Friday, 22 August 2008

On Life, Science & Art

Generally I have little or no interest in Science or Nature, two things my parent's are both keen on. Neither of my parent's are musical or artistic, which strangely is exactly what my brother and I became involved in respectively. Perhaps there's some relevance in that somewhere...

Anyway, soon I'm off to New Zealand and South America to see just about how exotic and wild Nature can get. There is of course plenty of other things to see and do, personally I'm looking forward to being lowered into shark infested waters in a cage, but I thought I'd better do a little ground work on my weak spots first, so aside from fixing cars, swimming and speaking Spanish, I've been reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and actually enjoying it. OK so it's an audio-book and I tend to listen to it late at night in bed, or just as I wake up, and yes sometimes it has come dangerously close to sending me back to sleep, but on the whole it has been pretty enlightening.


Just to REALLY rub it in, here's a picture of Bolivia's Altiplano salt plains

Bryson's premise is that it must be possible to understand science, even if basically, without being in-the-know, and for this information to be digestible by the average reader without a coma ensuing. So from the planets to chemical compounds, evolution, quantum physics, plate tectonics and everything else since the dawn of time, Bryson guides you through all the stuff you forgot, or never got, or were never bothered about, and it's actually accessible. Well done him.

One thing mentioned in the section about how life started on Earth was Stromatalites - a name that rung a bell. These weird living rocks are apparently the World's Oldest Living Thing - "the original source of oxygen in the earths atmosphere and hence one of the most important steps in evolution."*Now it takes a lot to impress me with anything nature related, but surviving 3.5 billion years is pretty good going, even if you are just a race of breathing rocks. Sadly they have yet to evolve mouths to chat to us about it all.

Report any weird science you may encounter here

Well,
a few years ago on Australia's West Coast at Shark Bay I stood and took a few photo's of these things. I was of course told at the time that they we're really, really important and very, very, very old etc. but to me they were weird and pretty, and I was glad to be in the middle of nowhere, in the sun, amongst a semi-submersed alien landscape.


When I met the Stromatalites - a bunch of old Rockers - hahardyfuckingha

One of my insights from the book was that much of the time Scientist's don't know, which was kind of comforting. I suppose this is why they experiment. Hysterically, many of them are mad, weird, anti-social, maniacal or just plain thrill seekers with an unusual medium. They reminded me of a few famous artists with similar tendencies.

If your bored at this point, here's
a list of unusual deaths and here's one of people killed by their own inventions
courtesy of the wonderful wikipedia.

What appealed was the idea that they were exploring concepts and exploring, sometimes with only an inkling of what they would end up with. I've always though that the beauty in art was rarely the product, and more likely the process of creating, experiencing or conceptualising the work. But then that's why I like performance art - it's an experience, which is perhaps what you should get with most of the arts (inc. music, theater, literature etc.), but performance is always a touch more more real and confrontational - essential in a world now dominated by media and society's sway towards non-physicality. I suppose that when the product becomes the focus of the process, it feels a little too close to manufacture - work for robots to do, painting by numbers... and evolution I suppose is also a process of adaptation to explore an unknown future.

* http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Oceania/Australia/photo868281.htm

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