Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

On an on line art forum when I said thinking for scientific research is more complex than thinking about creating art works, some artists didn’t agree with me. They said the thought processes that lead to scientific research and creating art are the same! No matter how much I tried to analyze from their point of view, my rational mind didn’t agree with them! And I am pretty sure, they are not the same! I will give reasons why.

While doing scientific research or working on a problem in science, you got to think about hundreds of things and you need high resolution thinking and have a very clear picture of what you are aiming at and how to get there faultlessly and get results that are acceptable to the rules of science. It doesn’t suffice if you are convinced about the sincerity of your work in science. You should also get an approval from your peers. If you don’t follow these rules with clinical precision, you are not only likely to fail but the results also might have disastrous consequences especially in fields like space and medicine.

My artist friends also said that there could be no good or bad art and no good or bad science and everything is relative. Yes, in art you cannot say what is good with certainty as there may not be fixed values for deciding good works or bad works ( which cannot be done accurately because your opinions are just based on perceptions which differ from person to person and place to place) but in science we have definition for good science! Majority of scientists and science journals follow it and it says: If you can get to the bottom of facts following rules and try to unravel the mysteries of Nature and in turn if these can be used to help the world, it is good science. If you use unlawful means to arrive at conclusions and try to manipulate things to show that your beliefs or ideas are right or if your work harms the world that is bad science! This definition could be arrived at because of universal outlook of science ( You can read more on it here: ).

I will give a few examples here. Let me choose first my own field – Microbiology. While doing research on toxins produced by microbes – I will have to keep several things in mind – like types of microbes using ( eg., bacteria and fungi ), media on which they can be grown, the biological necessities of microbes like water, food etc., to produce toxins, favourable and unfavourable conditions like Ph of the medium, temperature, moisture interference of other living organisms around them, conditions in the lab versus natural ones and several other factors that could influence each thing given above and analyse every aspect thoroughly. If I miss even a single parameter, the entire experiment goes wrong and everything will become a waste. When you are dealing with such complexity your mind will be always on fire. Peer reviewing is one aspect every scientist is bothered about when your peers sometimes try to rip you apart if you don’t do things properly and they do it armed with proof, facts and rules and you just can’t refuse their arguments and defend against full proof weaponry. And we all recognize the importance of such checks and balances for science to prosper and help mankind and scientists accept them without any protest. Emotions have no place in science.

I want to give another example regarding to space research. If you want to send an astronaut into space, can you imagine what amount of research goes into the effort? It is simply mind blowing! The scientists have to think about gravity, a spaceship that can withstand the journey – which again depends on several parameters, fuel efficiency, astronaut’s comfort, cosmic rays, temperature, lack of oxygen, vacuum, Biology and hundreds of details that can effect each of these. It is not possible to outsiders to even grasp the enormity of it all. Even if one parameter is not measured or considered properly, the entire project will fail putting the lives of the astronauts at risk. Can you imagine how much brain power goes into it? How much reasoning power will be utilized? How many years of dedicated work goes into it to make the project full proof?

After a complex, rational and critical thinking about scientific problems I always felt mentally exhausted because it drained a lot of my energy! On the other hand thinking theme presentation in art made me relaxed!

Now tell me is art so complex? Not at all! Apart from the theme all that art need to think about is colour, composition, surface and methodology (techniques – which again take the help of science for creating works with longer lasting effects). Even other art forms need not follow such complex thought processes as science does. Art is an exploration of visual science with regards to emotions and psychology and many other aspects of our conscious and sub-conscious. But do all these need deep rational analysis like scientific research? I even wondered whether I am putting limits to the potential of these fields by defining a mode of operation onto them. I analysed to see whether my creative processes is different from the artists who got academic training in the field. I have read somewhere that while science tries to make complicated things easy, art tries to make simple things complicated. Because of my training in science, am I trying to make  art easy too unlike artists?

I have seen artists creating one to two pieces per day - although the products of such works cannot be of high quality. I know high quality works can take years to complete but still they don't take as much effort as scientific research which might take several years of dedicated work involving more than one brain.  If art is complex how is this possible? Even in other art forms like music, theater and film making, processing of art creation is definitely simple. If you are not able to do things properly in art that doesn’t effect others much. Therefore checks and balances are not that important in art making it much simpler to create and play with. Mistakes and flaws are accepted as normal in art. If an artist says the thought processes are same for both art and science, I can say with cent percent confidence s/he doesn’t know anything about scientific research. Period.

If art is as complex as science, would I and others who didn't have any training in the subject be able to cross-over to the field  so easily? Tell me can a person from pure art cross-over to science in the way we did to art and other fields?

I have an interesting story to tell. We have started some on line courses in Bioptical art. When we announced it several artists showed interest in the course. More than 35 people joined it. But soon all of them started giving excuses to skip it saying that they don't understand anything and the course is too scientific for them to understand and stopped following it! The instructor made it very easy and tried to help but all that went in vain! Artists find it too complex to understand the techniques. Or is it a mental block for complex science? On the contrary  I have noticed majority of artists are just trying to copy science illustrations from text books which is the easy way to do and say they too can create( ? what is it creation? ) science-art!

Yes, there are simple things in science even a child can follow and there are complex things in art that everybody cannot understand but these are a few exceptions - not rules.

The emotions with which artists get involved with their work make them think that they spend the same amount of time, energy and brain power on art as scientists do on science. This emotional attachment makes them refuse to see the truth. This article is not trying to find out which one is superior – art or science. Both have their own importance in this world. Neither is it trying to give more weightage to science. It is written to put facts before people and tell them why I say what I say. Now over to the world for its consideration….

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Comment by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa on February 29, 2012 at 8:23am

This one is in reply to your comment, Minnie: What you say is hundred percent true. Several science-art projects are brushing superficially with science and are not going deep into the subject. One art curator blamed this on the world of science. He says, scientists are responsible for this - read this criticism of his:

There is much in the practice of science that is visual byproduct, and that can be interesting to look at, and which ends up in some cases being declared as art for the sole reason that it looks like art. Or rather, it looks like what we think art is supposed to look like -- or, it mimics art we've seen in galleries or history books. It's pretty, or colorful, or optically dynamic, or expressionistic, or familiar -- I'm reminded of a lab experiment tracing the paths of fruit flies in an enclosed space, in which different colors were assigned to different flies and the end result looked strikingly like a Jackson Pollock painting. Enough so as to earn the piece a first-place award in an "Art of Science" competition at one of the world's foremost educational science centers. This is science ephemera that relates to art in only the most superficial sense -- and it is my experience that this perception of the art/science relationship most often comes from the science world -- a community that often regards art practice as a kind of therapeutic escape from the much more serious and much less hedonistic business of their science profession.

And this is my reply to him:

I really didn't know anything about art when I entered the art world. I read several books, art news papers and journals, art critics' write ups and inter acted with artists to learn all about art. So you can say I came here with a clean slate without any preconceived notions about art. However, the art world itself gave me the impression that it is after money and superficial visual appeal rather than spiritual fulfilment through art. I am really disappointed here. Scientists really don't know much about art. They take the cues from the art world itself. The way scientists follow depends on what impression the present day art world gives them. Why don't you give the correct picture about art and help the scientists to perceive the true meaning of art?

And there is no reply from him till now to my comment! I wonder why!!


Comment by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa on February 29, 2012 at 8:19am

Minnie, that comment was not about you! It is for some other people in some other forum discussion. I posted here as it is relevant to this discussion too. sorry I didn't mention that. I am posting another one too which again is not a reply to your comment:

Leonardo da Vinci created just 12-15 major art works ( made pictures?!) in his entire life! According to the present day art standards this sounds just like a boiling kettle claim to the scientific world! But the world treats him as one of the greatest artists of all times! It is the quality not the quantity that counts in the eyes of the world. One Mona Lisa is enough to make you a great artist! One boiling kettle is enough if you are a genius to invent a rail engine!
Again da Vinci left several of his scientific inventions incomplete. Yet he is considered as a genius! Because several of his ideas were well ahead of his time! The world has a different set of standards from the people here to decide about the three "g" s - good, great and genius! It will decide who will become what!

Comment by Minnie W Shuler on February 28, 2012 at 7:22pm

Not saying it is not more or less complex.  What is complex to one, is not to another it depends entirely on intellect and/or talent as the case may be.  I feel it does little good to argue the differences in art and science or even whether one is harder or easier than another.  When you want to collaborate in two different fields that each must come to the table with the feeling that they each have something unique to offer, otherwise it is a waste of time.  Science and Math are the Voice of Reason, Art on the otherhand is the Voice of Conscience.  Even when that voice seems to fly in the face of accepted tradition, it is still a show of Conscience.  I think civilization needs both.  What can be acomplished to better the world if they did work together?  There are so many problems facing us today that Science is struggling to warn us of, why is the message floundeing..why are we not listening?  Why do Art Galleries and Museums still have no permanent huge digital screens on the walls to display the new media of the technological age?  Why do we still just have stone statues and not holograms?  Why do we not have virtual experiences in our Galleries and Museums?  Sound? Microworlds?  There are a few places where you can see clipits of documentaries.  Why do artists let the media take the lead in political issues? Science has given us many great things and many horrible things.  Artists, where are you?  Why no slap on the hand?  When was the last artist banned for their outrageous political commentary?  Photography and motion pictures do a good job of showing the degredation of poverty, famine, war and disease when the media let us see it.    The internet is certanly helping on that front....why is there not a display in the museums for the most notable social networking movements?  the best commercial? the???????  think science what is next on the venue...not just science fiction...what is real out there? 

Comment by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa on February 28, 2012 at 10:38am

This is not in reply to Minnie's comment! Different people will see different aspects of a problem in different angles depending on their understanding of the world around them. Just because their views differ from yours you cannot say they are wrong and you are right. A person who faced all difficulties in life says life is full of miseries. A person who experienced all success says it is full of happiness. Who is right and who is wrong here? Both are right given the conditions in which they live. I said several times, I am trained in science that makes complex things simple. You are trained in art which makes simple things complex. That is why you feel art is complex. Moreover, you have not experienced scientific research so deeply like some of us did. I can understand that. I didn't have the academic experience of art. But I have several years of practical experience in several branches of art. Several of my artist friends told me they had learned more through experience than in classes run by the universities ! If artists here think I don't know anything about art except "picture making" I can only smile. I am definitely not suffering from partial picture paralysis . Although I am not an expert in art, still learning things, this is true for you too! Your experience is yours and mine is mine. Sorry, my experiences based on what several worlds could offer is different from yours and my opinion that art is not very complex is based on my experience. I don't understand why artists  find it hard to believe. I don't understand why they can't see there could be other experiences beyond their world of understanding.

Comment by Minnie W Shuler on February 27, 2012 at 10:14pm

I think the gap between what an artist dreams of and wants to produce and actually produces is a major compromise and one that some nearly go insane trying to bridge.  To some it does not matter to accept less than their ideal which the actual product always is but to others it is a constant turmoil.  Yes, the criticism of others is not there, because no one else really knows.  Yes, there are no rules to judge...doesn't mean it is not an individual battle.  Less taxing than rigorous scientific research, less variables to consider...I would probably agree.   It is more of a hidden pain...a constant feeling of failure over what where you want your work to be and were it is.   In art when you stop being ablt to see what is wrong with your work, you stop growing.  In science when you stop questioning someting your work suggests, you stop growing....there is a difference.  There is a significance in that.

Comment by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa on February 11, 2012 at 2:51pm

Bad scientific research may no be complex but good ones always are!

Comment by sandip kumar dutta on February 11, 2012 at 9:31am

Scientific research is not complex at all times.

Sometimes a state of mind is

expressed in terms of art.




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