relationship between science and art, the STEM v. STEAM movement, and how the two are coming together to drive innovation.

the science of art ode to a flower monologue richard feynman physicist art of science

Feynman said, “The only way to really understand and appreciate nature is to learn her language, which is mathematics.” His famous monologue Ode To A Flower is from an interview with the BBC in which he tells a story of his disagreement with an artist about who can better appreciate the beauty of a flower: artists or scientists.

“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe…

I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

Some people think you’re either a scientist or an artist, but the concept of bringing the arts and sciences together is not a new one.

Leonardo Da Vinci merged the two during the Renaissance, and contemporary artist Drue Kataoka is known for creating interactive and engaging artworks using cutting edge technologies. Her painting Up! has been featured in the first zero gravity art exhibit at the International Space Station.

Did you now that Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician?

Every day is a fresh canvas upon which to explore and create.

It’s what makes life sweet
Art is a PHYSICS-al treat!
If a science canvas is the place you draw your everyday gig,
But sweet sounds invigorate you to play the music you dig—
Do both things you love
Step out and look at the pulsating stars above
Turn your music to a station you crave
Take out your surf board and ride the length of a wave
sound waves
speed of light
peaks and crests
Do whatever makes you feel the best

Do it every day.

It’s your choice. Be you. Love yourself; for all the complicated actions inside, for all your dimensions, for all your beauty. It only adds to the excitement, mystery and awe. There’s no one else like you.

Science depends on diversity. In all its art forms.