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#004 Knowledge Piece – Why science art matters in science communication

Science art allows a viewer to experience and engage with science without the need for a technical background. For example, the very visual microscopy science art can act as an introduction to the world of microscopic imagery and visualization by making the invisible visible. By making the unknown known, science art can serve as a vehicle to inspire scientists and the public alike.

 

Microscopy Science Art Process: Illuminating the Microscopic World with Creativity

The process of microscopy science art is nothing short of remarkable. Scientists can make cells light up in the dark. This works by using proteins from fluorescent jellyfish, from the deep-sea, and transferring the genomic information of these fluorescent proteins into the DNA of the cells or species of interest. By inserting the information for fluorescent proteins right behind specific genomic information, such as “brain cell DNA”, all brain cells will fluoresce in a particular colour when a laser is shone onto them. Think of it like activating energy of a key turned in the ignition – only then can we use the energy of fuel; without the key turning, the fuel just sits there.

Complex and powerful microscopes are then used to acquire data in 3D, akin to the processes of an MRI scan. This works by light passing through tissue (like magnetic fields in the MRI), which creates an image similar to a deck of cards, where each card contains information connected to the previous and the next one.

Once the data are produced with microscope, intricate data processing using scientific research methods comes into play to extract structures from the image, change them digitally, and enhance/reduce features of interest. Finally, microscopy science artists skilfully blend the data with contemporary art approaches, creating new visualization techniques to produce unique and inspirational works.



microscopy science art process progression images

Figure: Image shows the progression of a 3D dataset of cell (green), how these are processed using research methods (middle four images), and lastly how a contemporary colour palette is used (right).

 

Breaking Down the Complex: Bringing Science to Life through Art

Many scientific concepts can be complex and intimidating for individuals who lack subject expertise. Science art addresses this challenge by breaking down intricate ideas into visually engaging and comprehensible representations. By harnessing the power of art, science communicators can make scientific concepts more accessible and relatable to a broader audience, fostering a stronger connection between science and society. Visual science art stimulates curiosity, evokes emotions, and encourages active participation in the learning process, leading to a deeper understanding and appreciation of scientific ideas.

 

Engaging Audiences: A Journey of Emotion and Immersion

Art has a unique ability to captivate, hold the attention of viewers, and cross cultural barriers. Science art leverages this power by combining scientific concepts with artistic elements, creating a compelling and immersive experience for audiences. This emotional engagement stimulates curiosity and encourages active exploration of scientific knowledge, making the learning process more enjoyable and impactful.

 

“A picture is worth a thousand words” - Fred R. Barnard

 

Visualizing the Invisible: Making the Complex Tangible

In the realm of science, many concepts, such as microscopic structures, abstract theories, or vast astronomical phenomena, are not directly observable or easily visualized. Science art steps in to fill this gap by providing visual representations that make these complex concepts tangible and relatable. Through artistic expression, science art breathes life into the invisible, making it accessible to all, regardless of scientific background.

Two neuron cell populations of the zebrafish eye under the microscope

Figure: What you see are two different nerve cells of an eye (yellow and magenta). Each one of these cells is about 10 micrometers thick, which is about the size of a red blood cell (7-8 micrometer) or a bacterium (1-10 micrometer).

One micrometer, also known as a micron, is equal to one-millionth of a meter (1 μm = 1 × 10^-6 meters).

10 micrometers is equivalent to 0.01 millimeters (mm) or 0.00001 centimeters (cm).


Igniting Creativity and Inspiration: Fostering Wonder and Awe

Science art sparks creativity and imagination, fostering a sense of wonder and awe about the natural world. By inspiring and engaging with people on an emotional level, science art can ignite interest, curiosity, and even inspire future generations of scientists and innovators. It encourages individuals to think beyond conventional approaches, inspiring new ideas and approaches to scientific exploration.

Look at an image upside down, you will discover something new. Similarly, combining data with art, we start to see and learn new things.

 

Multidisciplinary Collaboration: Where Science and Art Converge

Science art often involves collaborations between scientists, artists, and designers. This interdisciplinary approach fosters a fruitful exchange of ideas and perspectives, leading to innovative ways of communicating scientific knowledge. By integrating diverse expertise and creative insights, science art generates new possibilities for engaging and impactful science communication.

 

Breaking Barriers: Creating an Inclusive Science Communication Landscape

Science art has the power to break down barriers between the scientific community and public. It fosters a sense of inclusivity, making science more approachable and relatable to individuals from diverse backgrounds. By embracing different artistic styles and cultural influences, science art creates a more diverse and inclusive science communication landscape, where everyone can connect with and appreciate the beauty of scientific discoveries.

 

Conclusion

In summary, science art matters in science communication because it enhances accessibility, engages and inspires audiences, visualizes complex concepts, encourages creativity, promotes collaboration, and helps break down barriers. By integrating art as a powerful medium, science art transcends traditional science communication, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of science in society. It enables the wonders of science to be experienced, explored, and cherished by all, regardless of their scientific background, creating a harmonious synergy between science and art in the pursuit of knowledge and discovery.


 Author: Dr Elisabeth Kugler | Director - Zeeks - Art for Geeks Ltd

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