Saturday, April 01, 2006

Warhol Goes To Mars

Here's the latest set of images of the Martian atmosphere, from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It's a cliche anymore to compare things to Andy Warhol's Pop Art, but I do wonder whether it was at least semi-deliberate in this case. If not deliberately Warholian, I suspect whoever put this image together had some sense about the formal, abstract properties of the thing, completely apart from what it's a picture of. Scientists tend to have a much broader education than people realize, and they generally don't have a horror of the arts in the way that many artists have -- and pride themselves on having -- a deep horror of the sciences.

At the risk of sounding like your tedious aunt the librarian, let me recommend another book: Darwin's Audubon: Science and the Liberal Imagination, collected essays by Gerald Weissmann. The Powell's page describes the book thusly:

In this retrospective of Gerald Weissmann's best-known essays, the reader is treated to his unique perspective on what C. P. Snow once dubbed "the Two Cultures" — art and science. In Darwin's Audubon, Weissmann examines the powerful influence that the two exert over one another and how they have helped each other evolve. From listening to the scientists who gather ever year to sing at the Woods Hole Cantata Consort to looking at the influence of Audubon's watercolors on Darwin's On the Origin of Species; from comparing William Carlos Williams's poetry to his unedited case books to watching Oliver Wendell Holmes grow as doctor and as poet, Weissmann weaves a rich tapestry that will delight fans and newcomers alike.

If you like Godel, Escher, Bach, or anything by Stephen Jay Gould, you'll probably enjoy this book as well.

When I was gathering bits and pieces for this post, I ended up with a lot of links and notes about modern art and modernism, intending to take some ideas from a couple of essays in Darwin's Audubon and run with them a bit. But I looked over my draft of this post, and this portion doesn't flow into the other part very well (and the other part's not really done anyway), so I'll punt the rest off to a subsequent post. That'll give you time to go find the book and read it, so you'll have a better idea of what I'm mumbling on about. If you choose to ever come back here, anyway. Either way, go ahead: Good writing is good for you.

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