Author: Chelsea Duball, PhD candidate studying soils
A segment of NPR’s “Science Friday”, recorded in 2010, began with this riveting thought from Einstein.
The segment carried on to delve deeper into the connections between art and science, as novelist Cormac McCarthy, filmmaker Werner Herzog, and physicist Lawrence Krauss discussed science as an inspiration for art.
When asked to draw connections between the two, Dr. Krauss remarked:
“They ask the same questions. Science addresses - really what it does at its best is force us to reassess our place in the cosmos. Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? And those are the very same questions that you get in art, literature, music. Every time you read a wonderful book or see a wonderful film, you come out of it with a different perspective of yourself, and too often, it seems to me, we forget that cultural aspect of science.”
With this brilliant response, Dr. Krauss acknowledges the significance of confronting the unknown with science and art, and how this encourages us to ask important questions. Likewise, he draws our attention to the fact that different perspectives exist within the many facets and works, of science and art.
Just like Einstein and Dr. Krauss, we, the students of Art of SciComm, have found the common ground where art and science meet—and his name is Walter. Walter is a friendly face here in Laramie, found on the “Escape” mural By Meghan Meier, located on the Corner of E. Garfield St. & S. 1st St.
For those who are not familiar with our previous class work, we have made a devoted effort towards relating our science to the works of the Laramie Mural Project. The goal of this project was to select a mural to relate to our research, and to use this relationship as a means to effectively communicate our science.
To our pleasant surprise, we found that Walter was overwhelmingly relatable to all of our research, in some way, shape, or form.
Some may ask: “Who is this tree-man”; “Where is he?”; “What is happening here?”; “Why is he escaping?”
Together, we addressed these unknowns and so much more.
Heather Speckman, a plant physiologist, saw Walter as a positive face for the study of plants (1). While fellow plant physiologist, Daniel Beverly, saw Walter as the perfect platform to educate people on the ecology and behavior of aspen trees (2). As a biologist, Dan Albrecht-Mallinger saw connections between a fleeing Walter, and his research on bird populations’ response to climate change (3). Likewise, wildlife ecologist, Melanie Torres, related her work on amphibian responses to habitat fragmentation and disease, to Walter escaping what looks like a damaged, or burning habitat in the distance (4). We even drew some abstract perspectives from this piece of work, as astrophysicist, Michelle Mason, focused on relating the beauty of the wide-open skies above Walter, to her research on galaxies in space (5). Finally, I was able to find similar values within Walter’s environment, by connecting it all back to the vibrant orange soils, and how these soils help to support the growth of trees like Walter (6).
Although we had different perspectives on how we related to Walter, collectively we were able to draw important connections, from the “unknown” of this piece back to science. Overall, I think this was a powerful assignment which helped us to appreciate and acknowledge not only the commonalities between science and art, but also the commonalities between each other’s research. Sharing these perspectives helps to educate one another, all the while encouraging us to collaborate with our peers and colleagues. It is interdisciplinary interactions such as this, which contribute to broader understandings of science and art.
So, cheers to the mysterious "Walter" for bringing us together where science & art meet!
Thanks to collaboration and interest from the Laramie Mural Project, the Laramie Public Art Coalition, and the University of Wyoming Press Office, these student interpretations were highlighted in a January 25, 2018 press release issued by UWyo. Read more about that here.
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