Unraveling the Principle of Convergence between Science and Art
- Date : 20-06-30
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Meet KIST Dr. Seo Minah. During the week, she is a physicist devoted to her research in ultrafast optics and nanoscience. Her current research is on developing a sensing platform for quick diagnosis using light to examine protein structural change or virus. On weekends? Don’t be surprised to see her as an artist holding a paintbrush.
Optics play an important role in paintings. It has long given inspiration to artists. Georges Seurat, a famous French painter, studied chromatics and optical theory and developed pointillism, drawing paintings that display division of pure color and color contrast. Claude Monet drew haystacks, which look different by seasons. Monet expressed how haystacks, with their porous yet large surface area, are viewed differently under varied sunlight. Many well-known painters, in their attempt to express objects onto the canvas, experimented with light whether they were
aware of it or not.
The Lycurgus Cup is a 4th century Roman glass cup ornamented with a sculpted mythical King. Normally a green hue, the cup turns red when light passes from the inside. This effect is caused because the scattering of light changes depending on the size and shape of metal nanoparticles. The skill to grind gold and silver into nanoparticles became the underlying technology of stained glass, which spread across Europe after the 12th century. Color change using metal particles is used in various areas in science and technology including biosensors.
Dr. Seo’s book published early this year, “A Physicist in the Art Museum”, reveals the world of physics found in art. “Artists are the true experimenters and scientists,” says Dr. Seo. As the title implies, the book is an artbook written from a physicist’s point of view. With each turning page readers are met by artwork after artwork, with atomic model, photo of the sun’s black spot, and sound wave graph in between. Dr. Seo, who makes sure to visit art museums whenever she travels abroad for research or a conference, realized that artists’ inspirational muse turned out to be physics, especially since 17th century. With this book, she hoped to unravel how that science converges with art.
Take the two paintings of La Grenouill？？re, for example. Comparing the same scenery drawn by Renoir and Monet during the same period, you can understand how surface tension and gravity creates waves on water surface, and the book explains how waves are made and the movement of medium when wave travels, and why this happens. Ren？？ Magritte’s ‘The Treachery of Images’ unfolds the wonders of quantum mechanics, a main pillar of modern physics, while Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Agostina Segatori Sitting in the Caf？？ du Tambourin’ shows us another image hidden in the background, investigated by various wavelength of light.
Dr. Seo draws cover images for her research paper whenever possible. In graduate school she was well known for her image-producing skills. Even now Dr. Seo continues to paint. She sends drawings for her friends’ wedding invitations, published a children’s picture book, and submits
artwork for her art club’s group exhibitions. She also drew the image for the cover paper published in Advanced Optical Materials last February. These have led to her writing a book introducing core concepts and principles of physics in art masterpieces.
Dr. Seo said, “The experiment data we see every day is boring numbers, not images. Through drawing, I developed a skill of giving form to numbers inside my head. It is important to visualize your research to help people understand it. I hope this book will be helpful in adding a stroke of thoughtfulness when visualizing study findings to exchange ideas with experts in other fields.”
Even as she continues to paint, Dr. Seo plans to focus more on her career as a researcher. “I recently had success with KIST Virus Research Team on virus measurement and cell observation research using THz light. Bio research is a completely new field for a physicist like myself, but I want to use this experience as a chance to develop medical equipment that is useful in our daily lives in the near future,” says Dr. Seo.