From Dark Matter to Hiccups, Artists Explore Mysteries of Science

By Rebecca Horne | November 16, 2012 11:27 am

The Where The Why and The How is a recent release from Chronicle books that asks 75 artists and illustrators to interpret the unsolved mysteries of science. Don’t expect answers to questions like “Why is each snowflake unique” and “Can evolution outpace climate change” — but the collection may help dispel the notion that science is best illustrated by digital renderings, graphs and pie charts.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ideas, Imaging, Top Posts
  • julianpenrod

    This will be extremely cricial of an essence of this article and so might be blocked, but thre is an important point to be made.
    The article goes out of its way to suggest that “The Where The Why And The How” is an eminent blending of “science” and “art”. Then it provides a disclaimer, “Don’t expect answers to questions”, but it assures that the collection of renderings “interprets” “unsolved mysteries of science”. And so we have a sea monster associated with rogue waves, “snowflakes” with four to eight branches, and “address” the structure of water molecules by showing a map of veins in someone’s head. And Discover Magazine is giving these depictions space and “validity” as “interpretations” of “science”.
    If someone scoffed at by “science” devotees as a “conspiracy theorist” said a sea monster caused rogue waves, how quickly they would be lambasted and told they were insane! In fact, “conspiracy theorists” have hewed more toward material “science” has accepted than any of these pieces, but these are paraded as “interpreting” “science”! They are given space and praise in an article, where has anything from “conspiracy theories” to “alternative” explanations for reality been given anything like even a hospitable greeting by the likes of Discover Magazine? The article itself points out that, once, rogue waves were dismissed and ignored as “scientifically” impossible, but no longer!
    But the evidence is that “science” is just another case of a corporate/political/societal “inner circle”, a group of mutually self aggrandizing individuals working for each others’ benefit, at the expense of the “rank and file”. “Science” says individuals it calle s”artists” are “legitimate” and get good press for their pieces. Meanwhile, the “artists” don’t offer alternative explanations for the “official story” for this and that. They just give people who want to think they are capable of understanding both “science” and “art” an opportunity to delude themselves. But there doesn’t seem to be a perceived potential profit in “conspiracy theories”, especially since “science” has been inducted by the New World Order to “prove” the lies of the “official stories” are true. So don’t expect anything like a warm welcome for “conspiracy” theories and “alternative” explanations of reality, even if they are eventually all proved true.

  • Chris

    These are pieces of art. Whatever the subject matter, they are intended and understood, in good faith all around, to be whimsy. These are not actual explanations for the phenomena. To explain the phenomena, you need evidence that can be confirmed by knowledgeable people. To simply say there is mysterious phenomena at all, some evidence of its existence is required. Your conspiracy “theories” have no more explanatory power, and certainly less creativity, than any of these pieces, but you don’t have the knowledge or good faith to admit it. You whine that science won’t investigate at the same time that you admit you wouldn’t listen if it did. Science is the best means of gaining useful information that humans have ever invented and the scientific establishment is the most honest and productively competitive enterprise in which humanity has ever engaged. You know this to be true, otherwise you would have passed this by. Your attempts to scorn science contradict what you typed as well as the only real motivation you had for typing it in the first place. Which means you’re embarrassing yourself, whether you know it or admit it. You are very confused and I am very sad to see it, because I was once where you are now. Someday I hope you can look back on this part of your life with embarrassment, because that will indicate growth. The alternative is a very narrowly and fearfully focused life that will only continue to close in.

    • Rebecca Horne

      Hi Chris,
      I’m not sure I agree that there are any “conspiracy theories” at work in this blog post–and, yes these are artworks. I am not scorning science, quite the contrary! I am celebrating art that uses science as jumping-off point. Scientists understand how powerful images are for understanding ideas, and for creating metaphors for concepts.
      I am sorry you found the post to be offensive.
      Kind regards,

  • Uncle Al
    Get to know what good is, art in service of rigor.

    Rogue waves are not uncommon in the Drake Passage and across the southern Indian Ocean. Get a hydraulic trough, reduce the equations to practice. Do it. If nothing else, harmonic analysis, Fourier analysis, solitons… Stop whining. Diversity births cargo cult science that generates social advocates. Who wants any of that? Science is falsifiably predictive not merely ex post facto explanative.

  • Georg

    rogue waves in the open sea was less conclusive before 1995, when an enormous rogue wave was documented in the North Sea.

    What a nonsense!
    The North sea is a flat bay!

  • Chris

    Rebecca, I was responding to julianpenrod’s comment. Sorry if it wasn’t clear, but I was defending this post. I love these works and respect the science behind them. Julian was the one scorning science and promoting conspiracy theory.

    To reiterate, AWESOME POST. I’ve come back several times just to look at these pieces and I’ve shared your article on Facebook directly after making that comment. Keep up the good work!


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