So this is an exciting time in Physics and Astronomy. You may have heard that astronomers observed the collision of two neutron stars earlier this month. This discovery resulted in three Physicists winning the Nobel Prize in Physics. Well, “What is the big deal?” you might be asking. Let me say; it would be a legitimate question. I mean, how many people walking down the street know what a neutron star it? How many know where they come from? They might have heard of it, but not have known what they were about? Now that I think about it, what could this possibly have to do with Science-Art? Well, if we look at me and my partner’s previous blog posts, we talked about pointillism as a perspective of teaching and learning. As mentioned before, a given subject, say a neutron star collision, could be considered a painting done in the style of pointillism. An image created by thousands of little “dots.” These “dots” are sub-categories of the larger topic. They might seem unrelated if I was talking to you about them separately or in some random discussion. However, without seeing these dots, one could not see a “big picture.” One could not see the painting without collectively seeing the “dots.” How could we talk about gravitational waves resulting from the collision of two neutron stars, if we don’t understand what neutron stars are?
All that being said, I now think I know the topic for my portion of the video my partner and I are going to produce. I think I will present the collision of the two neutron stars using the pointillism theoretical framework.
I am not feeling too verbose this week. There is a lot going on at the University and in my classes. Our University Rocket Team’s proposal got accepted by NASA for their University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) rocket competition. I am the faculty advisor of the team, so it has been crazy busy.
That being said, as you may recall I spoke to you about the double images. Can you see the face and the vase? I am reminded of this now. When I was younger, I never thought I would be doing the things I am doing now. I did not believe I was smart enough. I only say the Vase in myself. It was not until I was in college and I had faculty who pulled out of me my true potential that I saw my true potential. However, once I saw it, I could never un-see it. So even when I speak to you about neutron stars and the rocket team, I get excited because I remember a day when I did not feel I could do the things I do now.
What do you see?
Can artistic creativity help us learn science? The foundational science that we learn in school (memorizing facts, solving equations, and writing lab reports) tends to avoid exercising our imagination. In practice, though, creativity is a powerful engine of scientific discovery and achievement. Narratives of discovery from every scientific discipline are rich in “aha!” moments and dramatic breakthroughs (though maybe a little over-sensationalized) stemming from creative and imaginative research.
In college, I took a geomorphology course in which success was particularly dependent upon memorization (not my strong suit). Late at night, as I felt myself drowning in names on erosional features, glacial landforms, and cosmogenic radionuclides, I realized notecards weren’t working for me, and in an act of late-night desperation, dug out my watercolors to help with my study guide. In retrospect, I was trying to inject the creative part of myself into the act of learning to engage in the act of creation to bind myself to the knowledge I was trying to absorb. The result was the four-page study guide below.
I can’t remember my grade on the test, but I do remember how uniquely engaged and meditative I felt during the process of acquiring and transforming the material. I wonder how integrating creativity into (rote and less rote) aspects of science might affect scientific inquiry at higher orders.