Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Art of Surface Tension Science

Recently I heard about a sculptor in China that does sculptures on water. His name is Danny Lee Chin Fai, and he has given a sense of weight to the “water” (which is polished metal)– I can feel the surface tension holding the drop in its shape and the gravitational pull moving it onto the floor. It reminds me of Dali's melting clocks but you can appreciate more of the natural physical aspect of his sculptures because you can see it everyday when you pour a glass of water.

The sculpture has a caption on his work in the Hong Kong airport that reads: “Nature is all around us. Yet often we look but do not see. Next time you see morning dew, take a look at just one small dew drop. See your surroundings reflected there. Look closely and you will see a reflection of yourself. So why not pause and try to look at ourselves, objects and people around us from a fresh perspective?”

As a scientist I have to be creative to solve problems, and to make theories about biology based on research recorded at micoscale measurments. I feel like an artist of sorts. It is sometimes crazy how art and science mix. And it is amazing how you can get a great perspective from understanding one or the other. In many cases in both professions people are skeptical and are uncertain about their own work. Also oppressive sociopolitical factors affect both art and science a lot.

Also it is funny as a scientist to view art and probably as an artist to view science. To mix those two makes a phenomenal picture like Danny Lee Chin Fai did. Science always as to art and everything else. Richard Feynman has a quote on this, 'I have a friend who's an artist, and he sometimes takes a view which I don't agree with. He'll hold up a flower and say, "Look how beautiful it is," and I'll agree. But then he'll say, "I, as an artist, can see how beautiful a flower is. But you, as a scientist, take it all apart and it becomes dull." I think he's kind of nutty. [...] There are all kinds of interesting questions that come from a knowledge of science, which only adds to the excitement and mystery and awe of a flower. It only adds. I don't understand how it subtracts.' By understanding surface tension, the cohesive forces of water, and how you could break those cohesive forces one can understand and add to science and most likely art.