Archive for March, 2009

Extra credit: Modes of interdisciplinary in the Art and Technolo-Science~ Rocio Flores

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

The lecture on Thursday by Michael Century was on Modes of Interdisciplinary in the art and techno-science. Throughout his lecture he focused in describing how art was fused with science in the past during the renaissance period and now in modern time. For example he described that the middle ages was a different period of thinking where the church ruled all and allow for little expansion in the arts and sciences. However in the renaissance period was known as the period of “Transformation” this is the period where he described that science and art had a theory of interaction. For example he used Galileo used art and church by using water colors to paint a sacred picture. Throughout his talk his main focus is to describe how art and science have fused, since the past (church ruling period t), to the renaissance to the modern time.

~ Rocio Flores

Extra Credit #4_ Sound Symposium_by Nikolaos Mouchtouris

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

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On Thursday March 5, I attended an extra credit lecture called, Cymatics: Bringing Matter To Life With Sound presented by Dr. Hans Jenny. I was really impressed by all these videos of matter, sand or liquids, vibrating in different frequencies forming various shapes.

I believe I missed the first few minutes because of our class at Broad Hall so I am not perfectly sure about the accuracy of the facts that I am going to bring up in this blog. Nevertheless, I liked this presentation because I have learned a lot about vibrations and frequencies etc in physics and chemistry, however I never had the chance to see a visual representation of all these initially abstract concepts. The textbooks have a couple pictures but it is nothing like a video where you actually see sand vibrating and eventually forming a ring. Even though they may seem meaningless, I do find beauty in all these pictures and videos because they help me realize the grandeur of nature that is able to form incredible art works. I should not deviate and start talking about all the perfect creations of nature, like the human organism because that would take really long, but at this point, I have to admit that that presentation was really captivating because I was able to visualize various concepts like vibration of a membrane at a specific frequency that causes a liquid to move in such a way that reminded me of professional dancers doing a choreography.

I am not sure to what extent the rest of my classmates where impressed but I feel that at least south campus students saw something special that they have heard of many times but never managed to actually see. Additionally, I thought that many of these shapes formed were pretty funny which I guess is another form of art because once the scientist/artist figures out various frequencies that make the liquid or sand vibrate in different way, he/she can actually create something instead of simply moving matter. Thus, the audience not only gains some knowledge about vibrations, but we get to see art. If we go back to first week, we can see that this presentation combines the two cultures, art and science to produce something very unique that has double purpose as I mentioned previously, to educate and entertain. This being my last blog for this class, I feel that the last sentence actually summarizes the purpose of this class, to promote the combined use of art technology and science to educate and entertain ourselves and the people around us.

Nick Mouchtouris

Extra Credit #3_Invisible Earthlings by Nikolaos Mouchtouris

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

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In the last week of February, I attended Beatriz Da Costa’s art exhibition called Invisible Earthlings, which was about microbes and their interaction with humans. Before I start describing what I saw, I have to admit that the idea was original and interesting, however, it was questionable to what extent there was a point in it.

On one of the walls, there was a passage, perhaps the “abstract” of the art project, where the artist talked about her idea about microbes and why she felt the need to do what she did. Microbes are found everywhere, indoors and outdoors, consisting a big part of our world. They are infamous for causing diseases and getting us sick, however, their role in life is definitely more important. Being Greek, I would like to point out that the word comes from the two greek words small and organism, perhaps sort of obvious without any knowledge of Greek. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and many other tiny organisms are all microbes and are usually unicellular. Some of these actually live inside us at moderate levels, but once they start increasing in numbers, then unfortunately we get sick. That is their bad side, however, microbes are really crucial in carrying out several basic processes, such as nitrogen recycling. They are decomposers, thus, they take care of dead material, recycling it in a way. Microorganisms are also well-known to us because of their use for research, as they are used as vectors to insert several desired genetic characteristics into a human body. The truth is that without micro-organisms, research would not have developed as much because it is really convenient to work with viruses and bacteria. I would like to end this scientific review of the importance of microbes by one of their most famous application to college students. They are actually used for the preparation of beer, which most college students are very familiar with.

Beatriz da Costa tries to bring up the significance of microbes and raise awareness to people who are not really into biology. She uses technology to point out our co-existence in this world, by revealing where they live-everywhere pretty much. It is nice how there were small interactive screens and each attendant had to click and would observe the zoomed in image.

The truth is that I was not very impressed by this exhibition because I was familiar with the existence of microbes and their different functions. Even though I have not worked in a research lab yet, I have learned about them through the biology courses I have taken all these years. However, this exhibition is probably really interesting for someone who does not know anything about microbes and perhaps he/she is scared of them. After attending this exhibition, he/she finds out that there is no reason to be scared of microbes because we are actually supposed to live together peacefully. Besides, if every person takes care of himself and does not tire or stress himself out, then microbes will not “attack”, thus, staying healthy.

Nick Mouchtouris

Moore’s Meta-law (Kenneth Hurst)

Friday, March 13th, 2009

One of the most interesting points of the last lecture was the ‘cycles of innovation’ graph. Admittedly somewhat subjectively measured, it is pretty objective overall — that is, a lot of really good ways of measuring will produce a similar graph. The most interesting part of the graph was that the cycles get closer and closer, which is to say that the pace of innovation is increasing.

Exponential technological growth is well known to annyone familiar with Moore’s Law. That this law is applicable to many other fields is not so well known. And that the pace of this growth itself grows exponentially is even more amazing. In his 2005 book The Singualarity is Near, Ray Kurzweil argues that this point is especially important for computing power on its way to matching (and surpassing) human intelligence.

This exponential growth is what makes the Two Cultures so important — if technology advances exponentially and art stagnates, alone in its corner, the Two Cultures become the Two Species. Keeping close ties is not just important, it’s vital for the survival of art, lest it get left behind, the retarded step-child of spiritual machines.

Slow food or slow progress? (Kenneth Hurst)

Friday, March 13th, 2009

The CNSI talk on Slow Food and the University of Gastronomic Sciences are interesting and important movements that address a real problem of modern society: a lot of food sucks, even expensive food. People often don’t take the time to enjoy it, opting to shove it down their throats instead.

Although the movement has its plusses, it is doomed to failure or obscurity/irrelevance if it doesn’t take into account two critical problems with its mantra:

First, slow food is not for everyone, and fast food is not wholly bad. Slow food is a luxury; if you can afford it and have the desire to pay for it, feel free to cough up the dough and be glad that you can; but for a significant portion of the population (even of affluent countries like the US), slow food is just not worth it. It’s not worth the time, and it’s not worth the expense. You can almost always pay more for better quality. Cheaper, more convenient food often comes with the balancing price of being less exciting to the tongue or less nutritious. It’s ok to choose fast food (or ‘non-slow’ food), just like it’s ok to choose clothes from WalMart over over ones from Banana Republic.

Second, preserving cultural food misses the point. Lots of cultural traditions have great things about them that are worth preserving, but very often that preservation comes by integrating with other cultural traditions. This is the idea of the melting pot. Authentic Italian food from hundreds of years ago is very dissimilar from the Italian food you get in modern America, or even modern Italy. It’s evolved from its contact with other food traditions, and probably for the better. Malcom Gladwell gives an excellent talk at TED that mentions some of these evolved differences here.

Nanotech art: the medium modifies the message (Kenneth Hurst)

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Digital photo frames are becoming ever more popular, better, and cheaper — and for good reason. They’re great for displaying special photos in an eye-catching and convenient way. And as they get better batteries, higher resolutions, better wireless connectivity, and easier remote management, they’ll become not just a conversation piece, but a staple of the high-tech home.

Now imagine what nanotech can do. Rather than an LCD that rotates images, you could have *actual* physical art rotating around.

Nanomanufacturing is the awesome science of — duh — manufacturing things at the nanotech level. Imagine scanning all the great masterworks of museum galleries around the world and being able to re-create them in astounding detail on a nanotech canvas. This canvas would be composed of ‘nano-pixels’, re-arrangable bits that can become any color or texture and recreate faithfully all of the observable detail of any great painting or sculpture.

Some people would certainly see this as de-valuing the original. If the plans for a Monet can be downloaded and essentially 100% recreated in billions of homes around the world at the same time, what’s the point of a museum? Or an original? As was brought up in the first sessions of the class, would there even be meaning to ‘original’? Digital works have already essentially destroyed the idea of an ‘original’ digital work. Nanomanufacturing has the ability to do this to physical art (or anything else physical).

Extra Credit 2: Science Symposium Oskar Fischinger by Roger Call

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Oskar Fischinger, the “Father of Visual Music” was an animator, filmmaker, and painter.  Born in Germany, Fischinger was first introduced to film when he met Walter Ruttmann, who was a pioneer in abstract film.  After meeting Ruttmann, Fischinger was inspired and began experimenting with liquids and modeling agents.  In 1936 Fischinger moved to Hollywood to pursue his interest in film.  Previously, in 1929 Fischinger worked on the first music videos. 

At the presentation in the nanotech lecture hall, I was fortunate enough to see some of these very early music videos.  The videos are not released to the public and thus are somewhat rare.  The music videos were extremely different from modern music videos.  These videos were animations of color and shapes moving and changing with the music.  As the music would spike, different shapes and colors would emerge and explode on drum beats or flash vibrantly on loud notes.  The music featured in the videos was primarily big band type music, purely instrumental.  One of the videos presented was called Ornament  Sound.  Much like what was described above, the video Ornament Sound featured flashing and moving colors and shapes which matched up to the music.

Fischinger worked on numerous projects while in Hollywood.  At one point he worked for the Disney company on the masterpiece “Phantasia.”  Although it was not specified exactly which parts of the feature he worked on, Fischinger clearly had an influence on the film, as parts of Phantasia are very similar to what I saw in the music videos shown.  During the years of  1936-1943, Fischinger worked on many more projects including another that was shown at the lecture, called allegretto.  This film was fairly similar to the other music videos shown with big band and instrumental music paired with colors moving and flashing across the screen in synch with the music.

Not only did Fischinger create works himself, but others who studied with him, under him, or were simply inspired and influenced by him pushed forward in the sound music world.  Mary Allen Bute was one of those influenced by Fischinger.  Bute’s works were different from Fischingers in several ways.  Her overall presentation and color scheme greatly differed.  In Bute’s works, an overall picture image seemed to exist with different colored smoke playing across the background.  In the foreground shaped would move, twist, and dance to music.  In the works we saw, Bute’s music and color was slower and not as loud or dramatic as the those featured in Fischinger’s works.

Norman Mclaren was another music and sound artist featured in the presentation.  This man was from the synchromy national film board of Canada.  His works featured rapid image flashes, usually squares with beeping electronic noises sounds kind of like a video game bleeping noises, flashing all colors.  Of the three artists featured, Mclarens was clearly the strangest.  After a short while his pieces became redundant and just plain annoying.  Fischinger was my personal favorite, as I enjoyed watching the old style music videos.

Roger Call

Section C

Midterm by Danya Linsteadt

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

This class centers around the relationships between art, science, and technology, as the course title suggests. All the topics we have covered thus far are related to these relationships. In the first week we discussed the current divide between scientists and artists, or “The Two Cultures.” This set us up for the class well by getting us started on thinking about the relationship between art and science, how it used to be, and how it should be in the future. The second week we learned about Mathematics, time, and space in art. We learned about perspective and how it is really based on mathematics and is used to depict a three (or more)-dimensional world on a two-dimensional canvas. We also learned about the controversy over the fourth dimension and the different ways artists dealt with this controversy. During the third week we were introduced to the industrial age and its effect on the art world. This movement inspired kinetic art and robotics. Then, most recently, during fourth week we got to experience art related to the human body and medicine. We saw how people used their body as art and how medical advances have effected such artwork. It is plain to see from these topics how they relate art, science, and technology.

My theoretical installation falls under the umbrella of many of the above mentioned topics. It represents a union between the worlds of art and science by using art to share a scientific understanding of an event with the world. It also could be considered kinetic art since it is made up of moving pieces. This would not be possible without the industrial revolution which popularized mechanical movement and interchangeable parts which made mechanical movement available to the general public at reasonable prices. My piece also relates to the human body and medicine. It is thanks to medicine that we know so much about the process of childbirth and the anatomy of the female reproductive system. It is pretty evident how my project relates to the human body since it is a replica of a specific section of human anatomy. My creation effectively combines art, science, and technology to produce one resulting product. I used art to create an aesthetic appeal and creatively represent human anatomy in a way that could be enjoyable for the general public. I involved science in my research of reproduction and more specifically labor. Last but not least, my product requires extensive technology to operate properly.

Week 9_It’s a “small” wonder! by Cheng-Kuang Liu

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

“Nanotechnology” is fancy word. In pop culture, it is almost simply another cool word that means “modern,” “cool,” or “high-tech and expensive.” It is like a name brand—what ever product with “nano” attached to it instantly sounds more sophisticated by several degrees of magnitude, and could be sold at a higher price. Recall when “micro” and “atomic” sounded trendy. Anything with either of these two words attached to it automatically sounded so much cooler. Indeed, these words marked new frontiers of technological research, and the pop-cultural reaction to these words simply demonstrate their impact. I still remember when “megapixels” sounded impressive, 100 megabytes of free web-mail storage was cutting edge, and “giga” sounded totally exotic. Now “terabyte” has come on the scene, out-cooling the “gigabyte” by literally one-thousand-and-twenty-four times. “Nano” is the exact analogous of “tera,” but on the other end of the base-ten logarithmic scale. Perhaps one day we will master the nanotechnology, and “pico” will come on the scene as the new “the new thing.” If Apple would still be around, perhaps we will be introduced an “iPod pico.”

Letting alone the social craze concerning nanotechnology, what Dr. James Gimzewski talked about in lecture was truly impressive. I appreciate how he tied the development of nanotechnology to a change in our culture—from “seeing is believing” so “feeling is believing.” To take the statement quite literally, nanotechnology is applied to manufacturing new fabrics and materials, which really could be “felt.” But what is more striking is the non-literal connotation of the statement. The way we perceive and enjoy things is shifting. Recall how the phonograph revolutionized the entertainment world. Recall how the television set vegetated every household in America (ok, “vegetated” is not exactly the word). For the most part, our entertainment has been audio and visual. But this is shifting. Sounds and lights are no-longer good enough—we are growing more and more sensual. The way I see it, a recent wave of this movement started with the Nintendo DS, when the player no longer uses only buttons, but a touch screen, much more intuitive and appealing. Then along came the Wii and the iTouch, which we could control using accelerometers. In fact, the user is probably not even aware that he is using accelerometers—he may not even know what that is. He’s just swinging, tilting, and shaking like he would in real life. It was really hitting a spot in our sensual needs, as was self-evident in the popularity of these products.

Another thing in Dr. Gimzewski’s presentation intrigued me—the idea that we could build an abacus using nano-particles. Please excuse my technological inaccuracies, but to my knowledge, computers are basically built from transistors. Each transistor has two states—on and off, corresponding to signals “1” and “0.” The toggling between these two states allows the computer to carry out binary calculations, which are very efficient and fast. In an early predecessor of computers, the two-state switches are literally mechanical switches. Then we used capacitors instead. Now the “switches” have evolved to “bits” on a silicon chip too small to see. Consequently, computers are a lot more compact nowadays than they were back then. Now, if we could master manipulating nano-particles like manipulating the beads on an abacus, we could create two distinct states of one single molecule, representing “1” and “0.” Then we will be able to build a chip that is unprecedentedly small, which means that we could fit a lot more transistors in a given space. If we pull that off, our computers will be incredibly small and fast. In fact, even as of today, researchers are developing computers that use DNA instead of silicon-based chips (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dna_computer). What a future nanotechnology promises, and what impact it has on our society.

Fears and Promises of Nanotech by Eric Bollens

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Nanotechnology inspires optimism in some and fear in others. Some call it a buzz, but in reality it spells hope for a lot of fields, from medicine to energy to information and digital technology. It generates fear because the unknown often does, and, in this case, loosing containment on such technology could have drastic effects. From the molecular level on down to the quantum level, nanotechnology has profound implications.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN epitomizes the duality of optimism and fear in nanotechnology. Accelerating atomic particles to near-luminal velocities, the collider allows for insight into the earliest moments of the universe that only become visible when extremely large amounts of energy coalesce in a very small area. The collider is a pinnacle of scientific achievement, over eighteen years in the workings, and without nanotechnology, the collisions could neither be generated nor measured. The collider, however, is also a subject of great controversy, centered on the fear that the collisions could result in the formation of microsingularities. Some have responded that Hawking radiation will cause the singularities to evaporate before they come into play beyond the quantum scale. The CERN safety review and the American Physical Society agree but take a different stance, finding that there will simply not be enough energy in the collisions to trigger any such microsingularities. This discrepancy can cause a great deal of fear.

Uncertainty exists in much of nanotechnology, hence the resistance. Dendrimers and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) could help with targeted drug release, actively attacking cancer cells without harming normal cells, but fear exists that these nanoparticles might take on a purpose of their own, creating new pathogens. At UCLA, protests have occurred at the California Nano-Science Institute (CNSI) about this research. Like with the LHC, fear of containment and control also reigns with medical nanotechnology. Michael Chricton explored this in Prey, where a networked, agent-based nanorobotic system took on group consciousness and exceeded its initial purview.

While these fears have some justification, caution should allow researches to continue pressing forward in the realm of nanotechnology because of the huge potential it offers. Modern light bulbs only convert about five percent of electrical energy into light. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), already in limited use, and quantum-caged atoms (QCAs) could increase electrical efficiency in lighting and projection tenfold, helping reduce energy consumption as the demand skyrockets. While potentially decreasing energy demand, nanotechnology also spells hope for increasing the efficiency of energy production. Specific catalysts could be designed with maximized surface area for greater efficiency in internal combustion engines which currently have only around a 30% conversion efficiency. Similarly, nanostructures could allow for tighter continuum of bandgaps in photovoltaic cells, theoretically more than doubling efficiency in solar cells which currently convert only around 15% luminal energy into usable energy. As opposed to the controversial nanotech fields of medicine and theoretical physics, advances in energy consumption and production do not suffer from the same fears of loosing containment or control.

Personally, I work in the High Performance Computing Systems and Networking group at UCLA, which runs parallel computing clusters in the Math-Science Data Center and the Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE) Data Center in CNSI, and I’m very interested in what nanotechnology offers for computing. In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore stated that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit increases exponentially, doubling every two years. This trend has remained fairly steady over the past forty-four years, but now scientists are beginning to come up against a wall: “In terms of size [of transistor] you can see that we’re approaching the size of atoms which is a fundamental barrier, but it’ll be two or three generations before we get that far—but that’s as far out as we’ve ever been able to see,” stated Moore in 2005 interview. Eventually, processors will reach the point where transistors can go no smaller, and distance separating processing units becomes great enough that there is no new gain by adding more transistors. Many major research projects rely on parallel processing to get around this issue, distributing the load across multiple nodes; parallel processing is contingent on communication speed between nodes, though, and fiber-optic electron nanotubes offer possible gains here. However, eventually this too will hit a bottleneck, no matter how much efficiency can be pushed through the fiber.

The answer to the roadblock to computing power that is coming soon, and one of the great targets of nanotechnology: quantum computing. Taking advantage of phenomena that exist at the sub-atomic level, whereas bits in computing provide a linear increase in power, qubits in quantum computing will provide an exponential increase in power through quantum superposition. Many obstacles, however, exist to this. Decoherence at the quantum level is hard to protect against because of the minutiae of scale. The transformation gateways necessary to perform operations on the qubits represent another challenge. However, in the last few years, major advances have been made to overcome these obstacles and make quantum computing possible. Twenty-some qubit systems now exist, including a the first marketable system by D-Wave, which equates to a mid-1990’s digital computer in terms of performance. However, to give an idea of the power of quantum computing, at 300 qubits, a system has a state described by approximately 1090 complex numbers, more than the total number of atoms in the observable universe.

While there is much resistance to nanotechnology, there is also a great deal of promise offered by it in all fields of science.