Paint the science

This event was aimed at expressing scientific concepts via visual art, in particular focusing on drawing and painting. The group was of about 12-15 people, mostly with a background in science. We had a few (2-3) artists joining us.

First, the group was introduced to the collaborative and everyone said their name and occupation, along with why they can to the event.

Activity 1: collaborative science drawing. Everyone has a paper and a pencil of different colour. Everyone has one minute to draw something and then the paper is passed to the person on the right. In the end each drawing is a collaborative piece. at the beginning the drawings make little sense, and after a while some of them develop a life of their own, below is one example of these drawings. The only theme of the drawings was science.

The topics that came up most in the drawings where: robots, aliens, mad scientists in the midsts of experimenting, questions, climate change, natural phenomena, light bulbs, energy, mind & neurons.

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Activity 2: this was a preliminary activity use as a warm up for drawing and for getting to know each other, people are paired up (max 3) and they have a piece of paper and a pen. They then have to make a portrait of the person in their team.. without looking at the paper but only at the face of the person. This is a very nice activity as everyone is equally bad at this, therefore is a great ice-breaker and people can take their picasso style portraits home afterwards.

Activity 3:

For the third and main activity we created groups of 2-3 people, the groups were assembled randomly, having at least one scientist in each group. The idea is to spend 10 minutes discussing each scientist’s topic of study and interest and from there develop an art piece together. The results of this activity were stunning and interesting.

Maciej and Pilly decided to reflect on the theme of reproducibility in science. Being both PhD student, in quantum physics and planetology respectively, they were both familiar with the difficult topic of being able to replicate your scientific results. Their piece was based on this idea: each of them explained their own research topic and how it looks like in the lab, and they made a drawing of their own research, then the asked the other to reproduce exactly their original drawing, without seeing it! This was to lustrate the concept of reproducibility, which is hard even when you have a precise recipe of the steps to follow!

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Klara and Janne picked a different theme: how hard it is is social events to explain what your PhD is about! Janne explained that she often finds it hard to tell people anything substantial about her work, focused on spectroscopy of molecular dynamics. She often explains it as “I do MRI scans on molecules!” They decided to draw a short comic scene, with Janne at a party as the main character, asked by a nice guy what does she do in life, she suddenly has many ideas of interesting explanations in her head but quickly realises none of them will be understood by the nice guy standing in front of her, and decided to pick simplistic language to convey her message. With her piece she wants to express the frustration that she feels when she has to lower her language to explain scientific topics, feeling that science communication still needs a lot of work!

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Chiara, Ivano and Tung, working respectively with quantum computers, managing a data center for Psi and coding for interned security, quickly realised their topics intersected a lot. In particular, dealing with data and computers, they decided to create an interactive visual art piece, they took a box, which represents the quantum reality in which all of us are immersed. At the center of the box stands a desk and a man, working on a computer, and inside his computer, there’s another quantum reality, which features as well a man working on a computer. The piece wants to represents how quantum reality permeates everything, and how yet the figure of a man operating the machine with which we want to uncover aspects of reality puts the man in an important position. The man is the discoverer, but he himself is part of the quantum reality. The piece also illustrated the life of phd students, closed up in quantum laboratories, figuring out what Nature wants to tell us. The man, however, is standing on one leg and typing with one hand, as to show that he’s playful and a little crazy. In fact he is a quantum man, and we  all know that quantum physics is full of strange and unusual phenomena, hard to grasp with our intuition.

Simon, Yuri and Sarah discussed their research and saw that their shared topic is light, so they all draw aspects of their research to do with light in one big panel. The aspects intersect, overlap and complete each other.

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Finally Christoph, Joanna and Sonya did a different activity. They had only Christoph as their scientist, so christoph explained to them how his research looks like, in particular he explained how he assembled a MOTT, to slow atoms down in their path. He then asked his team members to draw what they think his work looks like.The drawings were very funny and interesting, highlighting the perspective of the other people on science.

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