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Friday, July 20, 2012

Artistic Synthesis and Synthetic Art

There’s hardly a thing that a man can name
Of use or beauty in life’s small game
But you can extract in alembic or jar
From the "physical basis" of black coal-tar-
Oil and ointment, and wax and wine,
And the lovely colors called aniline;
You can make anything from a salve to a star,
If you only know how, from black coal-tar.


For the creators out there--artists and musicians, scientists, humanists, engineers, I recommend this article: In Praise of Synthesis by Roald Hoffman.

As you open the article and start to groan because you see esoteric chemical molecules, hang in there and keep reading, and you'll find the hallmarks that link scientists and artists, similar things that President Shirley Tilghman mentioned in her Art of Science talk. Roald Hoffman was a recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and these are his words:

Chemical synthesis not only shares some of the aesthetic criteria of art; I think it is art. At the same time, it is logic. 
Consider the kind of art and creation that happens in making cubane:

The details of how it happens may be enigmatic, but surely it is obvious that a great process--part by design, part by chance, planned and experimented--occurs to create a elegant product. I agree, this is art. This is also logic. Wherein logic is art in this case, I also think, and I'm sure Escher would agree, that art is logic. Witness a Escher tessellation:

The mix of planning, experimentation, part by chance and part by design aspects of chemical synthesis are no doubt manifested in this beautiful, clever work of art--as in the beautiful, clever synthesis of cubane.

Beautiful logic (I mean art), isn't it?

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