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Making the invisible visible

There is an exhibition at Le Laboratoire in Paris, which you MUST go and see if you are in Paris between now and the end of June. In fact, it  might well be worth going to Paris just for that.

The exhibition, entitled “La Négation du Temps”, pairs up Artist William Kentridge with Scientist /Science Historian Peter Galison and Musician Philip Miller.

In a video where Kentridge explains his notion of our relationship to time, he mentions that an artist “is someone who makes visible something that we know but can’t really see”. Of course, here, he is speaking about time and how he makes it visible through his work, machines, videos, music.

However, I cannot stop thinking that this is exactly what many scientists do nowadays. Open an issue of Science magazine and what you see are “proofs” through diagrams, photographs and other visual stimulations, of events happening deep into the cells. The difference here is maybe that the scientist wants to “see in order to know”, even though for his article he has to “show what he now knows”…

And nowhere is this more important than for bacteria. We all know that we are covered in them but we don’t see them – I still remember the figures my lecturer, P-H Gouyon gave us, over 20 years ago: “You are made of 10 to the power of 12 cells of your own DNA, but also contain 10 to the power of 14 bacteria”. And unless new soaps are really different from what we used back then, that number is still valid…

And with this I want to ask you: Belly Button Biodiversity, art or science?

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