When art and science collide

Today after work, I joined my roommate at the Centro Nacional de las Artes for a forum on art and science.  I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was looking forward to a few of the presentations, especially one by Dava Newman from MIT, who happens to be the advisor for several of my friends.  Listed on the ECAM program were several sessions, including Dava’s at 6:30 PM.  

My timing couldn’t have been better and I arrived almost exactly at 6:30 (not so easy in Mexico!), and I found that the first session was just wrapping up, with a very interesting presentation about the geometrical structure of C60, aka buckminsterfullerene (symmetry is beautiful!).  Unfortunately, instead of the second session, the host then invited members of the audience to participate and we began a lengthy Q&A session.  Though, in fairness, many of the “questions” were 10-minute extemporaneous running comments about everything from computer code to Fibonacci numbers to the upcoming U.S. presidential election.  At times, I got the feeling that some members of the audience just wanted to hear themselves talk!

At 7:30, an hour later, we adjourned for cocktails and, well, a “concert” — though, all I can do is describe it: a gentleman placed two bare wires and a small microphone in a jug full of water; he connected a large battery to the wires and brought them close enough so that they arced, creating a brilliant flash and a large stream of bubbles.  The microphone was connected to several large speakers… and out came what I can only describe as the most hideous sound I’ve ever heard, a mix between finger nails on a chalkboard and a loud rumble!  Such is art and science.  Needless to say… we decided to leave.

It was an interesting experience… but I never quite figured out what happened to Dava.  If anyone out there cares to provide an update, please do!


ps… I’ve got a whole bunch of pictures that I am hoping to upload to the blog in the next few days.  Been a bit busy at work, if you can imagine it (seriously!).  Stay tuned.


México, D.F.