Archive for January, 2009

Week4_Genetic Engineering by ilona chadwick

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Genetic Engingeering… What better week to discuss this rather interesting and controversial topic than “the human body and medicine?” Of the movie clips we watched in class, I was most familiar with the movie GATTACA, which I saw quite a while ago, but still remember quite well.  It was memorable because it provided such a strange prospect for the future.  Technologies for genetic engineering, and DNA research is all going on right now, so there is a real possibility for a world like that shown in GATTACA.  So, how does genetic engineering work? Wikipedia knows:

1. Isolation of the genes of interest
2. Insertion of the genes into a transfer vector
3. Transfer of the vector to the organism to be modified
4. Transformation of the cells of the organism
5. Separation of the genetically modified organism (GMO) from those that have not been successfully modified


Genetic modification, in its early forms, has of course been developed for medicinal purposes. Its first application was to create insulin for diabetic patients. It has also been used to modify plants (especially vegetables and other foods), which has been highly controversial. People fear that because the DNA of the plants has been altered, the fruit will somehow be toxic or harmful. What they don’t recognize is that this type of alteration is simply “speeding up” the evolutionary process, or skewing it in a way that is convenient for us.  For example, it may strike horror into the minds of those who don’t fully understand the process, but fish DNA has been used to modify strawberries.  However, only a very small portion of the fish DNA, which gave it the ability to survive  frost, was used, so that the strawberries could survive colder temperatures.  I think it is important, when considering GMOs, to consider that all DNA on Earth is already remarkably similar; even the most different organisms share quite a bit of it.  So, changing things around just a little couldn’t hurt… right?


When it comes to genetic modification in humans, views get even more extreme.  The movie GATTACA is a great example of our fears that genetic modification will get out of hand.  It begins with many fantastic benefits, such as making us less prone to disease (and eliminating genetic disorders completely).  But, as the movie suggests, we don’t really know what the long-term effects of “over-doing” genetic modification could be.  The way that everyone had very conservative looking suites and hairstyles in the movie seemed to suggest that the genetic modifications were making everyone act more alike, and it was stifling our natural culture.  The society was preoccupied with cleanliness and overwhelmed by the underlying notion of genetics.  Subtle images of DNA even appeared in the movie, such as this helix-spiral staircase.  So, although genetic modification, in moderation, may benefit the human race quite a bit, we should be careful how far it goes.  After all, we would be meddling with nature’s already very efficient and time-tested process of random genetic mutation and natural selection, which could have unexpected, perhaps catastrophic effects.

Week 4 – [Art + Medicine = Art], by Jonathan Diamond

Saturday, January 31st, 2009


             I consider myself an extremely optimistic, open minded person, yet certain notions seem to pass a threshold where even the most devout optimists must raise an eyebrow.  A simple example of such a notion is when literature is analyzed and for some reason in every text, traces of feminist ideology or stereotypes can magically be found.  This is an example of looking for something that IS NOT THERE (Warning: I am clearly not an English major, please do not be offended).  Keeping this idea in mind, I thought similarly about artists that spontaneously create conjectures about how art is inherent with literally every division of existence, and philosophical discipline—i.e. art and medicine.  So I next did what any level headed, technologically savvy, devil’s advocate would do, I googled it.  And low and behold, I came across an interesting article.  It was an interview with the Editor Chief of JAMA magazine, Dr. M. Therese Southgate.  The article begins as such: “The question I have been most frequently asked during my years with the JAMA covers is: “Why art on the cover of a medical journal? What has medicine to do with art?””  Then Dr. Southgate points at three very profound similarities between art and medicine.  “First, they share a common goal: to complete what nature has not”.  I find this very interesting: medicine clearly was fashioned for the literal purpose of fixing what nature has not been able to thus far fix or “complete.”  Yet, when applied to art, an insightful point is made—art exists as one of the few ‘things’ where humanity actually has furthered natural beauty, beyond the point of natural potential (obviously debatable).  “Second, they have a common substrate, the physical, visible world of matter.” This is an obvious, yet important observation.   Third, “more significant, however, are the similar qualities of mind, body, and spirit demanded of the practitioners of each, painter and physician.”  Dr. Southgate makes a point about the idea of observation with regard to both disciplines: “the ability not only to observe, but to observe keenly — to ferret out the tiny detail from the jumble of facts, lines, colors — the tiny detail that unlocks a painting or a patient’s predicament.”  Although I dislike quoting large portions of other people’s writings, Dr. Southgate does a brilliant job in his description of the parallel.  “Observation demands attention, and this is the key to both art and medicine. Attention is nothing more than a state of receptiveness toward its object, the artist to nature, the viewer to the work of art, the physician to the patient… Medicine is itself an art. It is an art of doing, and if that is so, it must employ the finest tools available — not just the finest in science and technology, but the finest in the knowledge, skills, and character of the physician. Truly, medicine, like art, is a calling.”  Therefore I humbly admit the inaccuracy of my first statement—art is not something that is searched for in medicine, they are one in the same.  And such a statement makes sense if you consider certain specialists that are considered miracle doctors.  Some physicians and doctors stretch the bounds of the medical world, bringing in their own two sense performing things that are truly “beautiful”.   And as such, it should come as no surprise that art and medicine have been combined for decades upon decades in the world of art.  This is the website where the interview and a video of the interview can be seen:  Below are some pieces that combine the two disciplines.





Link for the youtube video showing of Body Works:

by, Jonathan Diamond

Week4_Lensless Ultra-wide-field Cell monitoring Array (LUCAS) by adam marcus

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

            Being an electrical engineer here at UCLA, I try to incorporate related topics into my blogs as often as possible. When I thought about what I would write about this week with a theme of medical technology, I knew I had to write about LUCAS.

There is a line in the original version of the Hippocratic Oath that reads “to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation.” Sure, we could teach everyone in the world common medical knowledge but it simply would not be possible for everyone in the world to have access to the equipment, drugs, and facilities necessary to use this knowledge. For example, many third world countries would be no better off if their citizens understood what was medically wrong with them. However, if we could create better medical technology that allowed us to cheaply and efficiently treat, or at least properly diagnose, citizens of third world countries, we could help spread awareness about diseases and their prevention.

LUCAS is actually a project currently undergoing development by Aydogan Ozcan and his team at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. The Lensless Ultra wide field Cell monitoring Array using Shadow imaging (or “LUCAS”) is a device that acts as an “on the go microscope” with capabilities that include detecting infections and diseases in human blood samples. LUCAS uses a type of scanner and not a lens, so it’s not exactly a microscope. First, a human blood sample is placed on top of a surface, kind of like a scanner glass. Next, a LED light—placed practically on top of the sample—is shone upon the sample. The light is able to penetrate through the blood sample and onto the sensor surface beneath it. Blood cells are semi-transparent, meaning blood cells are so thin that a little bit of light can actually go through them. The sensor surface picks up the shadows of the blood cells and it looks something like this:




To us this doesn’t look like much, but to a computer processing these shadow images, a lot is revealed. A healthy blood cell will cast a certain shadow while an infected one will cast another. Blood cell shadows are so unique that blood type, presence of HIV/malaria, and other information can be derived from a shot like this.

So how would this be useful at all, right? We already have blood tests and doctors for all of the things LUCAS can look for. The brilliance of LUCAS is its potential use in situations outside of a lab. Because LUCAS does not use a lens and the light source needs to be very close to the sample, it has the capability of being incredibly small. The smallest (and maybe most practical) application of LUCAS on something portable was on a cell phone—the camera function was replaced with a LUCAS device (see picture below). If this could be mass produced and properly used, a blood sample could be taken, scanned into a cell phone, the scan sent to a computer in a lab, and the results sent back as a text message. This would be phenomenal for soldiers who need immediate surgery and are in need of a matching blood type from a donor. Also, LUCAS would allow people in Africa to have access to HIV tests, which hopefully would raise awareness and the avoidance of its spreading.



The LUCAS device has not been perfected yet but has had successful trials and promising results. Medical technology is always being improved. From smaller surgical incisions to robotic surgery, the possibilities are almost endless. And although advancement of medical technology may not offer a cure for everything in the world, it can aid in containing and essentially ending the spread of diseases.


-Adam Marcus

Extra Credit- Visit to the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library by Christina Cheng

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

My first impression of the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library was that it was very hard to find.  The first time I went there was during my freshman year.  Since I was unfamiliar with the Center for Health Sciences Building at that time, it took me a while to find the library.  Located on the ground floor of the CHS building, the biomedical library is probably a library that you are least likely to pass by when walking around UCLA.  Unlike most of the other UCLA libraries, since it is located within another building, it is quite small.  I often go there during my free time between classes, and I recently went there again to check out a book for my public health class.  As soon as I walked through the entrance of the library, there were several rows of computers and a few rows of references to the right.  It was interesting to see that a lot of the people there were actually doctors and other medical students in scrubs.  Walking pass the rows of computers, I entered an inner portion of the library that looked like a study room with couches and desks.  Usually, I would just sit at one of the desks to work on homework and wait for the next class.  However, during my recent visit, I took some time to walk around the library and look at some of the books on the shelves.  I found several books that related to this week’s topic, including Art of Medical Care and Caring and Art and Pharmacy.

            Overall, I thought it was interesting to find that the library actually had works that represented the topics in our class this week.  This once again demonstrated that being in the medical field is not just about having the knowledge in science; rather, it is also about knowing the art of providing patients with care and assurance.  After all, although the biomedical library may not appear as beautiful as the Powell Library, it is definitely worth a visit if you have not been there yet.


- Christina Cheng

Week 1- Two Cultures by Angelica Merida

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

So I’m a bit late, but cut me some slack I entered the class late. So as I understand it the first week revolved around the idea of two cultures, that of the scientific world, and that of the artistic world.

C.P Snow’s article, “Two Cultures” blames the separation between the natural sciences and the literary world on school and university curriculums. I couldn’t agree more. In an effort to create more specialized graduates, schools have failed to realized the importance of giving their students the opportunity for experimentation in other fields. A primary example of this can be found in UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television aka TFT.

I am a theater major in TFT. I chose UCLA because I wanted a wider education that I knew I could not receive if I had chosen to go to a conservatory. In TFT, I feel we are significantly limited to what we can expose ourselves to. With so many required classes, more so for the actors than us the designers, we have a very hard time being able to branch out and discover other fields of interests. I think it’s much more limiting for the actors, who have specific courses they must take each quarter in a particular order for fear of falling behind and then not completing the program. Mind you, most do not argue much with the situation considering that is why they are here. However, there are some of us who do want to branch out without the fear of limitation of units, course series, major requirements, or even upper division requirements. If we want to graduate on time, then study abroad is not an option during the school year.

I do agree with Snow very much, at UCLA it is very much evident in the North/South campus division. Each side has a serious misinterpretation of the other. However, I think we fail to notice the division and separation within these sides. For example, physically, the World Arts and Cultures majors are separated from the theater and film students, who are also separate from the music and vocal students. WAC majors are in Kaufmann, while film is in Melnitz, theater in Macgowan, and Music all the way by Schoenberg. Should not these disciplines be able to at least physically intermingle? Imagine the possibility of greater performance pieces if we involved the musicias, the singers, the dancers, and actors all together. And yet, we are all distinctly separated on this campus.Many of us complain about the lack of one thing or another in our shows or concerts, and fail to realize that perhaps that one thing that’s missing could be found in the other department. So as I see it, there is a 4th culture being created, where the disciplines within science and art are separating themselves and creating gaps that to me, only seem to get wider and larger.

In Stephen Wilson’s article, Myths and Confusions in Thinking about Art/Science/Technology, he brings up an interesting viewpoint, artists often only choose to oppose research and science and deny it rather than support it.

Take the artist Patricia Piccinini who had an exhibit titled “We are Family” which toured Europe for a while. The exhibit captures negative sentiments towards animal and plant cloning/hybridization.

But there are artist out there who do embrace science. Take Copenhagen’s Sydhavn. His 1999 piece titled “Evolution,” recreates a timeline of evolution through graffiti art. Spanning 170m, the piece begins with the Big Bang and ends with the Ice Age. Not only does it actually integrate scientific thought with art, but it also gives a good rep to graffiti as art. So unlike Wilson I would have to disagree, art is influenced by science as well, it’s just not so much in how the art is created, but rather the content within the pieces.

Week 4_Art as a Form of Medicine by Christina Cheng

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

In the original version of The Oath, Hipprocrates presents his duty as a physician and his knowledge in the medical field as a form of art.  As he describes, “with purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art.”  This shows that as early as Hippocrates’s time, there was already a unique tie between science and art.  Science can be found in art, and art can be found in science.  It can be seen that for Hippocrates, being a physician is not just about having the knowledge to cure someone’s disease; rather, it is about the art of providing them with a sense of comfort and care while helping he or she heal and overcome the pain.  In fact, in Lasagna’s modern version of The Hippocratic Oath, he states something very similar to what Hippocrates described: “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”  After reading both versions, I thought that this was one of the key statements of the oath.  This is because it directly emphasizes the importance of both art and science in medical practices.  To me, a good doctor should not only be professional at his duty, but he or she should also be able to demonstrate friendliness and concern to the patient.  Often, it is the encouragement from the doctor and the close relationship that a patient develops with the doctor that motivates the patient to endure the challenges of being sick.  Hence, it is not to say that going through four years of medical school and having great medical knowledge is not enough; rather, it is to say that a doctor’s ability to master the art of communicating with his or her patients is just as important as having a solid science background.

After reading both versions of The Oath, I immediately thought about the use of art in current medical practices and facilities.  In recent years, art, writing, music, and other types of non-science techniques have been thought to have positive influences in the process of healing.  At the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, volunteers organized several ArtCare programs to help boost the morale of the patients as they go through the process of healing.  One of their programs was the community tile sculpture, in which patients and hospital workers created, painted, and installed tiles at one part of the hospital.  Another one of the small projects at the hospital was a stained glass project.  The purpose of the stained glass project was to encourage communication between patients and hospital staffs as they worked together to produce a mock stained glass of a picture that the patient liked.  Moreover, for older patients, the volunteers chose a 20th century timeline project, for that making a timeline would enable older patients to think and talk about their valuable memories and experiences in life.  Meanwhile, writing and music were also incorporated into the ArtCare Program.  For the poetry project, patients were encouraged to express their feelings through writing.  All the pieces were later combined into a booklet that was displayed at the hospital.   Throughout the medical center, there were occasionally singers, artists, magicians, musicians, and even clowns who performed for the patients and staffs as a way of uplifting the spirit within the hospital.  More information about hospital art programs can be found at this site:

            Furthermore, many modern hospitals, especially children’s hospitals, are now decorated colorfully to provide patients and workers with a happier and more relaxing atmosphere.  Instead of having the white walls of a traditional hospital, many of them now have wall murals, sculptures, decorations, and paintings throughout the halls.  In Ohio, the Akron Children’s Hospital is decorated with artworks by both professional and children artists.  The artworks are all based on the theme of “Through the Eyes of a Child,” and a couple of the decorations are shown below:


            After all, whether it is through art programs or artworks on hospital walls, many medical professionals are moving toward the trend of using art as a form of medicine.  By providing patients with a ground to express their feelings through art, medical staffs are able to help the patient reduce the stress of being ill at a hospital.  In addition, working on different art projects with medical staffs also strengthens the staff-patient relationships as staffs are given a chance to hear about the patient’s thoughts and concerns.  Therefore, in addition to the scientific knowledge of medical professionals, the incorporation of art as a therapy and as a form of medicine is just as beneficial to a patient’s process of healing.


- Christina Cheng

History and Technology All-in-one by Sagar Mehta 1C

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

“During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence. The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well.” This quote by Walter Benjamin really embodies what the Industrial age signifies to me personally. The mechanization the way we made virtually every object and thing imaginable was driven because we had an increasing need to have everything cheaply and quickly. Historical circumstances in Europe during the start of the industrial revolution were quite favorable for the advancement of efficiency and quantity rather than homemade and unique. I think that the major point of this week’s lectures is that sense and perception of modern kinetic art was heavily dependent on the advancement of technology just as many things today are. However, the progression from the plain canvas to moving, touchable art happened only recently as we have become more aware of the innate and powerful link between art and science. There are so many interpretations of what kinetic art and robotics is a simple search on Google will leave you astounded as it did me. This quarter of school I have a class on the history of the sciences and I can see how the scientists of the past interacted with art and how their mediums of expression were static and unchanging, but however rigid art was it inevitably changed and I can see that in class as well. From the diagrams and pieces of Galileo to the models of Copernicus the standard form had been changing for a while.

In Douglas Davis’s piece about digital reproduction, one line struck me as being very important, “My virtual self can be transmitted even now from New York to Lodz, Poland. Needless to say, these modes of address and interaction are charged with powerful social and psychological implications. In the end, they will touch each of us, as artists, photographers, filmmakers, video-makers, writers, readers, viewers, voters, consumers, managers.” The digital era of today is fraught with many ways to share and distribute your scientific and artistic work. This could be the most important change from the past. Not only can you be inspired by many other artists all around the world and incorporate some of their message in your own but the opposite is also true and thus making the world a very connected place. Robotic art is also an expanding field that many people can connect cutting edge technology and design to make a very cool piece of art.

The innovative ideas that so many modern engineers and scientists have about the future can only bring people a more connected world. The Industrial Age has given way to the Digital age and I think that there are many possibilities for the world to discover. Digital reproduction and a change in perception of those who create the art will definitely be important as we progress into the future.

Sagar Mehta 1c

On digital reproduction, the ‘original’, and mass amateurizaton

Monday, January 26th, 2009

“On digital reproduction, the ‘original’, and mass amateurizaton”

Although Douglas Davis raises many important issues in “The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction”, he misses the essential transformations of the digital revolution.

The fact of digital reproduction raises two critical questions, which Davis recognizes: If digital works can be reproduced flawlessly, is the value of the original destroyed? Is there even meaning to an “original” digital work?

In answering the first question, Davis fails to realize that the nature of “value” answers the question as soon as it’s asked. Value is not intrinsic. Jackson Pollock’s splatterings sell for millions while the doodlings of preschoolers merely get preferential placement on the refrigerator because of subjective value judgements, not because of a recognition of intrinsic worth. The “worth” of a work of art (aside from its value as an investment) is entirely in the pleasure it brings its owner. An original, if it exists, is qualitatively different from its successive copies, if only in the minds of other people. If a painting is made and a computer scans all the movements of the painter as he paints, a sufficiently dextrous robot could reproduce the painting to such a level of detail as to be indistinguishable from the original. But there will quite likely be *someone* who places value on the fact that his painting was the first, the one painted by the painter himself, and will therefore be willing to purchase the original at a higher price than the robot-made copies. The vast majority of consumer won’t care in the slightest and will happily hang the copies in their homes. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

The more interesting question, which Davis raises but fails to answer to any interesting degree concerns the nature of an “original” digital work and whether there actually is such a thing. Because digital works are by their nature perfectly reproducible, there is no “original” work in the same way as there are original physical works. A more relevant dichotomy for digital works than original vs. reproduction is legitimate vs. illegitimate. Because of the ease of digital reproduction, intellectual property is more important than ever, and the closest analogy to possessing an original work of art is possessing a legitimate copy of a digital work of art, such as a song. In this way, the more relevant distinction for digital works of art is the method of acquisition (legal/licensed vs. illegal/pirated) than the method of production (original/reproduction).

The importance of this distinction is readily apparent as the current legal mess created by tools like BitTorrent and sites like The Pirate Bay that facilitate the illegal copying of digital works, including digital works of art such as music and movies. In a similar way that collectors place extra value on a work’s originality, many digital media consumers place extra value on a work’s legitimacy, opting to pay (usually nominal) fees for legitimately licensed versions of digital works.

For most work that are purely digital, there is no meaningful “original”; the value that original physical works have has been transformed into the value of legitimacy in digital works.

Kenneth Hurst

Week3_Reproduction of Aura in a Digital World by Eric Debbold

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Of the two articles, I found the first to be the most interesting and, ironically, more fitting to a discussion of the impact of reproduction in the digital era than the second.  The concept of aura, the general quality of originality and the value of presence in the Here and Now had a great impact on my impression of the art of today.
The advent of the recording of music was the first step in the degradation of this quality.  Before the phonograph, if you wanted to hear music, you would have to see the musician, and each time the song would be unique, the performance varying in quality but always authentic.   With the record industry came the ability to listen to the exact same recordings over and over, predictable and while extremely convenient, that much less interesting for the listener.  In the same way children delight in Blues Clues, a TV show that plays the same episode 5 times in a week, so too do consumers want for familiarity with content.  We now turn the page to a new chapter in music consumption, where the context of the performance is further removed.  Consider the iPod, the Shuffle, the Genius Playlist and the popularity of One Hit Wonders.   One might argue that this phenomenon began long ago, with the advent of radio, but radio has also changed with the times:
As stated, isn’t it odd that the last place we would look for new music is on the radio?  At this point, popular radio is a consolidated playlist of songs everyone already has, a substitute for my Top25 most played list on my iPod until I figure out a way to plug it into my car stereo.  When talking of reproduction of art in the digital era, it is impossible to avoid at least touching on the issue of piracy, just ask half of your music in your iTunes library.  In an hour, a high school student with a basic understanding of the Internet can download a song for free, distribute it hundreds of times, and remix it with another *free* song with his *free* audio mixing software, claiming some sort of artistic ownership to the new work.

As predicted in the article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” the following idea is being taken to the extreme:
It began with the daily press opening to its reader’s space for “letters to the editor.” And today there is hardly a gainfully employed European who could not, in principle, find an opportunity to publish somewhere or other comments on his work, grievances, documentary reports, or that sort of thing. Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character.

Unfortunately, this “every consumer is also a producer” attitude buries quality, and results in this type of situation: Commercial Ignoring the clear snob element to the commercial, that pretty much sums up the direction I feel like music is heading.

by Eric Debbold

Week 3_Robotics and Popular Belief by beverly okereke

Monday, January 26th, 2009

In today’s technologically advancing world, one cannot help but to notice that our society will eventually become one run entirely by technology. Our chores, our decisions, and even those routine and tedious tasks that are part of our daily lives will be done by machines.  But is this a bad thing? It sure doesn’t sound like it. Who would dislike the idea of having a robot take out the trash or mopping the floor? With this in mind, one may be thinking of a “robot” the same way that science-fiction portrays them to be: human-like, such as this humanoid robot:

The AR (Assistant Robot) for Household Chores
The AR (Assistant Robot) for Household Chores

But while there are those robots which can exhibit human-like features, there are the more common type of robots which don’t look so human-like.  Instead, they tend to take on a form that is more compatible to their function/purpose, as explained in this article:

The article, written by Jim Pinto, an industry analyst, technology entrepreneur, and futurist (among other things), explains the most likely future in robotics and how it can be analyzed today as an industry.

Most robots today are machines that can be seen as anything but simple. Some perform surgery, work in manufacturing plants, and do other things that we, as human beings can do ourselves. Yet these robots don’t look like humans. 

All the same, robots today are viewed in a way that is not yet wholly ralized by science. Although the scientific community is looking for ways to perfect their humanoid robots, they are still in the developmental and experimental phases of the endeavor. Humanoid robots themselves are used for research primarily. The study of humans and their abilities are used to develop these amazing robots, which in turn leads to a better understanding of the human body itself. They are also used to do a variety of human chores and are thus used for personal assstance. Check out this article, for example:

The article explains the use/purpose of humanoids and their usefulness towards the human race. In a way, we are catching up to the imaginative realm of sci-fi’s dexcription of robotics. And soon our world will be very similar to the world described by Isaac Asimov’s I,Robot, and maybe even the film adaptation of it.