Compared to art, scientific rationale is a string of clear-cut, well-defined arguments and concepts. So why is it, then, that it’s so difficult to define and describe science itself, our understanding of it and the place we see for it in the world?
Science communicator Tim Jones decided to explore the wide spectrum of subjective and diverse interpretations by asking scientists, journalists, students, and other thinkers what science means to them. The result is The Exquisite Corpse of Science, a fascinating worldwide art mosaic that illustrates just how rich, broad and wildly intricate our understanding of the seemingly rigid is.
From a Kenyan pharmacologist to a British silversmith to a nanotechnology expert, the drawings range from the meticulously detailed to the artistically abstract, from wide-eyed wonder to grim apocalypticism.
The project reminds us of Kevin Kelly’s effort to crowdsource something equally widespread yet equally subjectively understood in The Internet Mapping Project. And it bespeaks the seemingly obvious but surprisingly poorly honored idea, not far from Buddhist philosophy, that our experience of the world amounts not to the facts and tangibles of our circumstances but to our highly subjective and personal interpretation of them.
Our favorite — not necessarily aesthetically, but rather conceptually — is the one by Jones himself, which stresses the crucial role of interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-cultural empathy not only in our definition of science itself, but also in resolving difficult issues like reconciling human activity with environmental preservation.
See the full slideshow over at the always-wonderful SEED Magazine as you contemplate the strokes and smudges of your own subjective conception.
Published December 15, 2009