Opposites attract - 5 pieces of science-creativity that inspired me

A few weeks ago I attended the Bristol March for Science. Since then I have been thinking about science communication.

Science and art. Two areas that many people consider complete opposites. Upon closer inspection they feed into one another, offering unique ideas, opportunities and collaborations. 

Through photographing the natural world - like this magma on Mt Etna, Italy I also perform my own science-art! - Photo taken August 2015.

Through photographing the natural world - like this magma on Mt Etna, Italy I also perform my own science-art! - Photo taken August 2015.

Now more than ever communication is key. Driven by the parallel difficulties that the two communities face in the wake of our global political and economic situation they must work together. In a world dominated by instantaneous social media, the method by which the majority communicate, we must adapt the way in which we communicate science. We cannot expect to generate change through performing a 20 minute power point presentation to a half full scientific conference room. I also feel we cannot rely on the media to convey the results of a scientific paper. Through working together, attracting people outside of the everyday scientific community we will be able to generate positive change. 

With this all in mind and my passions for illustration and photography in my spare time, I thought I would put together a few of the pieces of creative works that I have found most inspirational or thought provoking for my latest blog post... Here goes!

1. BBC Natural History Unit Films

My firm favourite, the BBC NHU has produced many timeless classics that I can watch again and again. Sir David Attenborough's voice is reassuring and he has helped inspire multiple generations of wildlife enthusiasts - even myself! The more recent Planet Earth II was mind bogglingly beautiful, with a supporting score from Hans Zimmer it really is a must watch. I have also probably watched the Blue Planet series multiple times and am really looking forward to the follow up released later on this year! 

2. John Isaacs - I cannot help the way that I feel (2003)

John Isaacs - I cannot help the way that I feel (2003)

John Isaacs - I cannot help the way that I feel (2003)

I saw this piece when exploring the Wellcome Trust 'Medicine Now' collection. Sculpted from polystyrene and painted wax this amorphous terrifying sculpture is one of the most moving pieces I have seen. British artist John Isaacs take on the obesity epidemic sweeping the nation puts forward this blob, a representation of how we as a society and as individuals are being engulfed by this fat-disease. I found it so scary - I felt like that blob person at the time. After seeing that piece, it actually pushed me towards having a much healthier lifestyle. Thankfully, I no longer feel like this every morning when I wake up!


3. Ernst Haeckel - Kunstformen der Natur (Art forms in Nature) (1904)

This book of lithographic and halftone prints by German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel are amazing. He beautifully depicts the symmetric patterns shown in the natural world. The pieces involving different radiolarians, requiring the use of some of the first basic microscopes are my favourites. Haeckel also popularised Charles Darwin's work in Germany and coined many biological terms that we use today - including 'anthropology' and 'stem cell'. 





4. Damien Hirst - The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) (see below)

Originally a shocking piece created a few years after I was born, by 2012 it was an $8 million box of rotting formaldehyde tiger shark. It is one of the pieces central to Hirst's stratospheric launch into the public eye. It pushed boundaries, but it also pushed buttons and remains controversial today. Personally, I found the stillness of the shark bizarre. Suspended in time with its mouth wide open it was haunting. Later I discovered that he had to source a replacement tiger shark because the old one had started to rot. They caught one off the coast of Australia. I'm not sure whether I agree with the replacement, the catching and killing of a new shark is sad. As much as I dislike it, I am sure it has also helped increase awareness surrounding shark conservation! Even if that is not at all what this weird and wonderful piece is about at all. I find it fascinating yet also repulsive. Like an awful television show I can't stop watching I am drawn back to it time and time again. 


5. Ludovico Einaudi - Elegy for the Arctic (2016)

A beautiful video combining music, art and science for a good cause, plus my favourite pianist performing on a grand piano floating on a grand piano. This is an original piece written by Einaudi composed for the Greenpeace drive to protect the Arctic. What is amazing is that during the short performance you see calving and hear the noises the glacier makes as it crumbles behind him. It is a powerful, moving piece of music. I have seen Einaudi twice and both times I felt so moved I cried! 

Ludovico Einaudi for Greenpeace 'Elegy for the Arctic' (2016)