Sep
27

Scientific Method / Artistic Method

This is a joint work done in 1617 by Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel showing the first telescope ever depicted in a painting.

Very relevant to discussions appearing in this blog are the scientific method, the artistic method, what similarities they may have, and how they are different. I thought it would be good, early on to describe each and compare the two.

 The Scientific Method

There are many websites that give a good description of the scientific method. The Wikipedia entry for the scientific method is very thorough, showing many of the intricate details and complexities of the subject. I have written a concise summary of the important aspects of the scientific method and posted it to this page for future reference for our readers.

 The Artistic Method

In contrast, doing a search on Google for the “Artistic Method” does not yield many useful results. Maybe this is because art is so individually based that there can be no one method that is conducive to good art. Possibly art, unlike science, does not have any sort of universal agreement among its best practitioners with regard to a generally accepted method.

 By changing the search term to Art Methodology there were more hits. The Art Methodology article in Wikipedia states that:

 An art methodology differs from a science methodology, perhaps mainly insofar as the artist is not always after the same goal as the scientist. In art it is not necessarily all about establishing the exact truth so much as making the most effective form (painting, drawing, poem, novel, performance, sculpture, video, etc.) through which ideas, feelings, perceptions can be communicated to a public.

Also it states that different methodologies produce different results which is part of the process in art.

Painters Palette photo by Wendy Harmon (www.flickr.com)

In this context “Art Methodology” seems to be referring to a specific procedure to produce a specific piece of art for a specific purpose. This is similar in science to developing a specific test procedure to determine if a hypothesis is true or not. What we are looking for in our search for the Artistic Method is an overall approach or framework that could apply to the approach of all good artists in creating art.

 Science and Art

After trying many different search terms and browsing around for several hours, I did find some very good information that will eventually help form a basis for coming up with at least a general framework that describes the Artistic Method. For now I would like to discuss some highlights of what I found regarding Art and Science, how they are similar and how they are different.

Early in my search I found a paper written by Robert Wittig on his website.  Robert, is an artist and art dealer in Chicago. Apparently finding similar results with regard to searching the Internet for information on the Artistic Method, he says that:

“Science and art are methods for examining ‘what is’.  Science uses the ‘scientific method’ which is an extremely well defined method, on which much has been written, and most scientists agree on exactly what is meant, by ‘scientific method’.   Art, at the moment, does not have any widely accepted ‘artistic method’, for examining ‘what is’.”

 He goes on to say:

Science’s method is one well adapted to observing objective reality, using the intellect as the primary tool seeking results that approach ‘truth’, as nearly as possible.

Art’s method is one well adapted to observing subjective reality, using the emotions as the primary tool, seeking results that approach ‘honesty’, as nearly as possible.

I also discovered an very good talk on the TED website by Mae Jemeson who is an astronaut, a medical doctor, an art collector, and a dancer. This talk gives a good description of the important relationship between art and science. Mae is on a crusade to establish a new vision of learning that combines arts and sciences, intuition and logic. In her speech at TED in 2002 she said the following:

Science provides an understanding of a universal experience. It is our attempt to share our understanding and our experience of the universe as experienced by everyone.

Art provides a universal understanding of a personal experience. It is our attempt to share our understanding and our experience of the universe that is peculiar to us as individuals.

Both are our attempt as humans to build an understanding of the universe both internal and external to us. Thus they are manifestations of the same thing. Traditionally, we have thought of art and science as separate things. By accepting this we diminish the potential of the future.

This is a definition of science and art that reveals that the approach is different although the goal is the same – to observe and share our understanding and our experience of the universe.

It is true that science can be done without the influence of art and art can be done without the influence of science. Nevertheless, I believe strongly that each is elevated by the influence of the other. This is historically the case. During the Renaissance, mathematical relationships found in nature such as perspective and beliefs leading to the questioning of ideas that were previously accepted as truth led to one of the most productive periods in the history of both science and art. This new integrated way of thinking led to amazing progress in almost every field of human endeavor over the next 500 years. We should keep this in mind as we deal with the monumental problems we are facing at the beginning of the 21st century.

 

Sep
16

The Little Man Within the Brain

To create timeless works of art or fine art, the artist must have great command of his senses, that sensitivity to the touch of pressure, cold, heat and pain. Great painters, sculptures and sketch artists have all exhibited great control over their motor functions. They are able to use their hands, fingers, and coordinate their eyes to translate that creativity locked inside their brain to the object of that creativity; art. But how is that possible? Most call it talent, an ability, or a rare and precious gift. Yet, aside from the rare gift to produce such art, the workings of the human brain are the greatest gift of all. That understanding we owe to science.

Cortial Homunculus

Dr. Wilder Graves Penfield (Jan 26, 1891 – Apr 5, 1976) was an American born Canadian neurosurgeon. His work centered on the functioning of the mind, with much study concerning the surgical treatment of epilepsy. Dr. Penfield is also credited with the idea for a Cortial Homunculus, a graphic representation of the way the brain ‘sees’ the body in terms of motor perception of the Primary Motor Cortex (see illustration below). I use the term ‘see’, but this illustration is more a representation of the way neural resources of the brain are delegated to each area of the body. The primary motor cortex is a brain region that works in conjunction with other areas of the brain (pre-motor areas) to plan and execute movements in the body. If you look closely at this illustration you will note how some areas of the body are much larger than others. This indicates that these parts of the body use more of the neural resources of the Primary Motor Cortex than the other areas. 

The idea of the cortial homunculus was created by Dr. Wilder Penfield

If you pay close attention to the way your body moves, your ability to speak, form facial expressions, hearing, and eyesight, it is clear that these areas would require those additional resources. Fine motor skills of the hands and fingers are essential to most artists abilities. Loss of hands, through disease or accident can result in the brain’s amazing ability to re-establish new avenues and to redirect the fine motor resources to the mouth or the feet and toes. If you doubt that high quality art can not be produced in this manner then try this link: The Association of Mouth and Foot Artists Each of these artists has lost the ability to move their hands either through disease or accident. Yet through sheer will, diligence, and through the spirit of creativity these artists do produce high quality art work.

 

If you would like a clearer visual representation of the motor/sensory homunculus go to this site (from the University of Tampere in Finland). The interactive Java application on the page will allow you to move your cursor over selected areas of the body illustrated by the homunculus to see how much brain resources are devoted to any particular area of either motor or sensory activity.

My Own Conclusions 

Having mused on this subject for several hours to produce this article, I have some thoughts and questions about brains, talent and primary motor cortexes. What kinds of brains must great artists or scientists have? How must their primary motor cortexes be arranged and delegated? Would constant practice and due diligence press the brain to redirect resources to areas the artist preferred to use? I have to wonder just how Leonard da Vinci’s brain was mapped. After all he wasn’t just an artist, but also a scientist and inventor. If it is possible for someone to become an artist without hands at all, then it must be possible for the rest of us to use our hands for even more than what we perceive possible now. 

Other Related Links

Wikipedia online  article on Cortical homunculus

Wikipedia online article about Dr. Wilder Grave Penfield

Museum of Science Web Site Interactive on Leonardo da Vinci – Scientist, Inventor and Artist

Sep
14

Monster in the Bathroom

Constellation

Scorpius Constellation

A couple of nights ago Sandra was taking a shower and was stung by a scorpion.  As serious as this is, the way in which it played out was quite humorous.  She was almost finished and all of a sudden felt a strong stinging sensation in the ball of her foot.  Having had some foot problems in the past she thought that she had just put her foot down the wrong way and revived an old injury.  She turned the water off and calmly reached down, picked up a squeegee we keep in the shower, and calmly used it to remove the water droplets from the glass door.

This situation came to my attention when Sandra kept talking about how bad her foot was stinging and burning.  She very rarely complains about things like this.  I asked Sandra if she might have been stung by something and she said “No, I think I injured my foot”. I went into the shower and looked and saw nothing.  I looked closer at the drain and there it was.  Aligned with the drain so that it was barely detectable there was the stunned scorpion which was about 2-1/2″ long.  It looked like it had been squashed but it was still moving its tail in a menacing way.  We immediately went to the kitchen and made a mixture of baking soda and water and put it on the affected area.  Sandra said she immediately felt some relief.  She also used ice which seemed to help with the burning sensation.  I went back into the bathroom and killed the scorpion and got rid of the body after examining the stinger.

Throughout the whole episode, although it must have hurt very badly, Sandra was calm.  The funny thing is that if she had seen the scorpion while she was still in the shower, for instance when she was reaching down to pick up the squeegee, there is no telling what would have happened.  She might have gone right through the glass door, or slipped and fell.  If it would have been me, I know I would have hurt myself trying to get out of that enclosure containing the beast!

Scorpion

Typical scorpion found in Texas.

Scorpions are native to this area and we have found at least ten of them in the house in the four years we have lived here.  These are not the run-of-the-mill insects or bugs that you find in the house from time to time.  When you find one of these critters, it gets your attention.  It makes the adrenaline flow and the heart race.  The way they aggressively arch their tail up over their body ready to attack by injecting their venom invokes a primal fear even in those of us who are not scared of bugs.  After finding one, you become instantly disciplined in always wearing shoes or slippers.  You start a new ritual of shaking out your shoes and clothes before putting them on.  You keep a close eye on the floor, especially in the bathroom area and shower where you are likely to be barefoot.

 After this episode, Aaron suggested that we get a black light and do a search at night to expose any of these creatures that may still be lurking in the house (they supposedly glow when exposed to ultraviolet light).  Normally, after finding one, we would be vigilant for a month or two and then slowly forget about it.  Now that Sandra has been stung, I think we will stay aware and to keep a watchful eye out for these monsters for a much longer time.

 Interesting Facts About Scorpions

 Is a scorpion a spider or an insect?

Scorpions are Arachnids which is the same class of invertebrate animals to which spiders and ticks belong.

 How many types of scorpions are there in Texas and in the US?

There are approximately 20 types of scorpions that are native to Texas.  This website gives a list of the types of scorpion species found in each state. Scorpions in the United States

 How dangerous is a scorpion sting?

Stings from scorpions found in the United States are painful but generally not life threatening.  The sting from most species in the United States can be compared to a bee sting.  The Arizona Bark Scorpion is the most poisonous of any found in the US and it is rarely lethal except to possibly young infants, those who are very ill, or frail older people.  In the United States only 4 deaths in 11 years can be attributed to scorpions.  Scorpions in Mexico, on the other hand, are responsible for 1000 to 2000 deaths a year.  

Do scorpions really glow when put under an ultraviolet light?

 

Scorpion glowing under ultraviolet light. Photo is courtesyFurryScaly on Flickr

Yes.  According to Wikipedia, scorpions are known to glow when exposed to certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light such as that produced by a black light. This is due to the presence of fluorescent chemicals in the exoskeleton. One fluorescent component is now known to be beta-CarbolineA hand-held UV lamp has long been a standard tool for nocturnal field surveys of scorpions.

 Scorpions – History

Scorpions have occupied the imagination of mankind ever since our predecessors started looking to the night sky with wonder and imagination. Scorpius was one of the constellations introduced by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. Scorpius represents the scorpion that stung Orion in Greek mythology. It is said that Orion flees under the horizon whenever Scorpius rises in the sky. According to this legend, the two constellations are opposite each other in the sky such that Orion is as far away from Scorpius as possible. http://www.topastronomer.com/StarCharts/Constellations/Scorpius.php

 Scorpions – Art/Literature

Scorpions have evoked fear in people throughout history.  Not only do they have a nasty venomous sting.  They have four pairs of legs, two large claws and a tail ending with a pair of small stingers that connect to a gland in which the venom is stored, giving them appearance of a monster. The Monsters of Mythology blog page shows a great example which is a relief engraving of the scorpion man referred to in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This is a Mesopotamian legend and one of the earliest works of literature.

 Scorpions in Popular Art

Scorpion Tatoo

Scorpion shaped tattoo. Picture is courtesy of “echelonAng3L” from Flickr.

Scorpions still occupy a significant place in todays art, literature and media.  There is a rock band called the Scorpions.  Scorpions are the subject of many tattoos and other types of pop art. Giant scorpions show up as monsters in science fiction and fantasy movies and books. The Scorpion King movie (2002) was a spinoff from The Mummy series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Other Links of Interest

 http://www.earthlife.net/chelicerata/scorpionidae.html – A good web page that documents what we know scientifically about scorpions.

http://scorpio-sign.blogspot.com/– The Scorpio Sign blog. This is a very good blog about the Scorpio sign, the appearances of Scorpio in art, in archaeology, and in fact in any interesting place. It shows a lot of artwork dealing with scorpions.

http://www.khandro.net/animal_scorpion.htm#Nubchen – This is a good link that discusses the scorpion’s role in various cultures throughout history:

http://www.howtogetridofit.com/how-to-get-rid-of-scorpions/ – A handy guide on how to get rid of scorpions in and around your home.

http://www.arizonensis.org/scorpion_myths.html – Debunking myths about scorpions.

http://blogpestcontrol.com/2010/07/scorpion-myths/ – Another site which debunks common myths about scorpions.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090416133816.htm – Article about how scorpion venom is being studied in the fight against brain cancer.

Sep
12

iLUMINATION!

iLUMINATION – Team iLuminate Brings a Blend of Art, Dance, and Science to AGT

 Sept 12, 2011 

It took many years for a good variety show to emerge on television again, one with the cutting edge boldness of The Ed Sullivan Show which had its heyday back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  To me, NBC’s Americas Got Talent fits the bill.  Singers or dancers are certainly a big part of the show but there are also a lot of very unusual acts, strange contestants, and things that you would more normally see in a carnival side show or circus.  That is why I like this show.  Only on such a show could someone like Team iLuminate get the attention of America in this time of entertainment overload.

Team iLuminate on AGT

Team iLuminate on America's Got Talent

iLuminate took America’s Got Talent by storm and have a chance to win the contest, hands down.  Even if they don’t, they have an almost guaranteed future in the entertainment industry.  All three of the AGT judges gave them a standing ovation and encouraging accolades after their performance for the finals show which aired on NBC on Tuesday, August 30, 2011.  And rightly so!

Miral Kotb

Miral Kotb - Founding member of Team iLuminate

 Team iLuminate, created and led by Miral Kotb, has taken team dancing in yet another exciting direction by combining creative choreography and inventive computer programming, with a new invention involving wearable programmable lights.  The lights provide a great mechanism for making this new and different but when combined with Miral’s very creative dance choreography it becomes a very entertaining mix of art and technology.  Done the wrong way it might end up looking like another sequel to Tron, but under the creative hands of Ms. Kotb and her fellow dancers it is extremely entertaining.

Collage of ideas from science and art led to iLuminate.

Many ideas taken from both science and art led to iLuminate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The iLuminate tm technology uses LED and electroluminescent wire technology invented by one of Miral’s colleagues.  It is programmable and provides a dynamic user interface allowing a person to control the timing and display of the lights from a laptop or iPad in real time from back stage.  It is, of course, all done wirelessly.

To me this is the ultimate marriage of high tech science and art.  As a software developer, I think to myself how amazing it must feel to be able to express your graphics not just to a screen or a piece of paper but instead to an ever moving tapestry of talented dancers.   To top that off, they have put together what looks to be a solid business plan built around the worldwide exposure of their talent and product through one of the most popular TV shows of 2011, America’s Got Talent.  How cool is that?!?!

Team iLuminate - Lit up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RELATED LINKS

The Kenetic King Website– Another act on AGT that combines art and science. This is a really interesting website although the design could use some work. Take a look at the photos, videos, and links to other kenetic art related websites.  I plan on doing another blog entry in the future on this.

     Copyright © 2011-2012 by Danny and Sandra Ringo.  All rights reserved.  Articles may not be reproduced without permission.