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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Art of Science | Princeton University 2010 Art of Science Exhibition

Princeton Art of Science Competition First Prize: Xenon Plasma Accelerator
When studying art and science, we typically look at the science of art, but let's flip things around a little, and look into the art of science.

The Princeton University 2010 Art of Science Competition is about finding art in original scientific research. Check out these ingenious works of art at the Art of Science 2010 Gallery. Here is a description of the exhibition from the website:
The 45 works chosen for the 2010 Art of Science exhibition represent this year’s theme of “energy” which we interpret in the broadest sense. These extraordinary images are not art for art’s sake. Rather, they were produced during the course of scientific research. Entries were chosen for their aesthetic excellence as well as scientific or technical interest.
I'd like to share an anecdote of my own, on a somewhat related relationship between art and science. A chemistry professor of mine, during our study of those colorful transition metals, loved to remark, "inorganic chemistry is intrinsically beautiful." He would lay out various transition metals in weighing vials for us to see, bright vivid blues, reds, greens, etc--very beautiful indeed. And then, instead of simply saying, "Today, we are learning about transition metals", he would ask us, "Why are transition metals so beautifully colored?" And by answering that question (which is much more difficult to answer than first meets the eye!), we discovered how transition metals worked--the transitions of energy involved, the orbital interactions, etc. (Perhaps an artistic rendering of transition metals would have been a good candidate for the 2010 Art of Science Competition's theme of "energy".) So, through our exploration of the aesthetics of transition metals, we developed a scientific understanding as well. Indeed, science itself is, as my chemistry professor would say, "intrinsically beautiful."

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