Sunday, June 26, 2016

Week 1: Math + Art

As a science major I have been dealing with mathematics a lot. Through the study of mathematics, I was often struck by the beauty and elegance of mathematics. In math, order somehow manifests out of apparent chaos and creates patterns and symmetries. 

Although π is an irrational number, its visualization using a software called CIRCOS showed emerging patterns.

I always believed that science is under great influence of mathematics and now I believe that art is greatly influenced by math as well. Mathematics becomes a great tool for artists to convey proportion, one of the 3 principal parts of painting according to Piero Della Francesca. Francesca’s work on mathematics and geometry contributes greatly to De Divina Proportione, a book by Luca Pacioli detailing the application of mathematical proportions to visual arts. In this way, mathematics helps artists to create more realistic works. 

The study of the proportions of human

One of the most well known proportion is no doubt the golden ratio. Some say that this proportion yield pleasing and harmonious perceptions. In geometry, the golden spiral is a logarithmic spiral that has the growth factor as the golden ratio. It could be found in nature from something as small as a nautilus and as big as the spinning arms of spiral galaxies; a great example of the mysterious connection between math and nature. Golden ratio has been subtly applied to many architectures and artworks as well. For example, Salvador Dali's work "The Sacrament of the Last Supper" itself is a golden rectangle and the dodecahedron in the background also exhibit golden ratio relationships. 

The Last Sacrament by Salvador Dali uses phi, the golden proportion, in its composition as did Leonardo Da Vinci in The Last Supper
Golden ratio in “The Sacrament of the Last Supper” by Salvador Dali
The artwork utilizing fractals by Pollock has also caught my eye. Fractals basically means a single shape repeated at different magnification thousands of times. It is essentially what Pollock's drip painting constitute of. What really caught my interest is that a physicist Richard Taylor built a machine to create similar kind of paintings. However, the physicist remarked that "no machine, no matter how clever, can ever replace the human eye when it comes to aesthetic judgments". 

Pollack's Fractals
I believe what the physicist says aptly explains the juxtaposition between mathematics, art and science. Human ingenuity brings mathematics and science into the process of creating art in order to express the artists' intentions better. Art is able to bring a more human and aesthetic touch to the patterns in maths and science. Thus, mathematics truly goes hand in hand with art and science.

Caridad, Paul. "The Art of Pi - A Colorful Data Visualization." Visual News. N.p., 09 July 2013. Web. 26 June 2016. <>

"De Divina Proportione." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 26 June 2016. <>

Meisner, Gary. "Golden Ratio in Art Composition and Design." The Golden Ratio Phi 1618. N.p., 04 May 2014. Web. 26 June 2016. <>

Ouellette, Jennifer. "Pollock's Fractals." Discover Magazine. N.p., 1 Nov. 2001. Web. 26 June 2016. <>

Vesna, Victoria. “Math + Art.” Lecture.

Week 1: Two Cultures

C. P Snow’s influential lecture “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” has opened my eyes to the notion of two cultures and how they have been segregated. Although Snow’s original lecture referred to the two cultures being the humanities and science, now the discussion can certainly extend to all the arts. 

I was rather determined to study chemistry and become a scientific researcher, so for a long time art was something that was often missing from my life and I came to accept the fact that it is okay for scientists to be ignorant of the arts. After coming to UCLA, I realized that I was mistaken in thinking art and science are separated. I learnt that people can excel in both: my life science professor Dr. Amy Fluitt put up a link to a website selling her artworks on CCLE. 

My life science professor's webpage selling her artwork.
Furthermore, although the UCLA campus was rather segregated into "north" and "south" campus for the arts and the sciences, I have seen many examples of science inspired artworks in the buildings that I worked in. 

Artwork I pass by everyday on my way to the lab. @Neuroscience Research Building UCLA

Art and science does not have to be kept far apart from each other, and we are slowly realizing the need to close the gaps and transform to a third culture. However, there are still some problems that needs addressing. As a science enthusiast, I can particularly relate to the problem of public’s illiteracy of science. It was pointed out by Steven Pinker: “it is perfectly acceptable to flaunt your ignorance of the sciences and still be taken seriously”. I feel that both cultures have to do their parts in changing the status quo in order to truly bring the two cultures closer. 

In Victoria Vesna’s essay “Toward a Third Culture: Being in Between”, she believed that the triangulated bridge between art, humanities and science can be stabilized by “artists utilizing new technologies, who are in active dialogue with both sides”. Artists would inevitably encounter more scientific ideas when employing new technologies and media to create art. 

In John Brockton’s book “The Third Culture”, he thinks the key to the third culture is for scientists to communicate to the public directly and “redefine who and what we are” using science. Science could be presented in more diverse and artistic ways in order to convey ideas in a manner that could be more easily understood by the public. A good example would be a series of posters created by graphic designer Simon C Page for the International Year of Chemistry in 2011. 

A series of posters that convey scientific ideas through aesthetically pleasing designs. 

I believe that science and art are not that different in their essence. Both fields are trying to communicate their ideas and by learning the methodology of the other field, they can do so more effectively. I am very glad that I joined this class and I am excited to learn more about the topic of art, science and technology from people with different backgrounds. At last, as a chemistry major, I would like to share to all of you the beauty of chemistry. Perhaps science itself is already a kind of art. 


Airey, David. "International Year of Chemistry — David Airey." David Airey. N.p., 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 24 June 2016. <>.

"Beautiful Chemistry" Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 June. 2016

Graham-Rowe, Duncan. "John Brockman: Matchmaking with Science and Art." WIRED UK. N.p., 3 Feb. 2011. Web. 26 June 2016. <>.

J. Brockman. The Third Culture. 1995. Print.

"SEEDMAGAZINE.COM Two Cultures Steven Pinker" Online video clip.YouTube. YouTube, 18 May. 2010. Web. 23 June. 2016.
Snow, C.P.. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 

1961. Digitized print. 20 June 2016.

Vesna, Victoria. "Toward A Third Culture: Being In Between". Leonardo, JSTOR. Web. 23 June