Is it Art or Science?

Many people seem to make a big distinction between art (“Right Brain”) and science (“Left Brain”).  I love both, try to do both, and I often have trouble making the same distinctions.

Caenorhabditis elegans. Click on the image to go to a nice movie of a worm on another website.

In my “science job” we study a beautiful little worm and chemicals that influence how it moves.  We need to use a microscope, because the worm is too small to be easily seen without magnification.  Caenorhabditis elegans is an elegant animal, whose movements remind me of a skier moving down a slope of deep powder snow.  The tracks that the worm and the skier leave behind have the same sort of sine-wave look to them.  Really Beautiful!

We do measurements of the worm movement, we use analytical techniques to isolate chemicals that the worms make, and we use fancy instruments to make very interesting pictures of many of the atoms in the chemicals that the worms make.  These are probably the steps that people usually label as “left brain”, “analytical”, or “hard”.

Worm belt

When I make a new object from leather, I spend a lot of time drawing sketches, making patterns, measuring, and planning the best order of steps needed to put it together.  It doesn’t always work!  Oftentimes it is a lack of rigor in these early analytical steps that cause problems.  True, I don’t need to solve differential equations or fancy integrals in calculus, but I do need to know things like the relationship between the circumference of a circle to its radius (and this is really an application of calculus!).

Maybe this is an argument that leather work is not an art but rather a craft.  I’ve never been too concerned about this classification, so I’m not going to worry about it here.  I do know that I also love to draw and was a Fine Arts major for a year in college before becoming a Chemistry major (more on that later…).  I feel the same degree of satisfaction and also the need for analytical thought when I draw as when I make a leather object.  Maybe drawing is less art than craft of the draftsman.

All I know is that my many loves in life: science, leather, art, music, etc. feel more similar than different.

One response

  1. I really agree with you. I think they’re surprisingly connected, and I think that sometimes people don’t excel in certain subjects cause they convince themselves that they’re “intellectual, not artistic” or the opposite.

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