Category Archives: Science

KLAS Workshop @ MPI *November 27th/28th, 2017

1st KLAS Workshop

Knowledge Link Through Art & Science

Polyhedra is pleased to announce that registration for the first KLAS Workshop “AESTHETICS get SYNTHETIC: Knowledge Link Through Art & Science” is now open and can be accessed from the following link:

The workshop is an opportunity to bring together scholars and practitioners to jointly discuss and reflect on contents, approaches and methodologies that draw the link between synthetic biology and artistic research and how those can synergically interact by mutually interrogating and reconsidering their methodologies and modes of operation in an Artist in Residence program like KLAS. In this workshop we are particularly interested in discussions and perspectives that explore how different institutions, organizations and interest groups with relevant expertise and knowledge of research, innovation and education address contemporary challenges of future developments in and beyond their respective knowledge silos.

There is an additional Call for Posters. Selected posters will be on view throughout the two days of workshop. Their presentation will take place at 16h on Tuesday 28th of November.

The workshop will take place in the Main hall of the Max Planck Campus in Potsdam-Golm the afternoon of Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th of November 2017.

There will be a live-stream for those who won’t be able to attend.

With the participation of

Sabine Adler
Arren Bar-Even
Christoph von Braun
Adriaan Eeckels
Peter Fratzl
Detlev Ganten
Reinhard Lipowsky
Agnes Meyer-Brandis
Roger Malina
Darian Meacham
Heike Catherina Mertens
Martina Münch
Bryan Nowack
Ingeborg Reichle
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger
Tom Robinson
Maximilian Schich
Nathalie Singer
Otavio Schipper & Sergio Krakowski
Volker Stollorz
Antje Tepperwien
Alex de Vries
Lothar Willmitzer
Siegfried Zielinski


When artists get involved in research, science benefits

File 20170814 1313 ova2e3
The authors have collaborated on an Antarctic research project, investigating tiny ice crystals and their role in climate.
Gabby O’Connor’s Studio Antarctica/Johanna Mechem, CC BY-ND

Craig Stevens and Gabby O’Connor

When artists and scientists get together, creative sparks can fly. Collaborative sci-art projects are increasingly popular and one obvious benefit is the greater visibility of the research through the artist’s work.

Our project explored scientific and artistic aspects of Antarctic ice crystals.

But what’s in it for the scientists? It reinvigorates a curiosity about the system and brings an outsider perspective – but one that is expert in observing.

Taking a different perspective

We draw on a six-year collaboration to look at how science benefits from embracing a wider perspective on creativity. Our joint project started with an art-science speed-dating event, aimed at building collaborative teams.

Our connection centres around an Antarctic research project investigating the formation of platelet ice, which plays an important role in the annual growth cycle of sea ice around the Antarctic continent. In particular, the science looks at how tiny ice crystals influence much larger climate processes.

Craig Stevens in Antarctica: tiny crystals of ice help explain how sea ice surrounding the continent grows and decays.
Brett Grant, CC BY-ND

We were able to build on the intrinsic fascination people have with Antarctica and the interest in climate science. The scientists acted as a conduit of research to the artist. This added another layer of meaning to the artwork and an entry point to conversations around Antarctic ocean processes and climate change. This loop of enquiry seems to happen differently in art-science collaborations.

Broadening creativity

Our collaboration has evolved from arm-chair slide shows, through cross-disciplinary participation and Antarctic expeditions, to a final stage that includes a proliferation of ideas around art, education and science.

The benefits to science can be difficult to articulate but chief among them is a reminder of the importance of open-ended exploration. Another is to be asked questions by someone who spent even more time simply looking at the object of scientific inquiry than the scientists themselves.

The first phase of our project was to find a catalyst to connect enthusiastic creative people. A second phase followed with the science team taking basic components of an art work (a large paper sculpture) with them to Antarctica and assembling them as they saw fit, much like a piece of science equipment. This had impact, but was probably detrimental to the power balance in the collaboration because it left the scientists in control of both the art and the science. It turned out that the scientists didn’t follow instructions, and instead responded to the constraints of the working environment – much like the art practice.

Artist Gabby O’Connor spent hours photographing platelet ice retrieved from underneath Antarctica’s sea ice.
Gabby O’Connor’s Antarctica Studio/Craig Stevens, CC BY-ND

The next step involved getting the artist to Antarctica, embedded with the science. This had to be navigated carefully to ensure that the art retained its own priority as well as collaborating with the science, rather than being simply co-located.

A cornerstone to this was a request that the artist should make scientific measurements and, by doing so, added a whole new dimension where by there was an art perspective on the actual scientific process.

History of sci-art collaboration

In the past, artists were often involved in research purely to document the science. Captain James Cook took the painter William Hodges to polar extremes where he captured Antarctic seascapes. When the paintings were prepared for an exhibition in 2004, X-radiography revealed a different and unfinished view of icebergs in a rough sea.

Edward Wilson, a doctor and artist, accompanied Robert Falcon Scott to the pole and beyond. In some ways, these people acted as impartial sounding boards for the explorers and scientists at the time. The ease with which photography is achieved today has reduced the need for this role, but has something been lost along the way?

Much has been written about how facts alone do not convince people. A sideways approach that comes from an entirely different artistic perspective might therefore have a chance of penetrating established boundaries.

The art of science communication

Platelet ice.
Gabby O’Connor, CC BY-ND

Where once science was its own domain, this is no longer the case. Implications of research findings need to connect with broader audiences. But how can you explain something you barely understand yourself to multiple publics?

Analogues with popular culture can bridge this gap. With around 90% of New Zealanders and even more Australians engaging with art, it provides a useful conduit to science.

Our collaboration was initially largely unfunded and viewed as an irrelevant curiosity. However, support built quickly, to the point that the project was used to open a recent national Antarctic Science Conference.

Through all the phases of our work, we made connections with young people. We had sufficient support from teachers to develop workshops and extra-curricular activities for schools, and the climate topic made this part of our engagement more effective.

Platelet ice builds up on the underside of sea ice and has to be sampled through carefully melted holes in the ice.
Gabby O’Connor, CC BY-ND

What is in it for science?

Lots, it turns out. The scientist is reminded of the power of curiosity, something that can get lost in times of targeted research. The artist also asks questions based on hours and hours of observing the system at hand. Somewhat unexpectedly in our case, the artist became a documentor of the work in a way that we hadn’t previously achieved.

Added benefits are embedded with the next generation of scientists who will more readily span the divide, to the extent that they may not know a gap once existed. Also, part of the future science cohort may exist simply because of the inspiration found in art that connects with science.

The ConversationWe are at a time where the entire collective knowledge of our species is available with a stab of a fingertip. It becomes possible, necessary even, to leap across disciplines to generate new ideas.

Craig Stevens, Associate Professor in Ocean Physics and Gabby O’Connor, Artist, PhD candidate, interdisciplinary researcher

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Call for Artists – KLAS Residency Program 2017

There are two Artist in Residence programmes that will take place at the MPI for Colloids and Interfaces, the MPI for Molecular Plant Physiology (both located in Golm, Germany) and the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). The Call is open until January 31st, 2017.

AESTHETICS get SYNTHETIC: Knowledge Link through Art and Science (KLAS)

Synthetic biology is a thriving field at the interface between
molecular and cell biology and engineering disciplines. It is
predominantly based on design, construction and analysis of new
functions and unprecedented biological systems while it also allows a
better understanding of existing biological phenomena by means of its
synthetic “reconstruction”. AESTHETICS get SYNTHETIC: Knowledge Link
through Art and Science (KLAS) main goal is to initiate collaborative
artistic and scientific exchange to foster transdisciplinary dialogues
as well as to contribute to a wider understanding and appreciation of
synthetic biology.

The knowledge link established during the residency period intends to
influence both the work of the participant research groups and the
resident artists. This bidirectional feedback is expected to provide a
highly fertile ground for a dialogue that should also attract the
attention of non-specialized audiences much more easily than purely
scientific orientated discourses.

Artists interested in exploring the aesthetic and discursive
possibilities that are derived from the connections between innovative
creative practices, new materialistic approaches and synthetic biology
research are invited to submit an application.

This competition is open for artists to propose all kind of innovative
concepts and ideas in the field of visual art, interactive art,
digital music/sound art, sculptural art, hybrid art, performance &
choreography, architecture and photography.

The call is open to artists internationally to apply for a residency
program at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and the
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, both located in
Golm (DE) as well as the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and
Biotechnology Institute of the University of Groningen (NL).

The residency programme

There will be two Artist-in-Residence stays within the time period
June to September 2017. The artists are expected to be present for a
minimum of two weeks in each of the two locations (Potsdam-Golm and
Groningen). Both Artist-in-Residence stays are intermitted by a
private time for the artist to develop the final project. It is at the
chosen hosting institution for the second Artist-in-Residence stay
where the work will be showcased later on. A commitment of the artist
to deliver an art-piece within one year after the starting date of the
residency will be requested.

Artists will be free to work on their own projects but will also be
expected to interact with their colleagues, participate in the
lectures and group talks during their stay and document/ share their
experiences for both academic and general audiences in an online form.

The artist will be expected to be in-residence for 2+2 weeks between
June and September 2017.



art and science of eclipses

In a new paper for the Royal Society Blatchford has combed the Western artistic tradition for representations of eclipse. Here, he reveals how science and symbolism worked together over seven centuries to convey and understand the magic of the moment when the moon embraces the sun.

Blatchford points out, “the artist remains the most accurate witness of an eclipse, whose individual optical effects may appear and vanish in an eye-blink.”

The Sun Embraces the Moon (Eclipse of the Sun) - J.J. GrandvilleAstronomers in search of eclipses. Engraving illustrating “The Devil in Paris”, Jean Grandville (1803-1847), publisher George Sand, Charles Nodier, Balzac, Léon Gozlan and P.J. Stahl (pseudonyme de Jules Hetzel). 1845-46. Roger-Viollet / Topfot


Outside Color: Perceptual Science and the Puzzle of Color in Philosophy [book suggestion]

Ouside Colour_cover


Is color real or illusory, mind independent or mind dependent? Does seeing in color give us a true picture of external reality? The metaphysical debate over color has gone on at least since the seventeenth century. In this book, M. Chirimuuta draws on contemporary perceptual science to address these questions. Her account integrates historical philosophical debates, contemporary work in the philosophy of color, and recent findings in neuroscience and vision science to propose a novel theory of the relationship between color and physical reality.

Chirimuuta offers an overview of philosophy’s approach to the problem of color, finds the origins of much of the familiar conception of color in Aristotelian theories of perception, and describes the assumptions that have shaped contemporary philosophy of color. She then reviews recent work in perceptual science that challenges philosophers’ accounts of color experience. Finally, she offers a pragmatic alternative whereby perceptual states are understood primarily as action-guiding interactions between a perceiver and the environment. The fact that perceptual states are shaped in idiosyncratic ways by the needs and interests of the perceiver does not render the states illusory. Colors are perceiver-dependent properties, and yet our awareness of them does not mislead us about the world. Colors force us to reconsider what we mean by accurately presenting external reality, and, as this book demonstrates, thinking about color has important consequences for the philosophy of perception and, more generally, for the philosophy of mind.

About the Author

M. Chirimuuta is Assistant Professor in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

find out more…

Infinite Idealizations in Science [CFP]

8-9 June, 2016 · LMU, Munich

Infinite idealizations are assumptions that play an important role in physics, biology, economics, and many others sciences. Putative examples include an infinite population size in population genetics, an infinite number of components in the theory of phase transitions and an infinite number of persons consuming an infinite number of (infinitely divisible) goods in large-scale economic models. Although these idealizations are generally uncontroversial in the scientific community, they have been at the center of recent philosophical debates about reduction, explanation and the status of models in science. Yet, philosophers of the particular sciences addressing these issues have largely kept within the confines of their own specialist literature. One of our goals for the conference is to bring philosophers of physics, biology, economics, etc. together in conversation about infinite idealizations, thereby mapping what similarities and differences such idealizations may have across these fields.

Some of the questions this workshop aims to explore include (but are not limited to):

  • Are infinite idealizations compatible with reduction?
  • Can a model invoking an infinite idealization have explanatory power?
  • What explains the success of theories that appeal to infinite idealizations?
  • Are infinite idealizations compatible with scientific realism?
  • Are infinite idealizations substantially different from other idealizations?
  • Should infinite idealizations be understood as approximations?

find out more….

Orra W. Hitchcock, Lady Slippers, c. 1817-1818, watercolor on paper. Deerfield Academy Archives []


Picturing The Body In The Laboratory [conference] // Berlin, 6-7 Nov 2015

Genesis and topicality of evidence-oriented imaging in institutions of the long 19th century and today

6-7 November 2015
Humboldt University, Berlin
Image Knowledge Gestaltung, Interdisciplinary Laboratory,
Sophienstr. 22a

“Our aim is to investigate the particular role of the image in evidence production around 1900 in order to sharpen our understanding of the ground laying concepts for today’s epistemic role, limitations as well as of the convenience of laboratory work. Specifically we want to know: what is it exactly that makes the image so attractive around 1900? What can the image do that the word cannot? And does this also apply to the images described that cannot lay claim to any kind of material evidence in the form of a trace? Is there a particular obstinacy in these evidence-oriented images in terms of the Bildakt? Are these images »actors« in a way that is specific to this kind of image (Mitchell 2006)?

One of our particular focuses of interest is the role played by the technical means of producing the traces or images. What are the implications of the technology that developed at this time for evidence orientation? Do we find similar – or which other – principles at work in laboratory evidence technologies in the 21st century? What higher-order similarities does a transdisciplinary examination of different media reveal?”

…find out more



Cultural history of science on traces of the body in the lab around 1900

10.00 Registration, Welcome address & Coffee

10.30 Keynote Barbara Orland (University of Basel)
Seeing the Building Blocks of the Human Body. The Biopolitics of Microphotography 1840–1870

11.30 Short Coffee Break

Panel 1

moderator: Ann-Cathrin Drews (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)

11.40 Bettina Bock von Wülfingen (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)
The New Cell Staining Techniques since the 1870s and their Role in Conceiving Sex/Gender in the Cell

12.20 Marietta Kesting (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)
Creating Photographic Identification

13.00       Lunch

14.00 RESUMÉ 1

Panel 2

moderator: Mark-Oliver Casper (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)

14.30 Sophia Kunze (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)
Necessary Reduction of Complexity or Dubious Essentialisation? Reception of Natural Scientific Knowledge in the History of Arts

15.10 Wolfgang Schäffner (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)
Schreber’s Evidence

15.50 Bettina Uppenkamp (Dresden University/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)
Evidence and Identification. On the History of the Fingerprint

16.30RESUMÉ 2

17.00 Finish
Organisational remarks. Snacks and nibbles and move to
> Lecture Hall 2094, Main Building, Unter den Linden 6

19.00 Keynote Peter Galison (Harvard University)
The Conviction of Scientific Images

Natural Sciences and Laboratory Traces Today

> Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Main Building, Seminar Room 2093,  Unter den Linden 6

9.30    Welcome Coffee

10.00Keynote Soraya de Chadarevian (UCLA)
»It is not enough, in order to understand the Book of Nature, to turn over the pages looking at the pictures. Painful though it may be, it will be necessary to learn to read the text.«
Visual Evidence in the Life Sciences, c.1960

Panel 3

moderator: Kathrin Friedrich (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)

11.00 John Nyakatura (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)
Trace, Experiment, Inference: Images and the Generation of Knowledge in Paleobiology

11.40 Anelis Kaiser (University of Bern)
Sex/Gender in the Brain: From Voxels to Knowledge

12.20 Thomas Stach (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung)
Traces, Data, Facts: How Morphology Generates Evidence

13.00 Lunch

14.00 RESUMÉ 3

Panel 4

moderator: Markus Rautzenberg (FU Berlin, mecs Lüneburg)

14.30 Dieter Weiss (University of Rostock)
Superresolution Microscopy and the Discovery of Nano-Machines in Living Cells

15.10 Anne Dippel (HU Berlin/Image Knowledge Gestaltung, FSU Jena, Leuphana Lüneburg),
Lukas Mairhofer
(University of Vienna)
Believing the Pattern. A conversation on Traces in Physics

16.30 RESUMÉ 4
Coffee and Goodbye
(brief organisational authors meeting)

[download programme]


[new book] Ignazio Licata · “Sistemi Caotici”

We are delighted to announce that Prof. Ignazio Licata, member of our honorary board, has just published a new book on chaotic systems.

I. Licata, "Sistemi caotici", Aracne Editrice LR

“L’effetto farfalla, i frattali e l’immaginario generato dalla teoria del caos sono ormai una consolidata presenza nella cultura contemporanea. Durante gli anni Ottanta tra gli stessi specialisti si era diffusa l’idea che la fisica non–lineare potesse costituire la base di una teoria dell’organizzazione che avrebbe permesso di estendere il sogno determinista di predire praticamente qualunque cosa, dai sistemi biologici ai mercati finanziari. Passò dunque l’idea che l’incertezza era vinta, tranne qualche remota zona quantistica. È maturata piuttosto la convinzione che la non–linearità è un ingrediente nei processi di amplificazione dell’informazione e della formazione di strutture, ma va immersa in una più generale teoria dell’emergenza, ancora in costruzione, che riguarda le relazioni sistema–ambiente, il ruolo delle fluttuazioni dissipative, l’ergodicità e l’interfaccia classico–quantistico. Adesso che il tempo degli slogan è passato, ci sembra utile offrire al lettore e agli studenti un’introduzione sobria alla fisica del caos.”

Ignazio Licata
Sistemi Caotici
ISBN 978-88-548-8444-1, 17 x 24 cm, 80 pp, 8 € (pdf for 4,80€)



Toward a Science of Consciousness 2015

Is the 21st annual international, interdisciplinary conference on the fundamental questions connected with conscious experience. It will be held in Helsinki  (June 9th – 13th, 2015)

Matteo Bultrini - EpifaniaGregory Bateson: ”The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.”

Topical areas include neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, biology, quantum physics, meditation and altered states, machine consciousness, culture and experiential phenomenology. Cutting edge, controversial issues are emphasized.

Held annually since 1994, the TSC conference is organized by the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona in different locations


AFM nanoscratching on silica substrate.

© 2014 Associazione Culturale Polyhedra · Via della Marcigliana 561, I-00138 Rome ·

Header image: Xavier González d'Ègara, detail of 'La obra inacabada' (2012)