Richard Feynmann famously said “If we were to name the most powerful assumption of all, which leads one on and on in an attempt to understand life, it is that all things are made of atoms, and that everything that living things do can be understood in terms of the jigglings and wigglings of atoms.”
As somebody who spends his life worrying about molecular dynamics, this statement certainly rings true for me, and lots of my colleagues. Along these lines, myself and Dr. Basile Curchod recently worked with Richard Bright to co-edit a special issue of Interalia (an online hybrid arts magazine), focused on the topic of “micro-choreography”. The aim was to highlight examples where aesthetic practice draws inspiration from the molecular sciences and also ways in which molecular science draws on aesthetics to create representations of nature which are invisible to our eyes. You can read excerpts from the Interalia micro-choreography issue here; if don’t have full access through your institutional affiliation, then you should email Richard Bright, who will set you up with a 3-month trial subscription to access all of Interalia’s content.
We brought together a fantastic set of contributors for the issue, including practicing artists (Luke Jerram, Günes-Hélène Isitan, and Lisa May Thomas) and also academics (Prof Eric Heller [Harvard], David S. Goodsell [Scripps], Drew Berry [Melbourne], and Simon Park [Surrey]). We also had an image contest: our favourite submissions are published in the Micro-choreography gallery, with contributions from Florian Stroehl, Ljiljana Fruk, Ula Alexander, Susanna Monti, Craig Russell, and Becca Rose.
I’m excited about this issue. Not only is it extremely rich in aesthetic content, but it also aligns with my growing interests over the last few years in a domain I’ve started calling ‘the aesthetics of scientific imagination’ – i.e., the “design” decisions entailed in scientific visualization of the invisible dynamics of nature. This is particularly important in tiny domains which cannot be seen with the naked eye, because our scientific intuition is guided by the aesthetic representations we use to imagine phenomena which are otherwise invisible. In fact I would almost go so far to claim that imagery is the reality in these domains, profoundly impacting how we communicate these ‘realities’, in both research & educational contexts.
My hope is that this “micro-choreography” issue will provide inspiration for people to think about how aesthetic enquiry and scientific enquiry can engage in mutual dialogue, with each pushing the other another into new territories.