Sunday, July 24, 2016

Visit to the California Science Center

On July 21, I visited the California Science Center. The (CSC) center contains three floors and features an IMAX movie theater. The CSC currently has a focus on flight and many aircraft and space craft can be seen inside of the CSC and on the grounds near the CSC:

The CSC also features exhibits on earthquakes, creativity, and ecosystems. The California Science Center is well-suited for people who like to physically interact with exhibits, as many of the CSC's exhibits are displays of kinetic art. For instance, the ecosystem section features an exhibit that allows people to control the cameras and motors of an underwater remote-controlled vehicle:

Additionally, the CSC features a high-wire bicycle (an interactive exhibit displaying the science of center of gravity, where people ride a special bicycle across a rope hung across the second story) and virtual flight simulations. While I was attending the museum, there were multiple summer camps also in attendance, comprised of elementary school aged kids. The children seemed to be enjoying themselves greatly; I believe the CSC's heavy emphasis on kinetic art was integral to the children's happiness and curiosity. 

I believe this type of interaction (kinetic art) is best suited to inspire children about art, technology, and science and should be used heavily in the classroom.


The RSA. “RSA ANIMATE: Changing Education Paradigms”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 14 Oct 2010.

Sporf Art. “Aparna Rao: High-tech art (with a sense of humor): TED Talk: Art” YouTube. YouTube, 12 Sept 2012. Web. 24 July 2016.

TED. “Do Schools Kill Creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson | TED Talks” YouTube. YouTube, 6 Jan 2007. Web. 24 July 2016.

TED. “Takaharu Tezuka: The best kindergarten you’ve ever seenYouTube. YouTube, 14 April 2015. Web. 24 July 2016.

Snow, C.P. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. New York: The Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1959. Print.


Visit to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

On Thursday, July 21, I visited the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. The museum is comprised of two levels and partitioned into themed halls, including North American Mammal Hall, African Mammal Hall, Dinosaur Hall, and Bird Hall. 

The exhibits featured in each hall contain combinations of dinosaur fossils, mammal fossils, and stationary artificial scenes containing both dinosaurs and mammals. For instance, African Mammal Hall contains stationary scenes of mammals:

And Dinosaur Hall contains dinosaur fossils:

Walking through the dinosaur exhibits, I was reminded of the movie Jurassic Park and the concept of deextinction – creating and reintroducing animals that have been declared extinct. As creation is at the core of artistic expression, it is reasonable to consider deextinction the ultimate act of creation. In 1993, when the movie was released, deextinction may have seemed like science fiction, but advances in biotechnology have enabled scientists to begin the process of deextinction for animals like the woolly mammoth and carrier pigeon (TED. “Stewart Brand...”). The basic process for deextinction is as follows:

1. Extract the DNA of the extinct species from preserved tissue
2. Splice the DNA of the extinct species with the extinct species closest living relative
3. Insert the DNA into undifferentiated stem cells
4. Transform the stem cell into sperm cells
5. Artificially inseminate the closest living relative with the sperm cells

This procedure was used to successfully create a Javan Banteng, an extinct cow-like mammal (TED. “Stewart Brand...”).
This museum is well-suited for fans of archeology, specifically dinosaurs. Museum-goers requiring exhibits which allow for physical interaction should avoid the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.


TED. “Hendrik Poinar: Bring back the woolly mammoth!” YouTube. YouTube, 30 May 2013. Web. 21 July 2016.

TED. “Stewart Brand: The dawn of de-extinction. Are you ready?YouTube. YouTube, 13 Mar 2013. Web. 21 July 2016.

TED. “George Monbiot: For more wonder, rewild the world.YouTube. YouTube, 9 Sept 2013. Web. 21 July 2016.

Jurassic Park. Dir. Steven Spielberg. By Michael Crichton and David Koepp. Perf. Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Richard Attenborough. Universal Pictures, 1993.

Revive & Restore. The Long Now Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Chris Hadfield is a Badass

The material that most influenced my understanding of this week's material on space and art was Chris Hadfield's YouTube videos. During his time commanding the International Space Station (December 21, 2012 until May 12, 2013), Colonel Hadfield was active on Twitter and YouTube, interacting with followers and answering questions about life in space. The YouTube videos have an endearing quality and made me feel connected to Hadfield and the International Space Station. With over 1.6 million followers on Twitter and a combined 50,000,000+ views of the videos on his YouTube channel, Colonel Hadfield's work has been far-reaching and presumably has inspired many future astronauts, technologists, and artists. 

 Source: Canadian Space Agency. “Wringing out Water..."

Apart from his YouTube videos, while commanding the International Space Station, Colonel Hadfield took over 45,000 photographs. The photos were often taken and transmitted directly to NASA for storage, without Hadfield getting a chance to look at his own work. Once back on Earth, Hadfield saw his photos for the first time and compiled 192 of the best photos into a book titled, “You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes” (Mirani). The photos are awe-inspiring and show the world from a very unique perspective – space.

 Source: Mirani

 Source: Mirani

 Source: Mirani

Finally, Colonel Hadfield released a revised version David Bowies's Space Oddity and received 32,000,000+ views (Hadfield). 

Source: Hadfield


Hadfield, Chris. “Space Oddity” YouTube. YouTube, 12 May 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.

Canadian Space Agency. “Wringing out Water on the ISS - for Science!” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Apr 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.

Mirani, Leo. “Astronaut Chris Hadfield took 45,000 photos from space—here are some of the best” Quartz. Quartz, 28 Oct 2014. Web. 22 July 2016.


Canadian Space Agency. “Astronaut Chris Hadfield Plays Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage's Space Game on the ISSYouTube. YouTube, 12 Apr 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.

Canadian Space Agency. “Chris Hadfield's Space KitchenYouTube. YouTube, 18 Feb 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.

Canadian Space Agency. “Chris Hadfield's ISS: International Space Salon! (A haircut in space)YouTube. YouTube, 8 Mar 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.

Canadian Space Agency. “Sleeping in SpaceYouTube. YouTube, 12 Apr 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.

Eames Office. “Powers of Ten (1977)” YouTube. YouTube, 26 Aug 2010. Web. 22 July 2016.

Improved Tracking Via Nanotechnology

The material that most influenced my understanding of this week's material was Dr. Gimzewski's Lecture III, Dr. Gimzewski's Lecture IV, Ray Kurzweil's TED talk, and Nicolaos Christodoulides' abstract on programmable bio-nano-chips. Prior to Dr.Gimzewski's lecture I was under the impression that nanotechnology was currently under development and not actively used in consumer products; however, Dr.Gimzewski showed that nanoparticles are already utilized in over 1000 products, including sunscreen, cosmetic products, and food (uconlineprogram. “Nanotech Jim pt3” and uconlineprogram. “Nanotech Jim pt 5”). Although I was acutely aware of the exponential changes in computing technology, Ray Kurweil's TED talk elucidated that many other areas within technology are also undergoing exponential changes. Namely, the time and price of DNA sequencing is exponentially decreasing and production of photovoltaic energy is exponentially increasing (TED. “Ray Kurzweil...”). Finally, the abstract of Christodoulide's paper furthers Kurweil's sentiment of nanotechnology bringing a paradigm shift in computing by showing the practicality of programmable microcomputer's based on biotechnology and nanotechnology (Christodoulides).

Source: TED. “Ray Kurzweil..."

Nanotechnology (specifically small implantable sensors) will have a significant impact on the quantified-self movement. The quantified-self movement advocates for individuals to determine life choices (like when to go to sleep, what and when to eat, when and how to workout) using personal data collected by sensors placed or implanted into the body. In his TED talk, Amal Graafstra showed how he implanted a glass IR sensor into his hand, enabling him to open doors without keys. Although Graafstra was successful in his implantation endeavors, he shows that others have incurred great injury in trying to replicate his implantation (TEDx Talks). Advances in nanotechnology will allow implantable programmable computers into the human body to safely allow integrated self-tracking and identification mechanisms (like IR sensors).

 Source: TEDx Talks

 Source: TED. “Gary Wolf..."


TEDx Talks. “Biohacking - the forefront of a new kind of human evolution: Amal Graafstra at TEDxSFU” YouTube. YouTube, 17 Oct 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.

TED. “Ray Kurzweil: A university for the coming singularityYouTube. YouTube, 2 June 2009. Web. 22 July 2016.

TED. “Gary Wolf: The quantified self” YouTube. YouTube, 27 Sep 2010. Web. 22 July 2016.

art in the age of nanotechnology: A Perth International Arts Festival exhibition” John Curtin Gallery. art.base, 30 April 2010. Web. 22 July 2016.

Christodoulides, Nicolaos, et al. “Programmable Bio-Nano-Chip Technology for the Diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease at the Point-of-Care.” Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal. National Center for BioTechnology Information, 2012. Web. 22 July 2016. 

Dillow, Clay. “The World's First Programmable Nanoprocessor Takes Complex Circuitry to the Nanoscale.” Popular Science. Popular Science, 9 Feb 2011. Web. 22 July 2016.

uconlineprogram. “Nanotech Jim pt1” YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2012. Web. 22 July 2016.

uconlineprogram. “Nanotech Jim pt2” YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2012. Web. 22 July 2016.

uconlineprogram. “Nanotech Jim pt3” YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2012. Web. 22 July 2016.

uconlineprogram. “Nanotech Jim pt4” YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2012. Web. 22 July 2016.

uconlineprogram. “Nanotech Jim pt5” YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2012. Web. 22 July 2016. 

uconlineprogram. “Nanotech Jim pt6” YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2012. Web. 22 July 2016.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

LSD: the catalyst of creativity

Since it's first consumption in 1943, LSD has played an interesting role in human creativity and perception. Albert Hofmann, the creator of LSD, gives the following description of his first (accidental) encounter with the hallucinogenic drug:

“At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away (Hoffman).”

Source: Horgan

As LSD was legal in the United States until October 6, 1966, the drug was used medicinally and in both academic and governmental research (uconlineprogram). In academia, the drug was used to show student psychologists the effects of schizophrenia first-hand. The government used LSD, and other drugs, to try to force people into certain states, like states of illogical thinking, euphoria, or complete physical paralysis. The results of one of the experiments can be found here:

Although drugs are often seen as having wholly negative consequences, an argument can be made that certain drugs enhance creativity. For instance, graphic designer Brian Pollet ingested 20 different drugs over the course of 20 days with the goal of creating a new piece of art everyday. The result was remarkable artwork:

Source: Tikunova

The remaining pieces of art can be found here:
Additionally, an artist decided to view the affects of LSD over time by drawing herself in intervals across a nine hour time period.

Source: Dainius

The full progression can be found here:
Apart from drugs offering creative performance in the arts, drugs have also been used to induce creative performance in other domains, like science. For instance, Francis Crick, Steve Jobs, and Richard Feynman all consumed LSD recreationally (Love).

Although now illegal, LSD has played a role in many scientific and artistic endeavors and should not be denounced as wholly negative.

Love, Dylan. “Meet The Science And Tech Geniuses Who Got High And Solved Amazing Problems.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 22 Aug 2013. Web. 14 July 2016. 
Hofmann, Albert. “LSD — My Problem Child.” The Psychedelic Library. The Psychedelic Library, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016.

uconlineprogram. “Neuroscience pt3.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 May 2012. Web. 14 July 2016.

“Artist Draws Nine Portraits on LSD During 1950s Research Experiment.” Open Culture. Open Culture, 15 Oct 2013. Web. 14 July 2016.

 Horgan, John. "Tripping in LSD's Birthplace: A Story for 'Bicycle day'." Scientific American. Scientific American, 19 April 2014. Web. 16 July 2016.

Tikunova, Paulina. “Artist Takes 20 Different Drugs And Creates 20 Illustrations To Show Drug Effects.” Bored Panda. Bored Panda, Feb 2016. Web. 14 July 2016.

Dainius. “Artist Used LSD And Drew Herself For 9 Hours To Show How It Affects Brain.” Bored Panda. Bored Panda, Oct 2016. Web. 14 July 2016.

“Famous People Who Struggled with Drug Addiction”. Bio. A & E Television Network, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016.

TED. “VS Ramachandran: 3 clues to understanding your brain.” YouTube. YouTube, 23 Oct 2007. Web. 14 July 2016.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Bioengineering and Art

There should not be limits to human creativity; however, intentionally destructive behavior (harming autonomous beings) should be limited. This begs the question as to whether artistic expression via biological mediums is destructive. Further, if a behavior is destructive in the short term, should potential long-term benefits make it permissible? This is a question of ethics.

The following interview with professor of practical ethics at the University of Oxford, Julian Savulescu, discusses some of the ethical implications or genetic engineering:

Using the principle of utilitarianism, an ethical framework proposed by Jeremy Bentham, I argue that if the positive benefits of the short-term destructive behavior outweigh the negative affects, the short-term destructive behavior may still be ethical. To an extent, this is already an established standard in scientific research: animal tests for the sake of developing medical technologies for human use. I believe the same standard should be applied to artists using biological mediums.

As artwork is more abstract than scientific research, it may be harder to determine the potential long-term benefits of an artistic work. For instance, Eduardo Kac's GFP Bunny is not obviously useful in a scientific or medical context, but perhaps the social outcome of the creation of the bunny still satisfies the requisite net positive benefit. As stated by Kac himself, the GFP Bunny project was a complex social project motivated by nine social goals (Kac).
Source: Kac

Although estimating the net outcome of a particular task is necessarily difficult, I believe it is the best way to determine whether or not an action should be taken, or restricted. And once the standard has been set, I think it should be applied universally to scientists and artists alike.

For an alternative view on the ethics of bio-engineering, please view Paul Wolpe's talk:

Images & Videos

As a species, we have a moral obligation to enhance ourselves.” TED. TED, 19 Feb 2014. Web. 13 July 2016.

TED-Ed. “It's time to question bio-engineering - Paul Root Wolpe.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Aug 2013. Web. 13 July 2016.

Sources & Links

TED. “Anthony Atala: Growing new organs.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Jan 2010. Web. 13 July 2016.

Kac, Eduardo. “GFP Bunny.”, n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.

TED. “Barry Schuler: An introduction to genomics.” YouTube. YouTube, 23 Jan 2009. Web. 13 July 2016.

Woollaston, Victoria. “Google says humans could live for 500 YEARS - and is investing in firms hoping to extend our lives five-fold.” DailyMail. DailyMail, 9 Mar 2015. Web. 13 July 2016.

Pena, Miguel. “Stem Cells: The Solution to Living Over 100 Years?” Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. Dartmouth University, 29 Jan 2013. Web. 13 July 2016.

Craig Venter unveils 'synthetic life.'TED. TED, 21 May 2010. Web. 13 July 2016.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Self-Driving Vehicles: The New Industrial Revolution?

Industrialization, the large-scale integration of manufacturing practices into a society whereby productivity is increased by replacing manual labor with mechanized processes (DiLallo 2015), did not end in the 18th Century; it is a continuous process and has implications on modern society. Despite the purpose of increased productivity, a characteristic seeming to provide wholly positive benefits, society has viewed industrialization both positively and negatively throughout history. The printing press allowed for the mass distribution of knowledge and was accepted as universally good. Ford's assembly line increased factory throughput and worker's compensation, but was criticized for necessarily deskilling and mechanizing workers. The 1936 Charlie Chaplin film, Modern Times, satirizes the mechanization of workers; the film was deemed culturally significant by the Library of Congress in 1989 (“Complete National Film Registry). The self-driving car presents another iteration of industrialization, with unique practical and ethical challenges.

Source: Chudnow Museum

Source: Charlie Chaplin

Although the integration of self-driving cars would provide many benefits, it would also displace workers, leaving many without a job. The transition to self-driving cars would give mobility to the disabled, decrease the number of traffic accidents worldwide (where over 1.2 million people currently die annually), and allow people to use their commute time productively (“Google Self-Driving Car”). However, the transition would also displace over 4 million workers in the United States: 1.8 million truck drivers (“Heavy and Tractor-trailer”), 0.234 million taxi drivers (“Taxi Drivers”), 0.665 million bus drivers (“Bus Driver”), and 1.33 million delivery drivers (“Delivery Truck”).

Source: Google Self-Driving Car Project

Industrialization has allowed humanity to increase the average life expectancy along with increase the global standard of living; however, at what point (if at all) does industrialization begin to negatively affect society? When all previously human jobs are accomplished by humanoid robots, where does that leave humanity? As rational beings with an affinity for self-preservation, when the outcome of an industrialization event is positive, the benefiting entity will praise the event, while all negatively affected entities will condemn the event. This begs the question: Should we as humanity condemn an event when a majority of the population is negatively affected?

Perhaps, but not necessarily.

Bus Driver.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 17 December 2015. Web. 4 July 2016.

Complete National Film Registry Listing.” National Film Preservation Board. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 4 July 2016.

“Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 17 December 2015. Web. 4 July 2016.

Google Self-Driving Car Project”. Google. Google, n.d. Web. 4 July 2016.

Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 17 December 2015. Web. 4 July 2016.

Matthew DiLallo. What Is Industrialization?” The Motely Fool. The Motley Fool, 26 May 2015. Web. 4 Jul7 2016.

Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 17 December 2015. Web. 4 July 2016.


Chudnow Museum. Henry Ford Assembly Line Invention.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 9 Oct 2014. Web. 4 July 2016.

Charlie Chaplin. “Charlie Chaplin – Factory Work.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 18 June 2010. Web. 4 July 2016.

Google Self-Driving Car Project. “A Ride in the Google Self Driving Car.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 27 May 2014. Web. 4 July 2016.