Sunday, May 29, 2016

Space + Art

This week’s topic showed me how incredibly massive our universe is. From the “Powers of Ten” video, a film dealing with the relative size of things in the universe and the effect of adding another power of zero, we started 1 meter away from a typical couple having picnic in Chicago and zoomed out ten times farther away every ten seconds. I’ve never really thought about anything further out into space than our solar system, but actually there are millions of galaxies that looks like dust scattered across the universe. The video was created in 1977, and the farthest vision at the time was ten to the twenty-fourth power, which was about 100 million light years away. I wonder if technology advancements have allowed us to look even further out into space today.

What surprised me most about this week’s material was how fast technology advanced in the space exploration field. The Space Race was sparked by Sputnik, a twenty-three inch aluminum sphere that was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. Sputnik inspired the creation of NASA a year later, and governments started investing more in the education system, particularly math and science courses. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space. Shortly after in 1969, Neil Armstrong and his team were the first humans to land on the moon with Apollo 11.


I found a particular blog post, “Black Spidery Things on Mars,” quite interesting. It shows an overhead image of the Mars surface, mainly composed of sand dunes. However, there are little black flecks dotting the ridges, sort of like spiders sitting in rows. Scientists believe that this is the result from the underground layer of frozen CO2 turning into a roaring gas, expanding, and exploding rock and ice into the Martian air like geysers. There is so much of space that humans have not been able to explore physically yet. Many movies have been produced in recent years that help us depict how space exploration may be like: Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian. 

Image of "Spiders" on Mars

The Martian Trailer

Works Cited
EamesOffice. "Powers of Ten™ (1977)." YouTube. YouTube, 26 Aug. 2010. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.
FoxMovies. "The Martian | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX." YouTube. YouTube, 19 Aug. 2015. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.
Marlow. "An Eames Office Website." Powers of Ten Blog. N.p., 2 Jan. 2013. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.
Uconlineprogram. "8 Space Pt3 1280x720." YouTube. YouTube, 29 July 2013. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.
Uconlineprogram. "Space Pt4." YouTube. YouTube, 30 May 2012. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Replica Praesens: A Lecture on Synthetic Life by Sam Wolk Event Blog

Today, I attended Sam Wolk’s Replica Praesens: A Lecture on Synthetic Life. To be completely honest, I was pretty lost in the first half of the lecture. As a business economics major, I really had no clue as to what he was talking about when he showed us strips of DNA, different types of genes, nutrient fields, phenotype, etc. on the TV screen. Sam went into great detail about plants being able to sprout, grow, and mutate, but it was a bit too abstract for me because he visualized the plants as strips of DNA on the screen.

Strip of DNA of a Plant
Sam’s lecture became extremely interesting when he introduced the universe he created on the screen. With the red nutrient field, he was able to produce plants. Furthermore, he created creatures that could eat the plants, socialize with each other, and have sex with each other for reproduction. I found this to be intriguing because Sam and his team generated an artificial universe with creatures that acted on emotions and physical needs – albeit everything was computer programmed. In one of his slides, Sam intentionally inserted a bug that crashed the universe. And he said that once he started the program up again, the creatures in this computer universe would never know it crashed because they are just moving from one frame to the next. Sam then related this concept to our daily lives, as a comment or question to whether there may be a higher order of power in our universe.

I saw the pinnacle of the intersection between science and art in Sam Wolk. Sam is a sound and visual artist, yet he has so much knowledge of math and science. He had to learn everything about DNA and genes and life sciences to understand the growth and needs of plants and creatures. In addition, he had a deep understanding of statistics, when he explained how he used the Gaussian distribution with 9 degrees of freedom to be able to introduce different types of species through standard deviation. Also, Sam had to learn how to code to generate fluid visualizations onto the computer screen. 

A Creature's Neuro Network 
A Community of Creatures Socializing

Sam Wolk in the Back With The Black Laptop

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Nanotechnology + Art

Dr. Gimzewski’s lecture on nanotechnology this week was very insightful. What surprised me most was the fact that nanotech is completely commercialized and can be found in every day appliances. For example, silver nanoparticles that have anti-microbial effects can be placed in socks and underwear to destroy bacteria. Samsung has been able to utilize silver nanotechnology to generate Ag+ ions that act as a shield against growth of bacterial and other microbial organisms. The ions have the ability to kill bacteria and prevent further reproduction, leading to effective protection of food inside their refrigerators.

Samsung's Silver Nanotechnology
Another interesting topic Dr. Gimzewski covered was the adhesive properties of gecko feet. The feet of geckos are specifically nano-structured to be able to stick on to vertical surfaces and carry the entire weight of the gecko. Although scientists aren’t able to replicate the nano-structures in the lab for human trials, the potential could mean being able to climb the sides of buildings with gloves.

Self-organization at the nano level can create a variety of beautifully unique forms called diatoms. The microscopic images of diatoms seem more like art paintings than nano-structures. Artists can look towards the nano level to garner inspiration in new art works. Even architects can learn from how these diatoms can self-organize and create something much larger and more stable than by itself.

Examples of Diatoms
In Paul Rothemund’s Ted Talk: “DNA Folding, In Detail,” he was able to use fold DNA in such a way that it resembled a smiley face. He created 50 billion smiley faces in one drop of water, and took a picture of them with an atomic force microscope. This is really interesting because nano-artwork and “DNA origami” can be used for nano-circuits, which are the most basic building blocks in computers. 
Picture From Atomic Force Microscope
Works Cited
Rothemund, Paul. "DNA Folding, in Detail." Paul Rothemund:. Ted Talk, Feb. 2008. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.
Uconlineprogram. "Nanotech Jim Pt3." YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2012. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.
Uconlineprogram. "Nanotech Jim Pt5." YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2012. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.
"What Are Diatoms?" :: Diatoms of the United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.
"What Is Silver Nano Health System in Samsung Refrigerators?" What Is Silver Nano Health System in Samsung Refrigerators? N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016. <>.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Neuroscience + Art

The subject I found most interesting from this week’s lecture was about the history and use of cocaine and LSD. In the 1880s, pharmaceutical houses marketed cocaine as a wonder drug – a drug that could cure nearly everything from morphine addiction and depression to tuberculosis and fatigue. It was easily accessible in tonics, powders, wines and soft drinks, which not surprisingly resulted in many cocaine addicts throughout the years. I was shocked to learn that Sigmund Freud was a cocaine addict. Even more shocking was learning how the famed neurologist and father of psychoanalysis almost killed one of his patients with an overdose of cocaine. Freud had a dream several nights later about how his patient had blamed him for negligence; however, he dismissed the malpractice and believed the dream meant that he was just a doctor overly concerned about his patient.

Also nearly as shocking was learning about Albert Hofmann’s experiments with LSD. He was the first person to synthesize, ingest, and learn of the effects of LSD. According to Professor Vesna, a typical person only needs about 25 micrograms of LSD for a full effect, and Albert Hofmann took 250 micrograms for his first test – now known as Bicycle Day. During his trip, he was convinced that his body was possessed by a demon, that his furniture was threatening him, that his neighbor was a witch, and that he had become completely insane. However, he also saw many kaleidoscopic images exploding in intense color when his eyes were closed, especially when there were certain sounds (door closing) in his environment. The vibrant kaleidoscopic images could be a catalyst and incentive for artists to experiment with acid for inspiration with new artworks.

How I would Imagine Hofmann Was Seeing When He Took LSD

1943 Bicycle Day
Visualization of Psychedelic Drugs

One more topic this week that stood out to me was Mark Cohen’s lecture. I could not believe that he had participants that would actually agree to wear the inverted helmet for a month at a time, even while sleeping! It was really interesting how he related it to wearing glasses. Although it seems quite impossible to get used living in an inverted visual world, I remember everything changed when I put on my first glasses. 

Mark Cohen's Inverted Helmet

Works Cited
"The Bicycle Day." NewsAndViews24. N.p., 19 Mar. 2014. Web. 15 May 2016. <>.
ExaltedNecrosis. "1200 Micrograms - LSD [Visualization]." YouTube. YouTube, 24 Aug. 2013. Web. 16 May 2016. <>.
Markel, Howard. "Sigmund Freud's Cocaine Problem." The Chart RSS. N.p., 22 July 2011. Web. 16 May 2016. <>.
Ucdesma. "Neuroscience-Mark" YouTube. YouTube, 12 May 2012. Web. 16 May 2016. <>.
Uconlineprogram. "Neuroscience Pt3." YouTube. YouTube, 16 May 2012. Web. 16 May 2016. <>.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Maša Jazbec Lecture Event Blog

This week I attended Maša Jazbec’s lecture at the Fowler Museum. She is a PhD student researching robots and androids in Japan, and talked about her field of study. Simply put, her lecture was fascinating. Masa went over a brief history of the invention and development of robots in the first half of the lecture. Just like what I learned in class, she mentioned how robots were popularized first on the artistic side – The Gotem (1915) and Metropolis (1927) were two movies that featured robots.

During the second half of lecture, Maša showed us over twenty examples of real life applications of robots today. What I thought was quite interesting was how Maša said Japan’s technology with robots is about harmonization and entertainment, whereas American robots seem a bit scary. For example, Karakuri automata (created in Japan) was a mechanized puppet that could bring guests tea. However, Boston Dynamics design robots for the army and looks more like an attack dog than a friendly robot. This perspective of robot culture between the East and West was also taught in class by Professor Vesna.

Boston Dynamics Robots

Japanese Robot Can Serve You Tea

The most fascinating example Maša showed us was Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro’s Geminoid. The Geminoid looked exactly like himself and had visible behaviors such as facial movements. It didn’t look like a doll or robot at all, as the outside of the Geminoid resembled human skin. If one closely inspects the hands, one can see the wrinkles on the knuckles and creases of the fingernails. The details of this robot is no coincidence because Professor Ishiguro actually wanted to be an artist originally. The Geminoid was truly a masterpiece and I believe that it is truly the intersection between art and science. 
Can You Tell Which One Is The Robot?
Selfie with Masa

Sunday, May 8, 2016

BioTech + Art

This week we covered the intersection of biotechnology and art. Professor Vesna taught us that Tokyo scientists added a glowing jellyfish gene to mice in 1997, which allowed the scientists to tag certain genes of proteins and create a tracing ability of a fluorescent glow when the genes are active. This was one way scientists could find active diseases without the use of invasive surgery, and mice were specifically chosen because their structural DNA closely resembles that of humans. Artists found this biotechnology intriguing and created a new art form: transgenic art. Artists wanted to utilize genetic engineering to create unique living beings. For example, Eduardo Kac’s “GFP Bunny” was a transgenic artwork that created a green, living fluorescent rabbit named Alba. However, animal rights activists claim that transgenic art is needless and abusive manipulation of an animal.
Eduard Kac and Alba
More on GFP Animals

After learning more about this week’s material, I definitely side more with the animal rights activists. There should be more stringent restrictions for artists using biotechnology on animals than for scientists in scientific research. There were a few bio-art projects Professor Vesna provided as examples in the lecture that completely shocked me. A few of them include Kathy High’s Blood Wars, Orlan’s Harlequin Coat, and especially Stelarc’s Third Ear. Stelarc had an ear engineered with human cartilage put underneath his forearm skin through a process called a subdermal implant. This was supposed to be an example of transhumanism – a movement thinking that the human body is not good enough, and thus biotechnology should be used to overcome human limitations to improve conditions. Stelarc was also known for saying: “the body is going to be obsolete.” I completely disagree with Stelarc’s view on the human body. The human body is extraordinary and can be transformed naturally by specific diets and consistent training routines. Everyone is already unique in his or her very way, and artists need not create any “crossbreeding” of skins or have white blood cell vie for dominance in petri dishes to prove a point. 

Stelarc's Third Ear

Orlan's Harlequin Coat

Works Cited
DNewsChannel. "Science Creates Glowing Kittens, Monkeys and Sheep!" YouTube. YouTube, 02 May 2013. Web. 08 May 2016. <>.
"GFP BUNNY." GFP BUNNY. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2016. <>.
"Kathy High: Visual/media Artist, Independent Curator, Educator." Kathy High: Projects: Blood Wars. N.p., 2010. Web. 08 May 2016. <>.
"ORLAN - Harlequin Coat." - FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2016. <>.
Uconlineprogram. "5 Bioart Pt1 1280x720." YouTube. YouTube, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 08 May 2016. <>.