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What value is science?


#1

Orchid is a fine place. It’s a fine place to get "how do I solder?"
answered, but once in a while it needs a curve ball ;<} As always,
I’m starting this hoping to get a ball rolling, not to spout ideas.

My father was a physicist/engineer with the manned space travel
program, beginning with the V-2s brought over from Germany, then on
Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. My mother was fond of telling the story
of my two year old sister smashing the Von Braun’s eggs, across the
courtyard where they lived. I had a working knowledge of Newton’s
laws of motion by age 8, had a grasp of the laws of thermodynamics
at 12. Robert Goddard was my hero, later it was Lavoisier.

Now, my older brother and his wife are practical chemists, my
brother in law is a physicist at JPL, and my nephew is quite an
illustrious physicist at a national lab - a frequent visitor at
Fermilab and CERN. Some of his work has bearing on the search for
Higgs’ boson. My niece is head of a critical scientific support
system, also at a national lab. This is hopefully a snapshot of our
life here - not just science, but Big Science is an integral part of
our lives, and always has been.

None of which makes me a scientist, but I realize most people didn’t
take Sunday jaunts to the lab with dad to do inert gas pressure
testing on a lunar module, either.

So… It’s obvious that science has much bearing on life on earth,
but to me the more pertinent discussion here is what bearing it has
on art, artists and specifically metalsmiths. And to narrow it even
further, I don’t think the fact that we have plastics is especially
earthshaking - the question is more one of, "What does it all mean?"
How many people here actually know what is happening when you etch
metal - ion exchange, etc. Even more importantly, when does science
get in the way of art, and what does Big Science mean for us all,
though we don’t see it every day? This thread actually comes from
the “semiprecious stones” thread - somebody came in today and talked
about a customer “removing the beauty” of a ruby by dwelling on the
technical. Does the fact that you know the cellular structrure of a
leaf mean that it’s more real, or more beautiful to you than to
someone who can’t read or write?

Science - specifically physics and astrophysics - has in recent
times come full circle. There was a time when religion and science
were diametrically opposed. Religion long ago ceased to care much,
but lately scientists have been speaking more and more in terms of a
model that more resembles the best of religion than they ever
thought - creation, oneness, perhaps even an overarching
intellegence. That’s not to say that they are “converts”, just that
much of science has found itself to be on the same path - one of
discovery and ultimately self-discovery for the one and also the
human race as a whole.

I’m not posting this to answer the questions, but to ask them. I
will say one thing, though, and that is that science does matter,
more than most people think about. Quarks are a curious word to most
people, they mean something to a few. The most likely practical use
we’ll get from them will be integrated circuits, nanotechnology -
who knows what else? Certainly they’re not going to make for a
better toaster. More importantly, they have, and will continue to,
further mankind’s quest for the keys of the universe. Every building
block from every part of life - art, science, ecology, economy -
makes us bigger, stronger and wiser even if we don’t know it at the
time.

How many of you pour the yellow chemical into the red chemical, and
how many of you go out and find out what they are and what they are
doing (or already know)? How many care about the quest for planets,
or the quest for the Higgs boson, or whether string theory actually
is the harmonic vibration of the universe, and what does that mean?

Simple questions…
http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#2

Simple questions… hardly, Woof. I am enthralled with physics,
although, I can honestly sat that I don’t know didly about it. I
started reading different authors a number of years ago, when I was
in bed with a serious back injury, regarding Quantum physics, I don’t
know that I understood 10% of what they were saying. The point being
is it opened my imagination to the unimaginable. Alternate universes?
Multiple universes. The fact that something may “be” or not be
depending on when or how you thought it, or saw it (Shoedingers Cat,
sorry for butchering the spelling). Better than any drug I’ve ever
encountered in my existence. (Not endorsing nor promoting- just
reflecting on the long ago past.) My point is, When I joined my first
jump ring together, I had not touched a gas torch in over 34 years
since high school shop class. As I watched the two ends of the metal
melt and “suddenly” jump to meet the other side of the join, it was
as near a religious experience as this “non-believer” could ever hope
for. (Please- not an anti nor pro religion point… just a feeling).
While I may be missing some of the “intricacies” of your post John, I
develop an awareness and appreciation everyday for something that
I’ll never totally understand. For me it’s the quest that drives me.


#3

John,

this universe is like a giant store. If one needs something, one can
go to this store and look for it. The only qesetion which will never
be answered is “Why”. Why do some people act this way and why not
all. Even if you find the answer to this question, your next question
might be “Why”? Why is it the way it is? It’s a never ending story
which makes mankind the way they are. That’s the reason why we came
this far and still that far away from what we want to be!

If you think about, every little event is changing our behaviour and
sometimes whe still don’t get it. Why are we doing all this crap
even when we know for sure that we are doing it wrong talking about
killing, war, pollution etc?

Some amongst us are using the wisdom of chemistry just for what it
is. It is there and it is a handy tool without even knowing what
could happen if whe use it wrong. Others think further then that and
write books about it. It is the freedom of everyone to do however
he/she wants it to use these “tools”.

I’m not into chemistry and if I color metals or work with them I do
it from knowledge that I gattered during conversatons on Ganoksin or
others. I don’t why chemical A is devided into chemical A1, A2 when
mixed together with chemical B and C causing a blowout of that
bottle! I use this knowledge for making jewellry. I use knowledge for
keeping me happy an doing things which satisfy me. I like working
with my hands. Why? Because this is me. If everyone would be this way
then this was a boring life and world!

I know we are all different and this is good. That’s the reason why
we are still alive. That’s why we are cleverer then other species. We
made it and others didn’t get this far. Why? Because some one
smashed to differnet materials against eachother and created fire.
Did he care what those rocks are? I don’t think so. He was maybe just
cold and needed this kind of exercise to keep him warm not knowing
what the chemical reaction was between the two components.

I do go to this big giant store and use what I need without asking
me every time why. I use the knowledge and sometimes I really want to
dig in to something just to keep myself happy. Why? I don’t care,
this is me and I’m happy because I created something and a person
might like to buy it.

Just my opinion an life style.
Pedro


#4

Let’s see…

When I look down my microscope I don’t see microbes, but a small
world that is as enchanting and diverse (more so really) as te macro
world we humans inhabit. Does that make our world any the less
enchanting? No.

IF I know how a synthetic sapphire is made does that make the
natural a better or lesser stone? Neither just different.

As for the Higgs Boson, well I’m curious, and I know that if we find
it then sooner or later we will find a use for the I
mean: when have we as a species not used some hard won?

Cheers, Thomas Janstrom.
Little Gems.
www.tjlittlegems.com


#5

John,

string theory actually is the harmonic vibration of the universe,
and 

I too have a brother in law who is a physicist; plasma dynamics as
applied to fusion reactions at Lawrence National Lab. My son is
attending Berkeley studying - yes physics. I remember very well his
excitement in explaining the theory behind String Theory to any one
who would listen while he was in high school, and his greater
excitement when he met a locally renown PhD student at Berkeley, who
when asked about String Theory simply replied rubbish. I myself was
a physics major until a string of events…led me here.

For me I take for granted understanding the science behind what I do,
though hardly with the recall that J. Binnion seems to have or the
tenacity for looking things up that you seem to enjoy. I do however
depend very heavily on the calculus that I was very, very good with.
And, though I can no longer do the math (I haven’t needed to for
thirty years) I draw on the theory and proofs I loved, each and every
time I design a surface. I am known to be a bit of a perfectionist
about the silhouette at every point the surface has with the
background. This is fueled by science.

As for the rest of your question; I intend to ponder that and get
back to you.

Q: How many kinds of physicists are there?
A: Three. Those who can count and those who can’t.

Dan
Daniel Culver


#6

John:

Yeah, simple questions…

Well, both my parents were chemistry professors, and I used to help
out around the lab when I was a kid. (I was a qualified NMR operator
by the time I was 12-13.) (I could deal with the cantankerous beast
better than most of his grad students could, so I got tagged to sit
there for hours babysitting the monster.) And my mom? She got her PhD
in chemistry in the '60s. The early '60s. No fainting Violet she.

So I grew up around experimental science. How I ended up an artist
even I sometimes wonder about.

I can tell you this: knowledge of the basic scientific method,
chemistry, thermodynamics and metallurgy have been utterly
invaluable to me in my metals career. They let me figure out why
something’s working, (or not) and what the variables are likely to be
if I want to change how it works.

It’s not the math, it’s the mindset. The belief that everything is
knowable, if you’re willing to be systematic about it. The knowledge
of how to investigate a problem systematically has been invaluable
as well. Especially in fixing (or scratch-building) metalworking
equipment.

The knowledge of science is also absolutely critical to how I teach
metalworking. I teach continuing-ed, and non-traditional students, so
I don’t bury them with atomic theory, but it’s critical that I know
it, so that I can come up with ways of explaining what’s going on
with the metal that are (A) accurate, and (B) phrased in a way that
makes sense to visual artists with no scientific background or
training. (or interest) My joke is sometimes that “I speak both Geek
and English, and I can translate.”

In order to be able to simplify the explanation of a process, I have
to understand it thoroughly. The scientific background is the
foundation upon which that understanding is based. Thus it lies at
the root of both my teaching and my art.

Regards,
Brian Meek.


#7
How many of you pour the yellow chemical into the red chemical,
and how many of you go out and find out what they are and what they
are doing (or already know)? How many care about the quest for
planets, or the quest for the Higgs boson, or whether string theory
actually is the harmonic vibration of the universe, and what does
that mean? 

John - We are all children of the universe and are bound by its’
physical laws. Although I don’t know the science of why something
works, I celebrate that scientific law every time I solder or pickle
or patina. I start every day with a view of the universe on-line, and
end it secure in the knowledge that I am a small part of a much
greater whole. I hope, though my own work, to celebrate a small
portion of the beauty that I have been priviledged to share. I’m no
scientist - I have no clue about rocket propulsion, advanced or even
semi-advanced mathematics, etc. But I have my own ideas of balance,
symmetry, and the celebration of wind, sky, color and light
transmission through my art. All is good :-))

Sandra Graves
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)


#8

I started out collecting rocks and minerals as a child; father
chemical engineer; mother economics major; so I graduated with
degrees in Geology (geochemistry). As other posters have stated this
background has made me understand why things work as they do.
Although I am not directly practicing geology, I use the science
(physics and chemistry) behind it all the time.

As to your questions, I wonder about all the subnuclear research that
is going on and what it will produce. I hope that Stephen Hawking or
someone similar will explain the vibrations of the universe. Although
that wording brings back memories of the spheres of the universe.

John
John Atwell Rasmussen
Rasmussen Gems and Jewelry
Web: www.rasmussengems.com
Blog: http://rasmussengems.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#9
the more pertinent discussion here is what bearing it has on art,
artists and specifically metalsmiths....What does it all mean?" 

Jeez John, why doncha ask an imponderable question?

It reminds me of an old Bill Cosby bit. When he was a phys-ed
student at Temple his girlfriend was a philosophy major. He was
struck that she would walk around asking, “Why is there air?”. His
excited reply…“Why is there air? Any phys-ed major knows why
there’s air! There’s air to blow up basketballs, blow up volley
balls. And they call ME dumb fer cryin out loud! Asking why there’s
air”.

Personally, I’ll leave science theory to those who wish to pursue
it. I’m more the mechanic. I’ll observe the world and do something
with it. I’ll find out the hard way that if you mash the metal too
much it will crack. Ok, so anneal it. I don’t really need to
understand the grain blah blah. Heat it up and get on with it. It
will soften the same whether I commune with the grain or not.

That being said, I appreciate those who do the hard thinking and
exploring, makes my job a little easier.


#10
I don't why chemical A is divided into chemical A1, A2 when mixed
together with chemical B and C causing a blowout of that bottle! I
use this knowledge for making jewelry. I use knowledge for keeping
me happy an doing things which satisfy me. I like working with my
hands. Why? Because this is me. If everyone would be this way then
this was a boring life and world! 

Interesting comments, all. I find Pedro’s, above, maybe the most
interesting. “Let the scientists figure it out, and I’ll just use
what they find.” A very normal point of view.

Let us suppose that you are walking down the street, and you see a
stranger walking towards you, who you find interesting. You look at
them and you see they have brown hair, blue eyes, body and facial
features, a pleasant disposition, all that stuff. Then you continue
on, and your mother (or father or brother) comes walking towards
you. What you see in her is the history of your life, and you may
not even consciously notice the color of her hair or eyes or even
what color her dress is. The same can be true with some science. An
aborigine looks up in the sky and sees twinkling lights - an
astronomer sees galaxies and quasars.

But is that really important? Certainly it’s important to have and
further science, but is a botanist’s view of a flower really
anything more than a child’s, in the ways that are meaningful, and
in relation to art? In many ways that is the essential question.
What is the nature of perception, and how do science and art relate
to each other? There are some obvious things - one of the first
courses in art school is anatomy, refiners need to understand
metallurgy, and such. Back in the day, most artists were scientists
to a degree - Leonardo is famous but he’s only one example, his
contemporaries were no different, just less brilliant, perhaps.
People are going to do as they wish - it’s only a philosophical
discussion - but doesn’t it seem that a person making a flower
should know, or might be better off knowing, what makes a flower a
flower? Or not? It’s not good art/bad art, but aren’t there factors
at work here? Can a person grow and thrive as an artist if they are
utterly ignorant of the forces and processes behind the scenes of it
all?

PS. The Higgs boson is the last piece of the puzzle in The Standard
Model of Einstein and since. With it, the model is complete, without
it is a completely different situation. Some like string theory,
some don’t - I find it very intriguing as a lay person. Some
scientists simply dismiss it on the grounds that it can never be
proven - not ever with foreseeable technology - and therefore it’s
"only" a theory. I.E., a toy thing - mental gymnastics.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#11

John I think you answered your own question within your question.
While we humans greatly benefit from science, although granted many
of us don’t understand what occurs during the course of these
processes, does it really matter whether or not we understand the
underlying principles. As you said does knowing the cellular
structure of a leaf make it more beautiful? Only humans need science
and that is certainly debatable as the basic needs of all animals
are provided by mother earth. Art, artists and metalsmiths have been
around for centuries, with most of the work being done in a state of
ignorance on a molecular level, producing exceptional pieces. So in
that respect I don’t think science plays much of an effect on
traditional metalsmithing. Science is a double edged sword, we
benefit from the discoveries but mustsuffer the ills of a society
that allows science to flourish.

Jim Doherty


#12

I love this thread. My mother was a chemist. One of the very few
women in her field in the late 1930’s. My father was a book cover
illustrator and portrait painter. It makes complete sense to me that
I’d become a jeweler. I love the science and the art.

My brother “Jeff The Geek” likes to work with folks who have degrees
in other stuff besides science. He says that the best science is
made by folks with big imaginations. One of my favorite books is
"Uncle Tungston" by Oliver Sacks.

Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#13

Brian;

I absolutely agree with you.

I didn’t have the highly educated parents as you, but in my years of
electronic training, nuclear training and automotive industry
training and work experiences I too have used it in my jewelry work.

Understanding the very basics eliminates most of the questions as to
how it does what it does and leaves the mind free to explore what can
one do with it.

Ken Moore
www.kenworx.com


#14
Understanding the very basics eliminates most of the questions as
to how it does what it does and leaves the mind free to explore
what can one do with it. 

Hi Ken, Folks…

I’ve been trying to come up with a way to answer John’s simple (Ha!)
question…

And Ken’s wording is right on for the way I look at many things of
science…

I’d like to add another concept, though…

Occasionally I’m hit with a monkey-like curiosity syndrome and want
to understand something just for it’s own sake…no perceivable
practical functionality at the time… I understand this to be a
common primate characteristic…

Take string theory…it’s a way to let us “tie” everything
together…[G]… And I think ya still need the bosons…to make it
work…

Another example, dinosaur (archosaur?) fossils being dug up
currently above the Arctic Circle… And what that implies as to the
planet’s climatological nature at that time and/or the nature of the
creatures themselves… Fossils of the flora say the climate was like
Southern Akaska is today… Hmmmmmm…maybe that does have some
practical relevance today…

Again… Instead of moving an aircraft fast enough linearly for its
wings to develop enough lift for takeoff, why not instead rotate the
"wing" fast enough around for it to develop the needed lift…Take
off (and land) vertically… Hover… And call it a helicopter…

Fun stuff!

Simple question indeed, John…[G]…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)


#15
...figure out *why* something's working, (or not) and what the
variables are likely to be if I want to change *how* it works. 

I must say, I am loving the start of this thread.

The partial statement above sums up my approach to jewelry making to
a “T”. And, now that I ponder it a little more, it sums up my
approach to life choices as well. If I know how it works, I can set
up the variables to make it work. Whether soldering silver to copper
or ordering coffee at Starbucks, the concept is pretty much the same:
If you know how it works you can do it. Of all the classes I took in
school I think the most useful to my jewelry making was the class
called Chemical Bond Association Chemestry. I’m pretty sure my high
school Biology class info would be playing a bigger part in my
granulation attempts if only my lab partner hadn’t been that cute guy
O.B. Lewis.

Susan Maxon
Honors Gran Jewelry
Palm Harbor, Florida
www.HonorsGran.com


#16
I'm no scientist - I have no clue about rocket propulsion, advanced
or even semi-advanced mathematics, etc. But I have my own ideas of
balance, symmetry, and the celebration of wind, sky, color and
light transmission through my art. All is good :-)) 

Sandra’s rather poetic posting is pretty to the point. I think. I
started this thread innocently (really…), not trying to promote a
scientific agenda, but to genuinely find out people’s attitudes.
It’s been very interesting, to me, to see the contrast between some
with some science behind them, and those who say, “Hey, I don’t
know, I’m just winging it.” And everybody seems to be doing just
fine. I don’t think anybody would argue with the premise that the
more you know, the better off you’ll be. I wonder if, just as some
science is considered “an art”, like medicine, if we could say that
Sandra’s quote makes it “a science” in the same, casual
sense…Curious stuff, that…

For myself, I simply have an insatiable curiousity. If I hear about
something I don’t know, I go look it up, and I always have. In
higher science I likely won’t have the base of knowlege to get it
completely (quantum field theory ;<{ but I’ll get the concepts. It’s
like language, start early. Whether that directly contributes to my
art and design is hard for me to say, but it is a part of that
totality which is me…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#17
Occasionally I'm hit with a monkey-like curiosity syndrome and
want to understand something just for it's own sake.....no
perceivable practical functionality at the time....... 

Gary has the bug…;} Art and science are each the blind men and the
elephant - far too nebulous to really pin down. Throughout history
one of the loftiest goals of art has been too portray scientific
thoughts or perspectives in an intuitive way and even literally.
Audubon comes to mind… String theory suggests that the universe
is made of tiny, vibrating “strings” - not just matter but literally
everything - energy, gravity, everything. (Which is why dark matter
is also curious…) How those strings interact with each other to
make a universe puts it somewhat on a level of how an orchestra makes
a symphony happen, which I find very enlightening and mind-expanding.
But that’s just me…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#18
The same can be true with some science. An aborigine looks up in
the sky and sees twinkling lights - an astronomer sees galaxies and
quasars. 

Interestingly; if you look at aboriginal art from Australia, the
stars are not depicted only as points of light, but also as swirling
spirals. I know what you were trying to say, John, but it is an
oversimplification of the actual keen astronomical observations of
many aboriginal peoples. Their knowledge of the visible night sky is
probably light years more accurate than 99% of industrialized people.

Science isn’t only theoretical, there is also applied science. We may
know more about the Universe in our way, but they could find their
way around the stars with their scientific observations, and thus on
the earth, in a way that we couldn’t. Theirs is the science of their
needs.

Marianne
Marianne Hunter
http://www.hunter-studios.com