I’m a man of two worlds. I’m at home onstage in a musical, sketching in an art class, or out in the woods collecting wasps. For years I saw this as a problem. I thought I was too much of a scientist for art and too much of an artist for science. What is an indecisive student of the world to do?
At a certain point I came to the realization that science and art aren’t really all that different at all. If anything, they are two channels of the universal human experience of seeking truth, though they often ask different questions. Science tends to seek truth about the external world, while art qualifies the inner experience of being human. Despite their differences, art and science rely on one another in very concrete ways.
Philosopher Albert Camus writes that “uncertainty is resolved in a work of art,” in his discussion of metaphors as explanations for abstract scientific phenomena, particularly the atomic model. Is this a critique of science? Or is it simply an honest assessment of a common reality of science? Medical imaging, diagrams and scientific illustrations, telescope/microscope photography, model making… The list of ways in which science actively embraces aesthetic techniques goes on and on. When these methods go toward seeking external truth, art becomes science.
On the other end, art (like everything else) has benefitted immensely from advances in science and technology. We see this in many places, from the isolation of pigments for oil paints, to the creation of synthetic textiles for use in the fashion industry, even as far as the development of the computer and the internet, which have become vital tools for the creation and sharing of artwork in many different media. Science features as the subject of many creative works as well: science fiction, philosophy of science, and botanical illustration just to name a few. Science and art do not run in parallel. They interweave around and through one another.
So why keep blogging weekly about science and art after I’ve just written about it now? Because ideas about science and art are vital for well-rounded, engaged human beings, particularly in a world that more than ever requires creative and interdisciplinary approaches to solving problems. I used to be worried that I couldn’t stick to one area, but now I realize this is a good thing! Further still, these ideas frequently flow through my brain. They inform my work as a science communicator and my life as an intellectual citizen. But ideas in the mind are intangible. So, it’s high time I start writing some of it down!
In short: Why blog about science and art? Not for profit. Not for attention. But because it’s important. And that reason is just fine.