Archive for the ‘extra_credit’ Category

Extra Credit: Sound and Science Symposium (2)/Jasmine Huynh

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

In addition to Erlmann’s lecture, I also went to another lecture at the Sound and Science Symposium called “Sound, Consciousness, and Culture: Exploring Music and Technology through Seminotics and Ethnographic Study.” This lecture was given by Rene Lysloff and Paulo Chagas, both from the University of California, Riverside Department of Music. From the title of this lecture, I thought it would be very interesting because it sounded like the presenters would be speaking about how music has a social and cultural impact.

They started out the lecture by defining a couple of key terms. First, they introduced the idea of “spectrumsimiotics” which is the approach to sound and music through consciousness and perception. It could be in the form of memory, emotion, experience or cultural interactions. They really stressted the idea of sound and perception correlation: one can see the data and spectrum of sound. It is a paradox, but I personally feel that it is very true. Very often, I feel that I can visualize a certain memory because I hear a sound that provokes it. Next, they launched into the discussion of Husserl’s phemomonology, which involves studies about the structures that constitute the consciousness of internal time. It considers the temporal features to be the most basic constitutional features and helps to relate sound perception to time perception. Sound consciousness is related to time consciousness. Then, another phenomenology, called “Varelas’ neurophenomenology” discussed the relationship between neural sactivity and embodied agents. Consciousness is an inactive experience that involves embodiment and self-organization. Time presents itself as having a complex texture. The lecturers also mentioned that their current research focuses on sound perception and consciousness, specifically on the levels and scales of temporality, modes of temporal appearance and triple intentionality.

I thought these discussion points for the lecture were extremely interesting. It helped to get me to think in a different way, especially when they discussed how time, the mind and sound are related. I think this particular was most related to Professor Vesna’s lecture on “Memory and Consciousness.” This lecture at the Sound and Science Symposium really pushed me to ask myself “What exactly is consciousness?” How do we exactly know that we are even conscious at a given time? I enjoyed this lecture because I thought that the topic was not only interesting, but also that the lecturers gave a well-thought-out presentation and presented it a clear and effective manner.

Extra Credit: Sound and Science Symposium/Jasmine Huynh

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

I went to Veit Erlmann’s lecture called “Re(a)sonance.” He was from the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas, Austin. He defined Reasonance or “Re(a)sonance” as Reason-ance: the ability of being able to reason and resonate at the same time. The word “resonance” itself is defined as “the electric circuit, the state of a molecule.”

Being part of the School of Music, Erlmann then launched into a very brief, but comprehensive lecture about music. Some highlights of the historical lecture that he went into were that in 1634, individuals had the mindset that the mind and body were two different things. The main defining factor that you could tell that the mind and body were different was the  fact that the mind had the ability to reason. In 1928, there was a movement in the scientific world that was based on the resonance theories of perception. Scientists studied individual patterns of vibration on the brain, and how there were nonresonate wave patterns taking place in the brain. One of the figures that was important at the time was Claude Perrault who wrote an extended essay on sound and hearing. He thought that the body was not a machine, but instead, a self-regulating mechanism. His thinking went against the Cartesian method of biology, so it was hard for Perrault’s ideas to be accept during his time.

Overall, I thought that this lecture was rather hard to understand. The speaker spoke in a very heavy French accent, so I felt that I was spending most of my time trying to understand what he was saying instead of trying to understand the concepts. There was also a good portion of the lecture in which he spoke in French, so at that point, I became very lost. I think, if anything, this lecture relates to our class because it shows how the music, which is a form of art, can be related back to science. By this, I mean that scientists in the past studied how the brain and body perceived music. Also, it demonstrated how some scientific movements were not always accepted by the general public despite their validity. I think that artists in both the past and present have struggled with the same issues.

Week 10: Last Lecture Extra Credit, by Joon Jang

Monday, March 16th, 2009

The last lecture was, so to speak, an exhibition, beginning with the presentations of the final projects, and followed by some clips of expressions of science through music. Then the guest lecturer, Michael Century, gave his lecture on the “Modes of Interdisciplinarity in Art and Techno-Science.” In it, Century pointed out the historic changes in the attitude of academia from the Middle Age through Post Modern Age (between them Renaissance and Modern Age), which he described as the “Information Age.” According to Century, there is an oscillation of fixed (systematic) and specialized mind set in the academia, followed by a flexible and interdisciplinary mind set in the academia. Following this pattern, Century asserted that the present, the “Information Age,” is an interdisciplinary time frame, where people from different disciplines cooperate and exchange information. The prime example of this practice, of course is the collaboration of the Arts and Sciences. Century mentioned Cigoli, Galileo’s apprentice, to display what might be needed during transitions of these oscillations in the mind set of academia. Cigoli’s moon was both an acceptance of science and the church, which were separate during Galileo’s time. Unexpectedly, he also presented the economic analysis of “waves of revolution,” that is, the waves of developments in human technology. He pointed out that the waves are getting shorter, meaning that technology is developing faster and faster in the sense that the more significant, revolutionary developments are appearing more frequently. And for every wave, he continued, that a development that was incomplete in the previous wave is or will be completed in the following wave. He also presented examples of interdisciplinarity in the information age, which he divided into three categories of: 1. Integrative – synthesis, combining different foundations 2. Service – instrumental 3. Reflex – ontological, challenging the foundational principles a field. The German Bauhaus was an Art & Technology university that integrated the aspects of art and science, although it later, under the influence of politics, became more divided and specialized. Analogue computing was the beginning of computer based art using its special effects, later evolving into digital computing for more accurate, faster, and flashier effects. Century concluded by returning to the oscillation, wondering what kind of systematic culture would arise if it does at all.

Extra Credit: Linda Weintraub Lecture/Jasmine Huynh

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Linda Weintraub gave a lecture entitled “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” Professor Vesna gave her a beautiful introduction, and I was surprised to learn that Weintraub was once Professor Vesna’s mentor and adviser. I learned that Weintraub was both an author and an artist.

Professor Vesna mentioned that Weintraub lives a very “green” lifestyle. In other words, she cares deeply for the environment, and chooses to show her passion through her lifestyle. I think this is admirable because few people actually practice what they preach. Weintraub began her presentation with a general definition of beauty. She said that there are different definitons for beauty, depending on the context. The ecological defintion states that beauty is “how something functions.” The sociological defintion states that beauty is more than just how something appears; it is how we tend to assess worth to a person, object or place. We tend to care more and invest more time into things that are beautiful, while we neglect and abuse things that we regard as ugly.

She then went through a series of artists and their projects who successfully displayed different aspects involved in beauty. Her first artist of discussion, Andy Goldworthy, creates beauty using nature. He uses nature as his studio, literally. His work is conducted outdoors and uses his hands, not tools, to show what he considers to be beautiful. He separates what is human made from what is made industrially. Mainly, he likes human interference and prefers simple scape over complex tasks. I think that this example of hers was most memorable because I really liked the work of Andy Goldworthy. He uses a creative medium to express his ideas. I like that he thinks outside the box–he doesn’t just use watercolor and canvas. I also like the fact that he uses nature as his studio; it allows him to get fresh air and work at the same time which is something I envy. It’s refreshing to see that unique work like his.

The rest of Linda Weintraub’s lecture was spent discussing artists similar to Andy Goldworthy, such as Marta de Meneces and Eduardo Kac with his GFP bunny. Toward the end of her lecture, she started to describe individuals who made lifestyle changes to express their beliefs, which is not unsimilar to what Linda Weintraub did herself.

 One of these individuals was named Ji Yong Lee. She changed her diet to make urine to water her plants, since it was found that urine is most ideal for plant growth. She grew cabbage, and then offerred it to viewers to eat. Linda Weintraub cited this example as not only a “lead by example” tale, but also a question. Are Lee’s actions considered beautiful for her ecosystem?

I thought this lecture related well to the class for several reasons. Firstly, Linda Weintraub was Professor Vesna’s mentor, so we were able to see how she developed her ideas and what type of culture she developed her career in. Secondly, I thought that this lecture pertained to many of our in-class lectures in which we talked about different types of art. What is beautiful to one person isn’t necessarily beautiful to another.

Lastly, I really do agree that society tends to care more for beautiful things than those which we consider ugly.

Nathan Reynolds/Extra Credit Blog/Consciousness-A Continuation

Friday, March 13th, 2009

A few weeks ago I delved into what true self-consciousness was.  The task was a daunting one, but I had a few leads to work off of.  The lead I had came from honey bees.  Honey bees, in order to relay valuable coordinates of food and resources to the rest of the hive, participate in a “waggle dance,” in which a lead bee enters into a figure 8 pattern.  Some view this ability to comprehend instructions as a sign of self-consciousness.  However, I attempted to disprove that using the Computer Program metaphor.  In the end, the machine can do whatever you tell it, but it is not aware of its own existence.  The same applies to the honeybees and their dance.  It is nothing more than a set of inputs which other bees react to.  It is true that the dance can change, but that is yet another set of inputs given to the scout that detected the resources in the first place.  Although it is possible for bees to be self-conscious, the waggle dance provides insufficient proof of this.

Dissatisfied, I attempted to seek out an answer to self-consciousness and what it was.  This resulted in me discovering what instinct was.  An instinct in an organism is the parallel to the computer program within a machine.  The machine and the organism do not have to put forth critical thought in order to execute the program; it is already there and has been there since the creation of the entity in question.  An orb spider constructing an elaborate web is instinct, just as a bee’s waggle dance is instinct.  There may be some slight variation from dance to dance or web to web, but this is simply because of external stimuli that force such change.

Found without any additional leads, I eventually realized that self-consciousness is one’s ability to question his own existence, and to comprehend that existence.  But how is this proven?

            Self-consciousness can be realized by doing something as simple as looking into a mirror and questioning the fundamental existence of the object reflection.  If one critically thinks about his/her own existence, that person is self-aware and thus has true self-consciousness.  This is incredibly easy to observe within people, since it is easy for me (and every other human I sincerely hope) to communicate with them.  The perception of self-consciousness can manifest itself in the desire to fulfill a purpose, or establish a name or legacy.  Most other creatures do not seek such notoriety and simply live their lives.

            However, there is another aspect of self-consciousness that made it apparent to me not too long ago when a group of strikers petitioned against lower wages: resistance.  Resistance is when an entity opposes the given standard or set of rules imposed upon it.  There are two types of such resistance: conscious and unconscious.  Unconscious resistance can be most easily illustrated using inanimate objects.  If I try to crush a block of steel into a ball, I am imposing my set of rules upon that block.  However, the steel’s nature is greater than my will to change it, and thus it resists my control.

            Conscious resistance is what we are most interested in, however, since it requires that a choice be made.  Take DESMA 9 blogging for instance.  It is required; it is law, that we write a weekly blog for this class.  However, there are students who do not blog.  A machine given this command and adequate resources could manage to complete the task, which is easily accomplishable by humans.  However, there are people who make the conscious decision not to do so.  Although this is a bad practice, it does prove self-consciousness.

            Humanity on earth has had a great number of conscious resistances, among them: the rise of the Protestant against a Catholic system, everyday strikes, the assertion of homosexual rights within a predominantly heterosexual society, “sticking it to the man,” or “rising against the machine.”  Social change itself is a sign of such resistance and, by extension, self-consciousness.

            Conscious resistance can also be applied to animals.  Take a cat for instance.  It may squirm and struggle to get away from its loving master holding it.  The cat does not like to be held, and is aware of its own dislike.  The cat then acts upon this dislike.  The same can be applied to something as small as an earwig, which pinches ferociously at anything that assails it.  A bull or a horse in a rodeo will use a God-given fury just to attempt to remove the stubborn rider from its back.

            Now that it is known that conscious resistance is a sign of self-consciousness, an ample number of examples can be found in nature hinting at the possibility of many of Earth’s creatures being self-conscious.

            This is an answer to my question: “What is self-consciousness and how does it manifest itself in life?”  However, is this just an answer or the answer?  More research and thought is required before I can definitely state a decision.

Extra Credit/Sound and Science/ Kelly Tseng

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I would define myself as a lover of music– music of all genres.  I have always found music as my means of escaping from reality.  Back in high school I joined the symphonic orchestra because I knew that it would be a great way to not only express myself, but to relieve my pent-up stress as well.  Thus, I was rather quite excited to attend the two sessions of the Sound + Science Symposium last Friday.  The topics to be discussed enveloped a trans-disciplinary investigation of scientif research and technological breakthroughs concerned with sound, aurality, and hearing.

The first session was Re(a)sonance byVeit Erlmann.  He introduced some very fascinating topics about the mind and body and how the only method of separating these two very distinct entities is through reasoning.  He noted that reason-ance was the process of reasoning and resonating at the same time.  Veit’s presentation also encompassed topics about resonance theories of pitch perception and patterns of vibrations on the brain.  He talked about Claude Perrault who made a valuable contribution in the acoustics by writing an exteded essay on sound and hearing.  His treatise on sound was a part of the book Oeuvres diverses de Physique et de Mecanique. Perrault was really interested in sound media and sources of sound.  He was one of the main figures in history who stressed the importance of vibration on consonance and dissonance.  I discovered through this very informative talk that a when one combines the  notes of consonance and disonance, the product is that of a harmonic tune.

I enjoyed the second session more than the first simply because it related more to the “scientific” aspects of sound and it was a more comfortable area for me.  The talk about Sound, Consciousness, and Culture: Exploring Music and Technology  through Semiotics and Ethnographic Study was very captivating.  I really liked when the speakers presented data showing the correlation between sound + perception and audio + visual representation.  As a science major, I feel that I am more sensitive over believing everything that I see or hear.  The fact that there was actual data that that proved the relationship between these figures was really cool.  The speakers, Lysloff and Chagras spoke about Husserl’s phenomenology and Varela’s neurophenomenology.  The topic of neurophemonology, which was quite enlightening, talked about how conscious experience is based on neural alertness and embodied agents.  Consciousness is an inactive experience that involves self-organization and embodiment.  I felt like the concept of time was quite influential on both speakers’ ideas because it has a very complex texture.  According to them, there are three levels of temporality:

1) “level of perceived entities, the temporal objects and events in the world. ”

2)”acts of consciousness, acts and sense, temporal features of the perceived entities.”

3) “flow of consciousness.”

Both sessions were quite informative, but what stood out to me was the idea of consciousness as an inactive experience.  This idea was very similar to what I had learned in a Cells, Tissues, and Organs class I took last quarter.  I had studied about the different aspects and functions of the ears.  Hearing is based on the mechanics of our brain processing the vibrations and motions in the environment around us.  Without such processes, we would not be able to hear sound.  For example, if a tree were to fall in the middle of a forest with no one present to hear the falling of the tree, would there be a sound?  The answer is no because sounds need to be perceived by a living being in order to be heard.

I looked up additional studies regarding the concept of neurophenomenology and found:

This article speaks about neurophenomenology as a derivative of the embodied approach in cognitive sciences.

EXTRA CREDIT / 2 Sound Symposium Sessions / Erum Farooque

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I love sound. Its what makes music and I am totally addicted to music, anyone who lives with me says so. I went to two sessions of the SOUND + SCIENCE symposium on Friday from 5 to 7. I found all the different sounds the speakers produced fascinating. The first speaker spoke about ways to manipulate sound through the process of changing various tempos and grains of sound. Its so crazy to think about how many different elements of sound there are that you can adjust such as tone, grain, tempo, etc. The speaker manipulated sounds by fastening and stretching the grains in the sound clips. When he filtered the grains, each time a different sound was produced. I remember connecting every new sound he made with a sound familiar to me that I heard before. The sounds sounded like a mouse, a monster, and an alien. The micro-sonic sounds sounded like aliens to me, which was pretty funny. So by manipulating grains of a sound, we can make it sound like anything, but what are grains exactly. He said we break sound down to all sorts of particles, which are called grains. In quantum physics, each particle or grain is defined as a burst of energy. He also talked about how Ferraris are marketed based upon their sound. The trademark engine starting and bursting to life sound of a Ferrari is really what it is sold on. A convention he went to boasted new models of Ferraris with new features, one of which was the new sound.

The most interesting topic of his had to be the cone of silence chandelier. I don’t know how it works when when one walked under this specific chandelier, it was like a cone of silence where only you could hear the sounds in there and actually feel the sound move up and down. You could not hear the outside and people outside did not hear or feel what you did. You could visualize the sound and felt as if it was 3D, just like surround sound. He never explained how this worked, but merely amazed the audience with the concept of it all.

The second session had a very interesting topic of sound illusions. The first was the illusion of different tones our right and left ears hear. Our right ear always hears the high tones while the left hears low tones, even if the speakers are reversed. Thus, that creates the illusion of the speakers only playing that specific tone, when its really our ears that are picking only upon that tone. Then she repeatedly played her saying hi then low consecutively for a while and experimented with the various words that we heard. Based on what you heard, you could infer something about that person and what is on their mind. If you heard “you die”, she advised you go seek help, that was what depressed students heard. Personally, I heard many various things: “like hi”, “blank eye”, “white guy”, “black eye”, and “lie”. I have no idea what this says about me, but it is interesting and very funny how random my thoughts, i guess, are. This was a illusion of what you heard, when in reality only “high low” was being repeated. Another random interesting fact was that left-handed people were more likely to hear something more complex than others. She also played a small sound byte that got higher each time, this illusion was that they were different sound bytes but our brains connected them into one that sounded like something climbing and then descending.

Lastly, the funniest part of the session was when she compared regular talking to singing. She played her saying a sentence and repeated the end of it over and over again and each time it sounded as if the pitch got higher and eventually it sounded like she was singing, but it was the same initial clip of her only talking not singing. everyone heard it. This made me think about how songs get stuck in people’s heads. Sometimes a phrase gets stuck in one’s head as well, this seems weird though. Why would someone just saying something get played over and over again in your mind. This repetition clip tied it together. Repeated talking of the same word or words sounds like singing. So a sentence stuck in one’s head is just like a song stuck in one’s head.

The sound symposium really brought art and science together, especially in the first session. Analyzing sound and figuring out ways to adjust it is a science but actually producing the sounds and joining them together is an art. Sound is music, which is definitely art.

~Erum Farooque

Extra Credit/ Sound Symposium/ James Martin

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I attended the Sound and Science Symposium on Friday from 2-3 and found it very interesting.  The guest speaker was James P. Crutchfield, a physics professor at UC Davis and the Vice President of the Art and Science Lab in New Mexico.  He spoke about his project entitled “Insects, Trees and Climate: Case Studies in Parallel Perception.  Professor Crutchfield was very interested in animals and wildlife.  He first found that frogs were emitting ultrasound to communicate amongst one another.  They were not mating due to bad physical conditions and were communicating to each other that they were not going to mate.  Crutchfield then tried to see how ultrasound was used in nature in the middle of the forest.  What he found was astonishing.

Trees were communicating and giving off ultrasound.  It was the environments way of communicating.  He found that the trees were dehydrated due to drought and were giving off certain frequencies around 150KHz.  Once he found that the trees he thought his job was over, but there was still a great discovery: the bark beetle.  Bark beetles had infested the trees and were causing the trees to be extremely dehydrated.  Crutchfield created a vibration transducer to try and hear what was happening inside the trees.  What he found was that the bark beetles were communicating through ultrasound chirps.  They were giving off frequencies anywhere from 200-300KHz.  Trees are dying off and many thought that it had to due with a lack of water but in fact it had everything to do with the bark beetle.  Nanotechnology has discovered many aspects of life and is very helpful in many other projects.

I also caught the very end of another project however I was unable to get the name of the artist.  Basically, she put sound stations all over New York City and collected sounds and data for certain periods of time.  The sounds were collected to show what was happening in New York and placed on the Internet so anyone could hear it.  The sounds that came varied.  This is believed oft be of different CO2 concentrations in the air, which caused different pitches and sounds.  Sound was collected in order to give a picture of the city.

James Martin

Extra Credit\Sound + Science Symposium\Marian Portugal

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Brain Networks for Tracking Musical Structure

Petr Janata

UC Davis

Dept. of Psychology & The Center for Mind and Brain

I attended the 11 AM – 12 PM lecture on Friday, March 6.  The guest speaker was Peter Janata from UC Davis’s Department of Psychology and The Centre for Mind and Brain, and his subject was about brain networks for tracking musical structure.  He explained that his main reason for this topic of research, which is also his hypothesis is that when people are engaged in music (such as simple clapping/dancing to music, performing music, anything that relates to music), they are obviously interacting with an external environment/stimulus.  Because of this, the brain has to be affected, and Dr. Janata is researching exactly how it is affected.

The part of his lecture that I thought was the most interesting was when he described tonal space.  Tonal space is a way Dr. Janata showed music on a surface.  There are several different chords scattered on a surface, and a variety of colors spread out onto that space.  These colors range from red to blue.  When an area is red, the chord it is covering is playing an active part in the music.  When an area, is blue, the chord it is covering is not playing an active part in the music.  As the song progresses, the colors move around the space to cover different areas to show which chords are being played more or less.  When Dr. Janata showed us an example by playing a song by Three Doors Down, the tonal space became an artistic representation of music.  He calls his work the “Psychology of Music,” and uses models to identify parts of the brain that are following the same temporal structure of the music.  In other words, he is trying to find brain waves/patterns that match the music’s movement at the same time of the music’s progression. 

Musical Space 

Extra Credit/Week 9:Sound N Science Symposium/Lam Tran

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

I went to see the “Cymatics:Bringing Matter To Life With Sound” by Dr. Hans Jenny right after Thursdays lecture

I even saw Prof. Vesna there.

It was a video of different plastics, waxes, fluids and particles placed on a vibrating membrane and seeing how the move in response to the vibrations. There’s not much to say about it besides this.

Most of them shared some similarities. In the cases of everything except the loose particles (the sand or whatever they used) generally formed circular shapes, pulsated, and circulated. The material would be pushed out from the center of the top region and then come back inwards once it comes to the bottom. The less viscous fluids circulated in the opposite pattern where it would come out from the sides and move inward at the center.

The loose patterns formed patterns when vibrating. It usually created rings which would change as the vibrations change. There was also one with a drop of fluid with another drop of ink in it. When those vibrated it would make different flowing patterns. They all had a circulating pattern to their flow but where it circulated and how many points where it circulated around changed. Wasn’t very interesting in my opinion. The voice of the narrator had this monotone. Throw that in with watching a ink blob move around in a water droplet for a minute and you have yourself a fairly uninteresting show for those who do not really understand or care for the mechanics behind vibrations.

Lam Tran

Extra Credit: David Szanto “Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Science”/Jasmine Huynh

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Last Friday evening, David Szanto gave a lecture at the California NanoSystems Institute about the University of Gastronomic Science. This university was founded by a non-profit organization called Slow Food which was established in 1989. Slow Food is on a mission to counteract fast food in a fast-paced lifestyle. According to them, food should be “good, clean and fair.” This motto means that food should taste good, be free of pesticides and available at a fair price for both the consumer and the supplier. Slow Food LA is one of the largest chapters in this organization.

David Szanto, the presenter, is currently the North American representative for the University of Gastronomic Science. He is currently situated in Montreal, Canada, so this was a special presentation that he had to fly out for. He started the presentation by explaining exactly what “gastronomy” is. The word has multiple meanings, depending on who you ask.  The literal meaning of the word is “the rules of the stomach.” But, when taken to different countries, it means different things. For example, to Americans it means the art of writing about culture and food. To the French, it describes the link between culture and food.

The bulk of his presentation was spent discussing the benefits of attending the University, and how it was started. The University itself is located in Italy. It was founded in 2003 by Slow Food and several other Italian regional food companies. Szanto went through the various programs that are offered at the University, and always made it clear that they were using local products and events. He also wanted to emphasize the significance of the program, and made sure to highlight the major events that the University participates in.

Overall, I felt that this presentation was more of a sales pitch for the University rather than an informative lecture about how the Slow Food movement could be helpful. I could only find minimal relationship between the lecture and this class. The one aspect that was similar was the fact that “gastronomy” means several different things to different people. Similarly, art doesn’t have one exact definition. The presentation would have been much more enjoyable had it focused more on describing the aspects and benefits of Slow Food, rather than trying to force enrollement into the University.

Extra Credit: Beatriz de Costa’s “Invisible Earthlings”/Jasmine Huynh

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Last Friday, I attended Beatriz de Costa’s “Invisible Earthlings” exhibit in the California Nanosystems Institute. I was a bit surprised about the setup of the exhibit. I thought that the artist would give a lecture about the work that she has done. Instead, I found a very intimate exhibit. The artist, Beatriz de Costa, had set up stations around the room. At each station, there was a set of three Petri dishes which had bacteria grown inside them. Above the dishes were interactive devices (which looked like GPS devices normally used for cars) which provided information about the bacteria.

Beatriz de Costa based this artwork on her bacterial findings in places such as park benches and garage doors. Then, she took the bacteria that she gathered from those areas and cultured them on Petri dishes. The interactive devices above the exhibit went into more detail about the type of bacteria that was present in a particular place. For example, the bacteria found above the park bench included Bacillus (rod-shaped bacteria), Staphylococcus (grape-like clusters), Chrysosporum (have hyphae). The bacteria from the porch was sedosporium. In addition to having information about these bacteria, she also put beautiful artwork-like displays in the background (of the informational slides). She took pictures of the cultures and stained them different colors, so that the bacteria looked like repeating geometric shapes rather than organisms. It was amazing how she was able to turn disgusting bacteria (their common connotation) into beautiful mirages.

I enjoyed this exhibit because I felt that it was a fresh take on exhibits and presentations. Normally, I attend events like these with the mindset that the artist is just going to speak for an hour about their findings, and how they went about doing it. Instead, Beatriz de Costa provided a new spin on things: She made the exhibit interactive and much more fun. I liked how she beautifully linked science and art, which is one of the core concepts of the class. She took the scientific side (collecting bacteria, researching about the types of bacteria, etc.) and morphed it into art (the background of bacterial pictures, in many different colors.) This exhibit mainly relates to the first lecture of the course, where Professor Vesna discussed the “third culture.” Beatriz de Costa’s exhibit proved that a separate culture isn’t required to link science and art. She showed that they can exist wonderfully as one culture.

Extra Credit/ Do We really know what beauty is?/ Kelly Tseng

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Linda Weintraub’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous: Beauty and the Aesthetics of Activism” seminar was very compelling for I felt that she addressed many topics that society often overlooks and fails to recognize. As an artist, curator, writer, and educator, she is currently in the process of writing about her research findings regarding art and ecology. Weintraub’s discussion about how society values beauty is quite interesting because I feel that this issue has raised very substantial problems that are often faced in society. She said that we tend to care for things that are beautiful and neglect things that are not beautiful. This idea is very similar to topics that I have studied before in an Introduction to Psychology class.

Society tends to treat attractive people better and it can be seen throughout the course of evolution that individuals within a species prefer attractive mates. For example, many female bird species look for beautifully colored males that sing vigorously. However one may think it be foolish for the males to devote so much time and energy into producing such beautifully colored feathers that would only inhibit its flight, which would then make it more susceptible to predators. The point here is that because these males have enough energy to make bright, colorful feathers would require the male to be quite healthy. As a result, these females want a healthy male that could protect them as well as be able to reproduce more successfully. However, a strong link between good appearance and healthful genes have not yet been found and thus this leads me to question why then does society view beautiful as they way they do and more importantly how they came up with the notion of beauty.

If you think about it, humans constantly intervene with natural plant life to selectively breed a certain wild-type, so that is it bigger, better, and prettier. But if natural plant life arose by itself without any human intervention just as how all life arose on this planet without any mechanical intervention besides that of divine intervention, then how could organisms, individuals, or rather society come up with this “other” idea of beauty?

Weintraub presented the works of George Gessert and explained how he controls plant fertilization and isolated mutations in the process. These ways all the more show that society is so concerned with making everything beautiful when plants and life forms in general should be able to blossom naturally, without being influenced by the “norm” of what is considered pretty. The reason why hundreds of thousands of individuals invest in corrective or plastic surgery is so that they can look “beautiful” and fit in and be accepted by society. This popular, fashionable, and accepted look is what society now defines as attractive. I believe that beauty should not be defined in this way nor do I believe that people truly understand or ever did understand what beauty meant in the first place because beauty is supposed to be natural as is all creations by God. However, since basically everything is genetically engineered or altered, fixed or corrected, society has truly lost the true idea of what beauty originally was. This website talks about Nietzsche’s views and how human beings recognize beauty.

Extra Credit/ Edible Art/ Kelly Tseng

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Prior to this seminar given by David Szanto, I had no idea that gastronomy was a field of science let alone that there exists a University of Gastronomic Sciences. I have always been interested in the preparation of food (i.e. cooking) but I have never really been cognizant of the fact that there is a whole science behind food such as the specific processes used for producing food in a clean way such that it does not harm the environment, animals, and most importantly, our health. Szanto defined gastronomy as a profession, a reason to act, a process for refining the senses and noted that we study it to understand the connection between food and society, economics, culture, and politics, as well as to safeguard society and the environment and build food system sustainability. I particularly found the point that he stressed about Slow Food’s mission to revive local food traditions and people’s interests in the foods they eat really interesting. I believe that the only way to get people interested in food again is to make it completely amazing and delicious. The reason why people turn to fast food in the first place is because they get tired and bored of the everyday dull and bland foods. To many, a French fry seems more appealing than a celery stick. Thus, this brought me to really contemplate how food could be bettered and made more delectable. The creation of food, in my eye, is a type of art as well as a type of science. It (like technology), I think, is a blend of the two different spheres. When I watch Giada de Laurentis’ Everyday Italian on the Food Network I feel that the concoction of a dish requires the methods of science and art. For example, one cannot cook something without a recipe and that recipe is a guideline for the quantitative amounts of ingredients needed (science). The preparation of the ingredients such as dicing the onions combines the art aspect (dicing the onions in a specific way) into cooking. I guess what I am trying to convey here is that cooking is a fusion of both science and art. The completed lasagna dish looks very scrumptious due to its appearance and presentation, however it tastes good due to the correct measurements and the right amount of heat used to prepare the food. Thus, in order to get people interested in food again, we need to first make the food an artwork (beautiful enough to even try) and then make the food delicious enough to eat, which requires the precision of chemical and physical processes of cuisine.

This dish combines the expertise of both art and science.  It is beautiful edible art that requires the skill of using liquid nitrogen to create sugar art at the exact temperature.    I tried looking for more interesting articles on gastronomy and came up with this:,8599,1873579,00.html  This article revealed the extensive techniques behind food.  Cooking cuisine is such a complex skill that utilizes scientific and artistic methods.

Extra Credit/ Science Captured as Art/ Kelly Tseng

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

I attended the Invisible Earthlings Reception presented by Beatriz da Costa this past Friday and I thought it was really interesting how she made science into a type of artform. I was actually quite shocked to find about no more than ten mini LCD gadgets with information about the specific specimens presented, along with two petri dishes under each section in the simple white-walled room. The atmosphere of the reception was in a sense an exact replica of the atmosphere of an art gallery. It was a change for me—a different change that I really embraced because I really loved how da Costa tried to present her bacterial life forms as a form of art hanging on the wall, like a painted canvas is adorned on the walls of a museum. Making my way from section to section, I was interested to see the different types of bacteria she selected to showcase. She had different sections that separated the different types of bacteria that we would find in a “garden” or in everyday life. Her sections were the Butterfly Bush, Bench, Garage, Porch, and Collection Site (Trashcan); these sections were specific to the particular kinds of bacteria they contained. For example, the bacteria yeast, Gliocladium, Scedosporium apiospermum, Lactobacillus, and Bacillus could all be found in the vicinity of a porch. While looking through all the different types of bacteria, one of the specimens really caught my eye, for its depiction in the image seen under a microscope resembled more of a beautiful abstract oil painting than an actual image of bacteria. It is somewhat remiscent of Henri Matisse’s famous abstract marble paintings. Chrysosporium, as it is called, contained an assortment of beautiful blues. Every shade looked as if the artist had carefully mixed the colors together, to create such an exquisite final product. I admired the little formations as they appeared to be like tiny crystals or icicles, creations that sprout from natural means. I know that the bacteria are not naturally colored by these shades of blue and that da Costa had to stain them so that they appear more visible to the human eye. However, I still find it quite an innovation for da Costa, who is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher who works at the intersection of contemporary art, engineering, politics, and the life sciences. Here is a picture similar to what I saw, though the color scheme is far from the pretty color myriad I saw. This really ties back to the topics discussed during the first week of class, science and art as two polar opposites. With da Costa’s field of work, I feel that it reconfirms that science and art are actually two very intertwined fields. It is one culture. This also made me realize that art is everywhere as is science. They are enveloped in our everyday lives and this “art” exhibit proves that this notion is true. The fact that bacteria can be found in a variety of places in our backyard and that these bacteria and the conformations they possess produce interesting art-like slides when combined with specific staining dyes is a pretty cool wonder. Inspired by this, I went on to search for more scientific art or artforms that sprout from everyday life.  This is a sculture of captured lightning.  Though the artist did not exactly “capture” lightning, he did trap and discharge millions of volts of electrical charge inside polished pieces of clear acrylic using an electron beam from a particle accelerator.

Extra Credit\Invisible Earthlings\Marian Portugal

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Beatriz Da Costa’s exhibit on Invisible Earthlings was nothing that I expected.  I expected to be going to a large lecture hall to listen to her speak about the project she has been working on.  Instead, I stepped into a small room with specimens around the walls.  Each wall had four Nokia N800’s (touch screen internet tablets), and three to four petri dishes set on a shelf under it.  On one wall was Da Costa’s statement of purpose. 

Each Tablet with its set of dishes belonged to a different part of her own backyard.  These locations included a gate, bench, and the inside of her garage.  The purpose of the tablets was to provide some sort of interaction between her project and her audience, in which she posted pictures and information about the different types of microorganisms she found. 

I really liked Da Costa’s work of art because it reminds us of how much power such tiny microorganisms have, and their capacity to effect the lives of many.  When I read her statement, the phrase that I thought was the most interesting was “although most people have some vague notion about the importance of microbes to such things as ecosystems and human digestive tracts, microbes commonly only receive our attention when they cause problems.  ‘Problems’ in this case defined as harmful to human, plant, or animal health, and /or material goods.”  It made me realize that we humans often take these Invisible Earthlings for granted.  Although many different types of them, like staphylococcus (which she happened to find on a gate) cause illness, there are some bacteria that animals and humans benefit from.  E. Coli, for example is found in the lower intestine of our bodies.  They make digestion easier for us by helping to break down the food.  Also, they help with the production of Vitamin K and prevent other pathogens from invading our body.  It is easy to focus on the problems that E. Coli causes, such as food poisoning, but even easier to forget how it is beneficial to us.  I feel this is exactly what Da Costa is trying to emphasize.  We take these microorganisms for granted and forget how important they are to our everyday lives.  We need to remember that they are our oldest forms of life, and should be appreciated more in this world.


Week 8/ EXTRA CREDIT #2/ Patrick Morales

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences
February 27, 2009, 7:00 pm

David Szanto is a North American representative and graduate of the Masters program at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.  The university of around 250 students was founded on the principles of slow food.  Slow food is food that is “good, clean, and fair” for the grower, the producer, the buyer and everyone in between, but more importantly it is about finding pleasure in food.  It is in direct opposition to the fast food movement occurring around the world.

After an initial introduction and an explanation of the universities beginnings, Szanto began to talk about the deeper approach to food that is fostered at the school.  Seeing the food system as not just one subject but how many subjects relate to each other is a main theme that is taught at the school.  Gastronomy, Szanto explained is the study of every level of food production, it is the understanding of the pleasure of food, from its taste and smell, to the beauty of fermentation processes of wine or the curdling if milk.  Szanto quoted Carlo Petrini: “One cannot be a gastronome without being an environmentalist and if you are a gastronome and not an environmentalist then that is just sad”.  This is exactly the kind of interconnectivity that Professor Vesna has been exposing us students to these past weeks.  It’s not just that two or more subjects would be “cool” to collaborate; it’s more of a greater social responsibility to understanding that all things are interconnected no matter how severely reductionist we wish to be.  I am beginning to fully understand that merging fields that historically might have been considered irrelevant creates new academic subjects and means of exploration.

Szanto frequently reiterated that the slow food movement is one that seeks sustainable food practices and systems. The food industry requires countless resources, but is vital to human survival.   I believe that the “sustainable movement” being enforced by a dwindling amount of the world’s resources will be the string that pulls distant fields closer to each other.  Szanto spoke of how specialization fits perfectly in the engine of capitalism but how the expert generalist who “see” the interconnectivity possible between fields are the next pioneers in the job market.  I liked the fact that he mentioned this very pragmatic view because Desma 9 has been grounded in theory, ideas and creativity (which I think is fantastic), but a realist point of view is welcome in my opinion.  The world is desperate need of expert generalist who can do a little of everything, those who are “connecters” but are we ready for them?  We are in need of more professor Vesna’s! What will the job market look like in the future?  The big message that I got from the presentation was that new jobs would be created for expert generalist, jobs that don’t fit into conventionally specialized fields, but instead jobs that linger on the fringes of every field looking for opportunities to merge worlds.   I have to say: I would not mind a career in being a bridge.

Extra Credit / The Mistake by Marie De Austria

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

It is difficult to imagine how much microorganisms like microbes affect our daily lives because of their size. But as it is, microbes are everywhere even when we do not see them. In fact, microbes represent about sixty percent of the biomass here on earth. That is more than every living thing we can see combined. They can be as helpful to humans as the bacillus coagulans which help in proper digestive function or as deadly as bacillus anthrasis which can cause pneumonia. Beatriz de Costa’s gallery raises awareness in the prevalence of bacteria. In her porch, garage, and bushes alone, she found various strains of bacteria that, because of their unique genome, could potentially benefit or harm humans.


bacillus cereus

One such bacteria found in de Costa’s porch is called a bacillus cereus. This bacteria is harmless when it resides in the soil and it can live in a wide range of environments. It starts to become dangerous when animals ingest it. Because of its protective outer shell, it can survive the digestive tracts and enzymes of an animal and it continues to grow even when the animal dies. Then it is passed to another organism if the infected organism is eaten by another animal. This is how bacillus cereus can be transferred into a human being and causes harm to people. The “Fried Rice Symptom” caused by this microbe occurs because of improper cooking of rice. The victim becomes nauseous, suffers gastrointestinal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Health and biomedical agencies are concerned about its potential to cause systematic infections especially because bacteria are known to evolve new strains and protective shields fast. This strain, for example, used to be easily treated by penicillin and other antibiotics but now, they have evolved protective endospores which makes them more adapted to modern environments. Bacteria, in general, evolve quickly because they lack the mechanism that higher forms of organisms have. When human DNA copies itself during the mitosis of their cells, there is an enzyme or molecule that “checks” each step of duplication to make sure that the genome is copied properly. In bacteria, however, this mechanism is not present and mistakes often occur. This mistake can potentially produce a mutation that alters the phenotype of a bacterium. Mutations also occur due to an exchange in plasmid that is unique to bacteria as well as a damage to DNA caused by electromagnetic rays.  When these damages are copied, then a mutation occurs.

Mutation due to UV rays

Mutation due to UV rays

Since bacterium reproduces exponentially more than humans do, the chances of a bacterium to evolve a new strain is much greater than in humans. And so humans are often challenged by new strains of bacteria that are resistant to medical antibiotics. This is why agencies are studying bacteria to try to sequence their genome. In this way, they can gain better understanding of how the bacteria evolve protective barriers as well as how they affect other organisms. Understanding how something works is the best way to keep them under control.

It is interesting to see that what causes bacterial immunity is a “mistake” in the duplication of its genome – a mistake, which is something that can randomly and suddenly happen. This reminds me of Joshua Davis’ artwork wherein he waits for the “beautiful accident” that his computer generates through a set of rules and programming that he creates. Sometimes, it is the exception, the mistake, the different one that adds uniqueness, novelty, and progress to an otherwise repetitive way of life.

Week 8/ EXTRA CREDIT #1/ Patrick Morales

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Drop Dead Gorgeous: Beauty and the Aesthetics of Activism
February 24, 2009, 6:00 pm

Artist, curator and writer, Linda Weintraub presented a thought provoking lecture on human perception of beauty.  She began by stating that all societies definitions of beauty are directed by the particular civilizations concept of pleasing and pleasurable aspects.  Her main thesis that ran as a theme for her entire talk was the question: do we think something is beautiful because of its aesthetic value or do we value beauty for some deeper meaning stemmed in cultural values.  By using two categories of artist, headlined by Andy Goldsworthy and Damien Hirst, Weintraub compared a human created beauty that completely separate the natural world from the will of man to a deeper beauty in all of natures processes.
The most personally inspiring group of artist was the truly sustainable artist that highlighted all of nature’s stages.  From the giant pink bunny by Gelatin that “fed” its environment with shelter, warmth and biodegradable mass to the urine watered plants of Jae Rhim Lee and all the other artist in between fascinated me with the depth of the thought that went into their art.  It was the artist ability to create entirely “installed” art that melded into its environment, often times enhancing it but more importantly not disturbing the sacred flow of nature.
I am an advocate for celebrating all of nature’s processes but a conundrum inspired by the talks of decay and rebirth hit my consciousness.  My interest in architecture led me to the question that struck my mind: how do you take an inherently static art like a building and apply the processes of nature to the life cycle of the building?  How can one make a building “grow”, “decay” and foster new growth?  How do we make buildings biological?  I decided to investigate.
I searched on a familiar site that I surf through on my free time,  I first found a house made out of straw. “Constructed by former accountant Carol Atkinson, The Straw Bale Cabin in East Yorkshire is the UK’s first straw-bale holiday home!” ( The straw provides the insulation to the house and the exterior is eventually covered with plaster on both sides.  Claiming to be fireproof, vermin-proof and airtight the structure represents a first step into the direction of a sustainable building that is not exempt from nature’s laws of decomposition.

UK’s First Straw Bale Holiday Home by Carol Atkinson

I truly enjoyed the lecture because it validated the age-old idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  As a closing Weintraub asked the audience if we should reinvent the meaning of beauty, reshape it, cast off all unnecessary aspects to find a newly illuminated definition or conversely should we abandon the word beauty and all its connotations for a “better” word.  I believe that a refinement is in order, a recycling of the word and its meaning if you will.  By simply “throwing” out beauty we aren’t appreciating its history and the reason for the reinvention.  We need a smarter beauty, a sustainable beauty, and a beauty that can be found at every point in this universe.

Week 8/Nanotechnology E.C. Lecture/Lam Tran

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Feb 24 2009: SNNI-Safer Nano materials and Nano Manufacturing initiative

I went to the special lecture on greener nanotechnology. Nano technology is complex. Making something that is only a few nanometers long and wide produces wastes that are 6000 to 15000x more wastes than product. The actual volume of wastes maybe small at the frontier of nano technology but once these processes are scaled up to the industrial level for commercial use, these numbers can become staggering.There are other risks involved with nano tech such as the effects of the chemicals and materials on its toxicity, if it is weathered down in the environment or transformed into other compounds, and how it is moved throughout the environment or does it simply settle and deposit somewhere. The complexity of these issues make it very hard to thoroughly assess the risk factor. Risk is defined by the exposure times the hazard. The greater the chance of exposure, the greater the risk. Same goes if the hazard of the material is high. In his words, there will always be a chance of exposure so the real focus is to bring down the hazard factor. This way the overall risk of nano tech will drop. This leads to the idea of Green Nano Tech

The guest speaker from Oregon University brought up two examples that illustrated their work on making Nano Tech more safe.

The materials used to create the nanoparticles are sometimes very dangerous. An example is the B2H6 (Tolumine i believe was what it is called) compound in creating the Au-TPP particle. The overall process is something like this:

HAuCl4+PPh3 into ethanol yields AuCl(PPh3)

AuCl(PPh3)into B2H6+C6H6= Gold nanoparticle Au-TPP

The B2H6 solvent is considered flammable and toxic and was able to be replaced by a different chemical that was easier to control and dispose of. It also increased the speed of the reaction. The message behind this example is the need for increased research on current nanoparticles and their manufacturing process.

The second example was about how normally nano particles are synthesized. There is a solution and another solution is poured into it. Normally the color changes to a different color. The one that was particularly used in the example had a very fast reaction time (only a few seconds) but a very low yield (~21%). What they found out was that a simple T mixer could greatly improve the synthesis. My manipulating the length of the tubes at the end of the mixer, you can separate the different compounds. This can very easily seperate the yield from the wastes. By doing so with just tubes, the process now is much faster and requires much less energy.

It was a very technical lecture with a lot of info thrown at you all at once. You would probably need a fairly strong background in chemistry to keep up with the pace. However, it was quite interesting to see what some of the things people are working on at the frontier of science.

Lam Tran

notes that i took while i was there:

Nanotechnology implications: complexity-> Toxicity, Environmental transport, Weathering/transformation, Characterization, data monitoring.

balance between risks and benefits; is it worth it?

Greener nanotech:

Focus on Hazards rather than the exposure because the release is inevitable.

use of safer chemicals and use less hazardous chemical synthesis

prevent wastes

example: HAuCl4+PPh3->ethanol->AuCl(PPh3)->B2H6+C6H6= Gold nanoparticle Au-TPP

the B2H6 is very hazardous and dangerous to environment and was replaced with something much more safe.

atom economy

design for degradation/end of life: life cycle of the material from manufactoring to end.

use of inter disciplinary teams

chemists, physicists, toxicologists, engineers, biologists

Nanoscale characterization: Lorry Lokey Labs

30 mil worth of shared equipment, so great that other companies wish to use these Labs in Oregon (Sony)

Super quiet, lab is anchored straight on the bedrock

Easy to mix but hard to separate: Improved purification of functional nanoparticles. Traditional solvents to diafiltration which does not require any organic solvents and can be done in 15 minutes rather than 3days with solvents. Also produces the best pure results.

Use of simple T mixer can help seperate materials of low synthesizing yield with wastes by simply manipulating the length of the tubing which can help lower wastes and energy demand of manufacturing.