Scientists have an odd relationship with art

They think that other people think that they don't like art, so they overcompensate with artsy communication. 🔬 Meanwhile, artists are just doing their thing and sometimes that thing is science. 🎨

Scientists can have a strange way of thinking about art. They often seem afraid that everyone thinks that science and art have nothing to do with each other, so they push back against that (perceived) divide. But that can sometimes come across a bit as if they feel the urge to say "scientists like art too, see?" They'll put on an art exhibit and call it "outreach" (even if all the visitors are other scientists) or hire an artist to create a nice mural for the institute or something. It can be nice, and I'm exactly the audience for this sort of thing, but I do notice that it's only using art as a medium for science communication - and that the people being communicated to are just the same people who consume science anyway.

What's rarer is scientists considering that art is its own way of thinking about the world, and that scientists might actually learn something from art. That's why I was really happy to see this Nature Careers feature by Amber Dance, about scientists whose research was influenced by the arts.

"Blue", by Studio Swine. Installed at Eden Project in Cornwall (UK), "Blue" releases vapour rings every few minutes to represent oxygen produced by cyanobacteria

Nature Careers has been on an art kick lately (I really should have pitched something but I didn't know this was going to be a whole theme!) They also featured an article by Virginia Gewin about how to forge successful collaborations between artists and scientists. In the same issue, David Ibbett (who you might remember from a previous Mixture issue) wrote about how he turns physics into music

But hints of the old science attitudes about art still popped up in poll among Nature readers discussed in an editorial this week. Several respondents still felt the need to point out that art isn't just a medium for science communication.

Of course there's a rich history of art for the purpose of communication - just think of medical and botanical illustrations - but there are much more interesting things happening in science art!


Music by MusiSci: Foxanne (Chelsea Gohd)

Some very new music this week by science writer and musician Chelsea Gohd, aka Foxanne.

When Perseverance sent the first sound recordings from Mars back to Earth this week, NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen encouraged people to use the sounds in music compositions.

Chelsea responded with a new song that uses the sounds from the Perseverance recording.

It's not the first time she's made music inspired by a Mars rover. Here's a video of her song Opportunity, from a few months ago:

Interesting things

Book recommendation

Rutger Bregman’s Humankind is an easy-to-read overview of the sociology, history and psychology of how people behave, with a focus on people being kind and acting as a community. I read the Dutch original but I assume the English translation is very similar.

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