Science and art. New theme for the new year.

11 Jan
Bose–Einstein condensate In the July 14, 1995 ...
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In 2007 this blog was mainly scientific. Last year I’ve explored possibilities of being a freelance scientist. As I’ve announced earlier on Twitter, theme for this year will be science and art. And I should already explain: I’m not going to write about such extraordinary artistic endeavours like creating music from DNA/protein sequence, try to convince you that science is beautiful or state that my pictures of molecules are the true art. I’m more interested to see if there’s anything I can learn from The Art, its history and its approach. While I’m not yet sure what I will end up writing about, here are two topics I may start with to see in which direction this theme unfolds.

Holistic approach to science

This is something I was thinking about for a while. I didn’t come up with anything interesting, but I think it’s worth exploring further. Some first ideas were coming from reading Wikipedia entry about lateralization of brain functions or Steve Brenner’s comments about “middle-out approach” (as opposed to top-bottom or bottom-up). I’ve also found peculiar Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s answer to Edge 2009 question, where he wrote about “The end of analytic science”. Very recently I’ve also found interesting interview with Daniel Tammet, autistic savant, who explains his theory of exceptional creativity coming from “hyper-connectivity” of distinct brain regions. I have no yet idea whether there’s anything practical to find in such theories, but their exploration will be appealing enough.

Dashboard design for scientific data

This is something more practical, although again I expect to get no points for that topic. Information dashboard is a very cool concept rarely used in life sciences. One of the best known examples in bioinformatics may be InterPro domain page (here’s example entry on pore-forming lobe of aerolysins) – almost everything is on the single page, it has some nice graphical overviews of particular features (like species distribution), etc. It’s not the prettiest dashboard around, but at least you don’t need to click anywhere to have an overview of stored information (compare it to PFAM approach to similar domain). I hope to learn what makes a great dashboard, experiment a little and see if the result is worth the effort.

Other topics

I still will be blogging about bioinformatics, visualizations and open science – that stays in place. Especially the last topic is something I expect to write about quite a lot – my feeling is that this year will bring couple of interesting events in this area (and I hope to initiate some of them). So if you don’t like the “science and art” theme, I think I will give you some other reasons to visit this blog once in a while.

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Posted by on January 11, 2009 in bioinformatics


5 responses to “Science and art. New theme for the new year.

  1. gregorylent

    January 14, 2009 at 04:54

    when i did the friendfeed game, i used to get beat up, blocked even, by “scientists” whenever i challenged anything that was considered “not real” ….. so i hope you have job-security …. scientists are the new fundamentalists …

    the holistic understanding of science, of reality, is extremely important now … science is very poorly placed even to ask the necessary questions, let alone contribute to understanding … and oh-my-god, they might have to look at the “subjective” and then game over ..

    i have been in the company of many gurus and yogis who completely understand science, and never met a scientist who understood a thing about consciousness, or “reality” ….. whose is the more limited viewpoint then?

    i would never ask a scientist about mind, they are so primitive compared to yogis ….

    as to art, that is a good step, you are on your way to wholeness ….

    my art is here, … dealing with issues you may be interested in, such as transformation …

    enjoy, glad to see your expansion in scope..

    enjoy, gregory lent

  2. Pawel Szczesny

    January 14, 2009 at 09:58

    Gregory, thank you for the comment.

    Some scientists aren’t simply interested in such topics, some have a mechanistic view of a human, some others have tried to discuss such topics but have found people like Deepak Chopra (or other salesman with small understanding of the world), and finally there are scientists that found the right people to talk with, have a good understanding of what’s happening, but are afraid to speak about it loudly (science is a club, as you’ve noticed). If you spend some time reading answers to Edge 2009 question ( ), you will find examples from each group.

    There’s also an issue of areas of science. “Subjectivity” has been a subject of numerous intriguing studies by psychologists – unfortunately, I haven’t seen their findings affecting mainstream life sciences.

    Surprisingly quite a lot of scientists has a deep interest in art (many of them are musicians on a side), but rarely try to step back and see both sides of their creativity at the same time. Mergers of science and art do not seem to work well, so I hope stepping back will give a better perspective.

    Anyway, it’s a long list of issues I haven’t yet fully grasped. I hope to learn a lot along the way.

    I’ve already seen you web page and I’ve watched a video summarizing a week with you working on some art piece. You do absolutely fascinating stuff. 🙂

  3. Daymon Balser

    January 16, 2009 at 10:30

    Research has shown that tapping into your creative brain significanly increases understanding, logic, and problem solving.

  4. gregorylent

    January 25, 2009 at 11:16

    here is a quote from this article on ballet books ( ) about art that could be a perfect segue into discussing some of the limitations and possibilities of science …

    “Only idealism – the contemplation of life through the idea of the spirit, through the idea of divinity and religion – can explain art”

    … this quote is showing the arena of art, it is beautiful, and it is obvious to me that these areas are exactly the places science cannot yet let itself explore …

    …. but will eventually have to, if it does not wish to be seen as an archaic side-street on the path of human fultillment ..

    maybe this is enough, or maybe i need to make a blogpost to expand the idea …

    and i realize that “scientists” come in many varieties, not just the close-minded ones i encountered on friendfeed ..

    a note to damyon balser, #3 above … substitute the word meditation for the word research, your sentence would still work …

    enjoy, gregory lent

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