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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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Bad Projects Can Lead To Success

Zheng Lab performing "Bad Project"

Trust scientists to twist things around. When you are caught in a  Bad Project, just turn it into an Award-Winning video, et voilà! Withing a few days, the video went viral and it has already attracted well over one million views.

I would like to point to the creative use of plastic pipettes for a bodice, blue bench protection sheet and orange radioactive plastic as fashion statements. What else can you do when you really can’t read the protocol written in Thai and you don’t know what’s in the tubes?

I am guessing their labcoats are so white because they don’t actually use them in their everyday experimenting…

Categories: Art, Educational, Science, Video

Failures: the Epic Lecture

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

For you to enjoy it in your own time, the lecture will be available for viewing from the 27th of November to the 12th of December at ICAS (Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore) gallery, located in Lasalle College of the Arts.

There will also be on display 4 educational videos, as well as an installation pointing to the research leading to the lecture.

Failures: Epic Lecture - Still1

Failures: Epic Lecture - click to view lecture

Categories: Science, Talk, Video

It’s not all about failures

Morgan Giddings introducing her report.

We found this neat little video, that we think takes a fair shot at challenging the notions described on this website. Namely, Morgan Giddings (Professor of Quantum Econobiology no less), has distilled success – quite successfully too.

We downloaded the report according to the instructions (it’s free, so why not), and now we are in the process of reviewing it. We will probably be integrating some of the ideas in our book soon to be published , “Reliquum, a Natural History”.

Go check it out!

Categories: Educational, Science, Video

Failomics talk: the review

October 21, 2010 1 comment

The talk at Biopolis on September 11, 2010 was well attended. I was hoping to post the video of the event, but it seems like there was a technical failure on the camera side. Never mind, there are other means of revisiting the talk. Today, I bring you some reviews of the talk.

Questions

After the talk, I was assaulted, mostly by students, demanding, and rightly so, some answers to their very pressing questions. Here are some extracts, complete with my answers:

I enjoyed your talk, but I thought it wasn’t complete enough. I wish you could have explained a bit more, and I was even hoping I’d learn how to avoid failure altogether”. That one had me stumped. A brief discussion followed, where my interlocutor remained unconvinced that you can only produce new results by making mistakes along the way.

“I would like to know how you generated the data to produce the figure showing the generation of failures in the lab with time”. Of course, this student was referring to this animation. When I replied that I had walked into the lab and collected information that I then transformed into the animation, he remained skeptical, adding “I don’t think you could call those fractals”. I accepted graciously to remove the term. He remained unconvinced and claimed that whatever method I was using, it had to be “reproducible”. To which I replied that, like in history, you could not follow the exact same set of mistakes twice.

“Do you ever work with other types of failures?” [other than those from biological sciences?]. To this I answered that those were particularly nice to work with because the methodology came with them, but the results should apply to all failures of course.

Overheard: “I thought it might be contemporary art, when she told us she’d been growing her own failures…”. I would say: do not believe everything you hear.

Reviews

From the Prime Minister’s Office:

An email asking me to do a “factual check” on their review. This was done, and the resulting article will be in next month’s Challenge Magazine. The review insists on the “large amounts of failure required for a just a few drops of success” and turning failures into success stories (Paul Lauterbur’s Noble Prize for MRI story).

From a Japanese website

A review published here. I wish I could understand Japanese though.

On Genewired

A review by Dr Erwin Chan (SMU). Dr Chan would like to see the idea refined to get more Singaporeans to see failure as part of the thought-process.

I’d say… we’re getting there. And to finish, the only bit of video available from the event so far… yeah, technology also can fail.

Categories: Art, Review, Science, Talk, Video

Announcing: new educational videos

Grow Your Own Failure, Still

"How To Grow Your Own Failure" (Click to view video)

A new field of study would not be complete without its own set of educational videos. We start with instructions on how to grow you own failure.

In this video, you will learn the basics of growing a failure. It doesn’t require any special tools, material or skills. Remember though, that if you do not manage to grow one the first time, just try again, try better.

Categories: Art, Educational, Science, Video

Failomics, a short video

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

When hair fall into the failomics (Click to view video)

If you are still confused about what failomics is, or would like to know more on the subject, and if you did not attend the lecture on the 22nd of February, you may now go and look at the short (under 4 minutes) edited video here.

The lecture was attended by scientists and artists, and recorded for the purpose of documenting. However, the recording was so bad, that it could not be used as such and was edited to get the essential out of it. Here, it has been reconstituted with the original keynote slides and an abstract voiceover.

Categories: Art, Science, Talk, Video
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