by Noah Schlottman '16
Authentic rock music, Creature Casts, wind drawings, the hydrology of Mars, and Brown STEAM all converged in a phenomenal event focused on “Pushing the Membrane” between science and art. Gina Roberti '14 put together the panel and presentations as part of the Gallery Opening for a new Science Center exhibit displaying her work. "As scientists, I believe we have a fundamental responsibility to communicate our research to those outside our discipline, to share the knowledge and engage with a broader audience," Gina expressed. "As an aspiring educator and artist, I believe creativity and creative arts expression is one of the main avenues over which this can happen."
For any of you scientists with a “creative edge,” five students showcased their projects on creative communication in the sciences to a full audience in the Science Center on Wednesday, November 20th. Their work lay at the intersection between science and art, but all approached these crossroads from different perspectives. Find out more (in case you missed it, or were there but want to know more) after the jump!
Gina Roberti found that her family's disinterest in her academic papers and other formal presentations of science was indicative of a need for change in how science is presented so that it can be more accessible to everyone. She has since presented her work in creative and artistic ways. Pushing the Membrane was the gallery opening for her final project for a geology class she took last spring. You can check out multiple posters of the meandering river channels of Mars (the 3-D ones are actually really cool) and a laser-cut topographical map anytime in the Science Center.
Arvid Tomayko ’07 was a Geology and MEME (Computer Music and Multimedia) concentrator. Naturally, everyone joked that he was going to make rock music. And that’s exactly what he did. During his time as an undergrad, Tomayko traveled to the Osservatorio Geologico de Coldigioco in Le Marche, Italy to work with Italian geologists on developing a program called Maestro Frankenstein that synthesizes music from geological data. He was most recently commissioned by Swissnex Boston (think: Swiss Consulate) to create the Massachusetts Geophonic, which is a performance interface in which users can create music from Massachusetts USGS data. The program is still being tweaked and refined, but if you want to create music from scientific data, Maestro Frankenstein is downloadable on his website for free.
Po Bhattacharyya ‘14 showed a very intriguing way of communicating science to a broader audience through CreatureCasts, which are stop-motion animations that present science as narrative. They are also featured in the Science section of the New York Times. He went over the basics for making your own CreatureCast. Many other instructions and resources are on the website, along with many more enjoyable videos on "the unexpected world of biology." Bhattacharyya also showed the video he made for his final project in Invertebrate Zoology (BIOL 0410), which is taught by Professor Casey Dunn, the founder of CreatureCast.
Lucia Monge, a grad student in sculpture at RISD, came and spoke about her experience in integrating science into her art. As the only presenter who was coming at science from an artist's point of view, she brought a different perspective to the discussion of science communication. She talked initially about what she saw as the similarities between the two disciplines and then talked about past projects that have incorporated natural science into her art. Monge's Informal Climate Reading Station in Lima, Peru (where she taught and did art before coming to RISD) was a very cool experiment that utilized numerous wind-sensitive pens attached to tripods, called Aeolus-graphing devices, to register wind patterns in the 42 different districts of the city. The result was wind pattern "data" in the form of "wind drawings" that are representative of how air circulates differently across Lima.
Michelle Site '14 concluded the panel on creative scientific presentation with a call to action and a call to Brown STEAM (Science+Technology+Engineering+Art+Mathematics). Brown STEAM seeks to facilitate the integration of art and science in ways like creative presentation of science, but also in cross-disciplinary thinking as a way to solve problems and achieve goals in research and practice. STEAM also hosts really cool and fun workshops that explore everything from making visual biology to building with legos. You can also find resources and a calendar of events at their website.