An unending river of inspiration

Glendon Mellow – of the Flying Trilobite, and a longstanding reader of B&W – has a wonderful interview with Surly Amy at the Scientific American blog.

He asked her what prompted her to tap into the wide world of science-art.

When I first got involved, I felt like there was an absence of creative people  both online and at science and secular events. There was sort of a stigma floating around that rationality didn’t have space for artists since artists often have the reputation of not being critical thinkers. Artists are thought of as ‘hippies’ or ‘dreamers’. Scientists and academics are often stereotyped as uncreative or ‘stiff’ in mindset. I didn’t think either of these were accurate representations. I wanted to simultaneously encourage artists to participate in, and understand science while dispelling these terrible stereotypes that serve to hold back both artists and scientists alike.

What a good project, eh? The two learning from and inspiring each other? Beautiful.

I also think that science is an unending river of inspiration for artists in the same way that art can be inspiring to science. From the micro to the macro, any artist that has yet to tap into the wonder that is nature and knowledge is truly missing out. I hope the the website, can be a tiny portal into the wonders that abound in our forever building body of information in both the arts and sciences.

I love that –  an unending river of inspiration.

Hey maybe it would make a Surlyramic.

Read the whole thing.


  1. Arkady says

    (registration over there was too complicated, so commenting here)

    Me and a friend (I’m finishing up my PhD thesis and she’s doing a postdoc) are both crafty scientists, the main problem we have is a lack of time for arty hobbies! My friend does more science-stuff than I do, she made me a lovely set of glow-in-the-dark embryos of various species, made of FIMO. Another (non-science) friend wants some immunofluorescence images he can turn into larger canvases, unfortunately most of my microscopy is single-colour.

    Coming up on the end of my PhD, there’s a choice between continuing in science or trying to find a job with a better work/life balance that gives more time for hobbies like art… am holding out hope for a (non academic) science job that would give that balance…

  2. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    I’m not fond of registering either, but damn, the two nitwits who commented criticizing Amy reek of slime.
    Amy, I definitely plan on purchasing more than a few of your products (pending financial stability). I think what you do *is* creative. And awesome!

  3. Claire Ramsey says

    Over on that Intelligent Design (intelligent but cannot spell check) blog, I particularly appreciated the highly intelligent comparison of Scientist and Not Scientist by using photos. Wow! That shows real intelligence. Dang! Those guys must be real smart over there.

  4. says

    Glad you enjoyed the interview, Ophelia!

    At Symbiartic (there’s a lot of Scientific American blogs, Symbiartic is the art+science one by myself and Kalliopi Monoyios) we’re not given editorial mandates on what to cover and we’re not edited before we post. They’re blogs.

    Surly Amy was high on my list of people to interview, but being a new dad and illustrator made the 1st year on Symbiartic whip by. Glad we could do it now.

    About registering to comment at SciAm: it drives me nuts too. Most of the SciAm bloggers don’t like it (it stifles discussion and moves it off-blog, just like in this case!) and behind the scenes, they’re working to change it. So I hope this plug is okay here, but if you like sciencey-art, please stick with us!

  5. says

    The plug is absolutely fine, Glendon. Good that they’re working to change registration. I actually found when I went to register that I already was registered. Made it easy…

  6. says

    One of the doofi commenting at Symbiartic, someone with the ‘nym JulianPenrod, bothered me a bit with the attitude, and so I wrote a response. I didn’t realize that SciAm Blogs commenting system doesn’t allow the blockquote tags, or offer any preview. Here is my response in its entirety.

    [I wrote]
    Pardon my impertinence, JulianPenrod – do you suffer from paranoid delusions? Are you in the habit of looking askance over your shoulder every time you set foot outside your house? Your curious insistence on prefacing your long and rambling comments with a note expressing your strange fear of being banned or having your comments deleted seems to point that way. I am sorry that you feel people are out to get you. I mean, they may be really out to get you – but I sure am sorry you feel that way.

    As for your comments, good grief! You love using a lot of words, don’t you, even if they are a little short on substance? Quite akin to the Bard’s description of life: “… tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    Spake thee thusly:

    … notice Ms. Roth’s pieces. Unoriginal reporductions (sic) of past illustrations, diagrams, drawings and charts! A polar projection map, a Feynman diagram, a drawing of a plant, the “evolution” of humans, the “scientific” method. Where is there any general vein of creativity in Ms. Roth’s work? What has she produced that isn’t a copy of something else, what sentiment that she espouses isn’t out of Carl Sagan? With respect to what is generally considered “artistic”, Ms. Roth’s pieces do not go beyond the quality of being “decorative”. No real insight, no content, no depth, pictures copied onto clay.

    As Glendon has already pointed out, your perception of what is artistic is shallow and restricted. You seem to be – consciously, and with malice aforethought, I think – deliberately ignoring the fact that Ms. Roth’s considerable creativity encompasses the ideation of the project, the choice of subjects and the variety therein, the transfer of the artwork to a different and difficult medium, the successful completion of the process to create presentations that are pleasant to the eyes, as well as informative, and above all, the conceptualization of a type of artwork that is sure to engender conversations and discussions about topics rooted in science. To accomplish all this through the art is a noble goat and a consummate achievement, for which Ms. Roth must get appropriate credit.

    You further wrote:

    … in keeping with the directed New World Order mentality not be be (sic) acknowledge the difference between criticism, even anger and dislike, and hate. How easy to breed an “us against them” mentality when anything less than complete obsequious worship is defined as “hate”… And, of course, there is the unspoken credo that, if someone succeeds it can only be due to hard work and worth, not the clandestine power mongers pulling strings, and, if someone does not succeed, it must be that they are sluggardly and foolish. In other words, if someone is profiled in a blog, you must listen to them, if not, just accuse them of the jealousy of the unworthy and denounce out of hand everything they say… I did, however, point out that they were getting where they wanted, they were in the public eye, people were talking about them, acknowledging them, buying briskly from them, and according them that prize that so many apply to success, validation. The very fact that someone’s words are treated by someone else, in a high profile place, as valid is equivalent, in today’s thought control empire, with success.

    Did you write all that in one go? “New World Order”? “Clandestine power mongers”, “thought control empire”? If you are not reading too much Tom Clancy (or perhaps – gasp!! – Ayn Rand), perhaps you should really consider getting professional help.

    You also indicated:

    … making use of an ugly little secret of popularity control. The perception among many that, if you have a place in popular cyulture, a blog, a byline, a stream of publications or exhibits or sales, it means that you have worth. If someone doesn’t wualify (sic) by the general perception of a “success”, it’s only because they, as an individual, have no worth. It’s not that the cultural milieu consists of a monolithic machine that jealously guards the perception of cultural value, welcoming those who are, and this may be used as an “esxcuse” (sic) for removing this, “the kind of crook they can work with”, desperately opposing the attempts of those who don’t play their game. As a result, all high earning “culture” reflects only the messages, the sentiments, the ideas that fit the New World Order agenda… There are those who make blogs, but they’re never visited. There are those who submit stories, but they’re never published. There are those who send out articles, but they’re never accepted. There are those who produce art pieces, but they’re never bought. There are many who work at it, but never get recognized, even if they deserve it. Work and worth are not the sole guarantees of success in today’s engineered ersatz for a culture, today’s psychologically programmed, agenda driven, thought control manipulated excuse for a society…

    Awwww…. Is this what all this is about? No one is paying you any attention? No one is featuring you in their blog, no one is reading your blog, no one recognizes your contributions? Is that why you are so needlessly bitter towards Ms. Roth and Glendon? I am sorry to learn that. Please don’t get disheartened. Do keep producing quality work, and sooner or later someone is bound to take notice. I loved your use of the word ‘ersatz’.

    I noticed that you also wrote:

    … colleges became almost universal breeding grounds for “accredited” know nothings who get jobs through pull and cronyism but wnat (sic) to be perceived as intellectual giants. Nothing truly different, just “pie in the sky” “happy talk”. Basically, doggerel. There are software packages sometimes called “gibberish machines” that take particular terms and produce calculated passages using them. Sprinkle high sounding terms into a “gibberish machine” and you have a good chance of getting something that feels the same as Ms. Roth’s explication.

    I am was going to enquire why you feel this need for pretensions to great erudition. Your screed against colleges is quite an eye-opener; so I shall refrain from asking that question. Let me try a thought experiment by simply asking you instead: what could Ms. Roth say that you would think of as ‘truly different’, and what kind of response/reaction would you expect from that?

  7. says

    Kausik Datta
    I love your response.

    On a tangent: That idiot actually plays on a trope I have noticed before and it drives me nuts: Crafts isn’t arts and I have the strong feeling that it has something to do with crafts usually being feminine. If a guy paints a picture, well that’s art. If I make a new dress, it’s just crafts, because I work (not even always) with existing patterns and embroidery designs.
    Photography, OTOH is art, because it’s more a guy thing, even though they don’t grow the trees themselves.

  8. says

    Kausik Datta, yes thanks for your response over at Symbiartic! Saved me an afternoon of writing it myself, and now I can sip ice cold coffee while enjoying your rebuttal.

  9. Smhll says

    @GM, nice post on SciAm! I also spotted a short, sharp post by Greg Laden just after yours. It made me LOL (while trying to swallow).

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