Friday, May 20, 2011

DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous, May 19, 2011

Thursday evening I attended the fourth DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) at the Keck Center of the National Academies. I've attended three of the events so far. It's now not only on my calendar for the third Thursday of the month, I have also put the event on the Metro Washington Mensa calendar as a recurring event. I also plan on publicizing this event in other fora where people know me.

When I arrived shortly before 6 PM I was given a name badge, a program and a survey to fill out. Since there were few people around, I took some time to view the exhibition of pieces that connect art and science on display in the halls around the meeting room. The show is quite intriguing. I recommend that people in the DC area make the attempt to see this exhibit. While the Keck Center is normally open only during regular business hours, it is possible to see the show while attending DASER.

The session began with people from the audience who are doing something that brings together science and art in some way. One couple mentioned an interest in astronomy in art. I introduced myself to them at the networking event after the more formal part of the meeting. Mangala Sharma of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Thomas Statler OF NSF are both astronomers and are married to each other. I did mention my Flickr site with the art I think they will find interesting. They were friendly and also know Zoltan Levy whom I met through the Bowie-Crofton Camera Club.

JD Talasek, Director of Cultural Programs, began by showing X rays and art. It was interesting seeing how this technology -- little more than a century old -- has impacted art and vice versa.

The first panel speaker, Harry Abramson of Direct Dimensions, described his company's main business of developing computer models of various technologies. NASA is one big customer. Interaction with artists has definitely affected the company. The different ways that artists approach reality provides a stimulating contrast to engineering views. He spoke at some length about Leonardo's Horse. That sculpture was, apparently, done by the Renaissance great Leonardo da Vinci and copied later by others. Direct Dimension's computer models showed both the similarities (great) and differences among the various sculptures.

The next speaker, Zeev Rosensweig, a chemistry professor, began his comments by noting that the creativity of artists and scientists is similar in many ways. Both groups approach complex systems in interesting ways. The groups, though, will use different words and phrases for the same phenomena.

The next speaker, Michael Chorost, is a science writer. After he became deaf, had hearing restored via a computer implant. He thinks that this is the future of humanity. He has written a book titled "World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet." The book advances the thesis that the Internet will reshape how humanity not only communicates but also works and lives together. He has noted, though, that people are less able to be intimate with one another currently. We are also less able to work with each other.

The final presenter, one Randall Parker, joined with the deaf since birth actor Robin Shannon in a joint effort showing how the two men could communicate and interact with each other. This presentation made me wish I had brought my camera. This presentation was, to me, very visual.

One questioner, Sheila Macdonald, is a lobbyist the Population Strategies Group, who's read Kurzweil's "the Coming Singularity" with some interest. She has seen things get worse in the past 40 years on Capitol Hill. People today are increasingly divided and hostile to one another. Moderation has been abandoned.

All in all it was an interesting evening. I am looking forward to future DASERs. I hope I can interest other people that I know in attending same.

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