Physics needs art – and vice versa

feynman
Richard Feynman’s ‘Female Posing’

Why Physics Needs Art to Help Picture the Universe

It is sometimes said that science and art are fundamentally different in their approach and their dominion, since science strives to be objective while art is inherently subjective. The science of perspective demonstrates the superficiality of such claims. With perspective, our concern is how a scene actually looks to a particular person from aspecific vantage point. It might be defined, indeed, as an objective study of subjectivity.

It is remarkable how perspective anticipates the concepts that dominate our basic understanding of Nature’s laws. Many of the central ideas of modern physics are unfamiliar to most people. They can seem abstract and forbidding if they are introduced abruptly, in the strange contexts that are their natural habitat. That’s why those of us who try to bring those ideas to a broad audience must often work in metaphors and analogies. But it’s challenging to find metaphors that are both faithful to the original ideas and readily accessible; and even more challenging to do it in a way that does justice to their beauty. I’ve struggled with that problem many times over the years. Here, I’m happy to present a solution that’s given me a real feeling of satisfaction.

Scientists are often fascinated by art – from Brainpickings’ ‘The Art of Ofey’

Richard Feynmanchampion of scientific culture, graphic novel hero, crusader for integrity, holder of the key to science, adviser of future generations, bongo player — was a surprisingly gifted semi-secret artist. He started drawing at the age of 44 in 1962, shortly after developing the visual language for his famous Feynman diagrams, after a series of amicable arguments about art vs. science with his artist-friend Jirayr “Jerry” Zorthian — the same friend to whom Feynman’s timeless ode to a flower was in response. Eventually, the two agreed that they’d exchange lessons in art and science on alternate Sundays. Feynman went on to draw — everything from portraits of other prominent physicists and his children to sketches of strippers and very, very many female nudes — until the end of his life.

Feynman - equations and sketches
Feynman – equations and sketches
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For Better or Worse

“Live the Martian adventure” the ads said. “Mars has jobs.” Amy said. So Joe packed their bags and they left their hometown in Northern Great Lakestan, convinced that this new life would be better.

It wasn’t. There were jobs and the pay was good, but they were mostly desk jobs–the kind of work that you learn in an hour and wash/rinse/repeat for the rest of your life.

In every other way, Mars was the same as Wisconsin –eleven months of winter and one month of black flies.

Read more “For Better or Worse”, a short story published by Liberty Island Magazine.

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Welcome to the Jungle

“Washington DC, 2084:

Jerry leaned out the Aerocar window. With the kind of breathless amazement that only seven year-olds can muster, he shouted “Mom, Dad, look! Two apes are fighting in front of the Lincoln Memorial.”

Bill glanced down, but at 600 meters above ground level it was hard to see very much. He put the flying car into a slight bank and circled around to get a better look.

“That’s terrible,” Sharon said. “They should have more respect.”

“They’re gorillas, Mom,” said Jerry. “They’re allowed to misbehave”

“Those aren’t apes. They’re men,” Sharon said.

“You’re kidding…” Bill said as he adjusted the focus of his Google Glass Retinas for long distance. They were indeed men, but with hair so unkempt and suits so ragged, they appeared to be covered with fur.

“It’s a Bumfight,” Bill said.

“Disgusting,” Sharon said.

“Why did they let them into the Safari park?” Jerry asked.

“They must be some of Washington DC’s original inhabitants.”

Read more of the short story “Welcome to the Jungle” [Liberty Island Magazine]

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