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February 2007

Images by NCAR scientists on display

Vis Lab

This image, created by Don Middleton (CISL) from a high-resolution global climate model, is on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, along with two other images by NCAR researchers.

Solar plumes, nematode worms, kidney stones, nano-crystals, pulmonary arteries, chicken organs: images that scientists produce of the things they study may be visually striking and demonstrate creativity, but they are not a form of art.

Or are they?

That’s one of the questions posed by an exhibit currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Art in Science | Science in Art is a juried exhibition of images made by University of Colorado–affiliated scientists and artists, including six NCAR researchers.

The exhibit organizers asked scientists to submit images that they made as part of their everyday work. Artists whose images illustrate scientific principles were also asked to participate. The organizers hope to provoke participants and exhibit-goers to think about the gulf between science and art. How wide is it? Can there be any communication across it? If a scientist makes an image that looks like art, is that a happy accident or do some scientists intentionally make their work more artistic than strictly necessary?

Out of hundreds of submissions, the jury selected 66 to be placed in an online gallery. Of these, 30 were printed in large format, framed, and hung in a traveling show that opened on January 18 in Denver.

Among the works on display are an image by Don Middleton (above) from a high-resolution global climate model; a depiction of a turbulent solar plume, created by Joey Mendoza (CISL) and Mark Rast (ESSL/HAO); and the flow of the Kuroshio current as illustrated by Dave Brown (CISL), Frank Bryan (ESSL/CGD), and Tim Scheitlin (CISL).

Joey, a systems administrator who also works on visualizations, was inspired to enter the solar plume visual he and Mark created because it was such a unique image. “At the time [May 2003] it was one of the biggest simulations performed here, and everyone said it was amazing,” he says, adding that to him the image represents both art and science.

Dave, a software engineer, collaborated with Tim and Frank on the Kuroshio current image, using special techniques to regrid the data for visualization. “There is definitely art in deciding how to illustrate science properly,” he says. “There are so many choices to make—what boundaries to show, what perspective to use, where to put the center of the picture.”

The exhibit will remain in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s West Atrium until mid-May. On June 1, it opens at the University of Colorado’s Given Institute in Aspen. • Nicole Gordon

On the Web

Art in Science | Science in Art

In this issue...

New data center to be based in Cheyenne

Climate Change and Islands: Are Scientists Serving Society?

Snow closures: A look behind the scenes

Random Profile: Justin Watt

Images by NCAR scientists on display

Delphi Question: Cafeterias trans-fat-free?

Just One Look


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