Science is art

Winners from this year’s The Materials Research Society’s Science as Art contest includes ice crystal-like nanowires and flower-like fractals. The photos submitted are of various materials imaged using different microscopes (typically some sort of a scanning electron microscope). But these images are more than just well photographed materials. The photos have been transformed into artistic objects and scenery.

To see this year’s Science as Art winning photos check out the following link.

Winning images from past Science as Art competitions can be found here.

The scanning electron microscope produces black and white images of materials photographed. But sometimes when you stare at theses photo long enough they can start to resemble other things. I think this is a large motivation for this annual competition. Attendees of the MRS annual meeting are invited to submit their photos for the competition. The photo submissions range in the level of editing, from simple false-colouring to complex photo edits involving drawn in objects.

To me the most impressive images are the ones that retain the integrity of the original photo so that the features of material are still recognizable, yet have been transformed into another object or scenery.

For example, this year’s first place photo from Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Yang Hui Ying is of organic nanowires coated with inorganic nanoparticles. With what appears to be minor edits involving cropping and blurring of the background, this photo has been transformed to resemble frost covered pine needles.

Science and art are often separated into unrelated fields, where those in one field often don’t care about those in the other field. But science and art are connected.  Ira Flatow host of Science Friday, quoted Albert Einstein on this connection in his broadcast: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. So the unknown, the mysterious, is where art and science meet.”

I think this quote is very true, and the MRS competition does a good job of connecting science and arts based on this idea of mystery. Our understanding of the structure and properties of materials are pieced together from images taken from microscopes, and there’s often a lot that is unknown–even with the images in hand.

So I’m all in favour for more events that bring together these two fields, just like the Beakerhead festival scheduled for this September in Calgary, Canada. Beakerhead is an annual event that that brings together the arts, science and engineering sectors through interactive workshops, performances, installations, and concerts.

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3 responses to “Science is art

  1. Pingback: Forms of Things Unknown | Lee Wilde·

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