Sunday, September 8, 2013

[Yasmin_discussions] Fwd: the rejected e-mail

Subject: Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Is STEM an Idea whose time has passed


You spoke in one of your concluding posts about how art has 'advanced'
science, in which you explicitly excluded the relation of advancing
creativity. Could you elaborate on what you mean with 'advancement'?
One of the examples given in previous posts was the contribution of
Brandon Ballangee, who was, if I remember correctly from hearing one
of his presentations, able to show how there were deformities in frogs
in the pond a biologist was studying for years, the biologist was
somehow not able to 'see' the presence of deformities, and therefor
thought they were not present. Showing up with a bunch of kids,
Branden picked out frogs with deformities within the span of minutes
of that same pond. This later led to the understanding that
deformities did not come from pollution, as previously thought, but
from tadpoles suffering from bites from dragonfly larvae.

In all instances, the problem that seems to reoccur in these
discussions, is what is meant with definitions. When talking about
advancing science with 'creativity', it is not about making scientists
'more creative' it is about the integration of particular methods.
Creativity, in that sense is about the ability to make unconventional
connections, the ability to see things differently in-spite of how the
brain tends to settle in particular behaviour. In a previous post I
referred to the tendency of 'truths' in science. And here again, one
must be careful of what is meant by 'truth' and what is meant by
'science'. Let me explain.

Brandon was invited to the pond, as it was considered as a pond that
was not polluted, and therefor would not have these deformities, this
was emphasized by the statement of the biologist that there were no
sightings of deformities. That Brandon, and the kids were able to see
deformities so quickly, illustrated the way the brain 'sees but does
not see'. Brandon speculated that because the biologist was not
searching for deformities, his brain did not see them. This phenomenon
relates to inattentional blindness and chnage blindness. 'Change
blindness and inattentional blindness are both failures of visual
awareness. Change blindness is the failure to notice an obvious
change. Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice the existence
of an unexpected item.' A particular aspect of creative method that is
practised by artists is about the deviation of the norm. The following
of a type of 'a priori' notion that something is to be found, where
the majority think there is nothing. It develops the skill of being
aware when 'blindness' is staring you in the face.

Another example of how art advanced science, may be found in the story
of Alexander Flemming and the discovery of penicillin, here I quote
from and article I wrote a while ago.

"We forget that penicillin was discovered precisely because of a
chance chain reaction originating from Alexander Fleming's messy
methods. What many are not aware of is the context in which the chain
reaction of the discovery of penicillin was able to happen. Alexander
Fleming was also a painter:

In addition to working as a scientist, and well before his discovery
of antibiotics, Fleming painted. He was a member of the Chelsea Arts
Club, where he created amateurish watercolors. Less well known is that
he also painted in another medium, living organisms. Fleming painted
ballerinas, houses, soldiers, mothers feeding children, stick figures
fighting and other scenes using bacteria. He produced these paintings
by growing microbes with different natural pigments in the places
where he wanted different colors. He would fill a petri dish with
agar, a gelatin-like substance, and then use a wire lab tool called a
loop to inoculate sections of the plate with different species. The
paintings were technically very difficult to make. Fleming had to find
microbes with different pigments and then time his inoculations such
that the different species all matured at the same time. These works
existed only as long as it took one species to grow into the others.
When that happened, the lines between, say, a hat and a face were
blurred; so too were the lines between art and science.[i]

[i] <
>, last viewed January 17th 2012. Thank you to Anna Dumitriu for
pointing me to the article."

Functioning in a scientific discipline with particular paradigms will
have a particular effect on how that discipline advances. Although
there is a very important function to these paradigms, as you well
explain, yet there is a form of advancement that is not being
explored, when disciplines do not diverge in their methodologies.

The core, the essence of this story, one could say, is that we are
all human with brains functioning in a particular way. The way the
brain functions is closely related to the way it has been educated.
Paradigms of disciplines form in themselves a type of 'blindness'
within the scientist of that discipline. Which tends to generate a
sense of 'truth' of how something is, without being aware of what is
not being seen or explored. I find this problem particularily
vulnerable in relation to certain academic methods or traditions in
which I find that a current paper on a subject, will often refer to a
source paper once made in the sixties. Because such referencing occurs
with high frequency, the original paper is somehow not 'questioned'.

This for me then enhances the need to question what you mean by
'advancement' that excludes creativity, and or why you find it
important to exclude this. Unless there was already the
misunderstanding of what is meant by creativity, on the one hand this
could mean using unorthodox methods in ones dicipline, such as the
case with Alexander Fleming, on the other hand it could mean the
ability to make diverging associations that lift 'blindness' or take
the blindness as a given, even if it is not yet obvious, as could be
seen in the case of Brandon's work.

With regards to your STEM-STEAM question ( for those not aware, in
short more information may be found here:

I would, considering the way educational systems are set up, think
that there is definitely a shortage of STEAM professionals, yet, the
artist in me directly rings the alarm bells of 'blindness', in which
perhaps it is not so much a shortage of STEAM professionals, but a
shortage of awareness of their existence, and the use of their skills.


From: roger malina <>
Sent: Saturday, September 7, 2013 8:44 AM
Subject: [Yasmin_discussions] Is STEM an Idea whose time has passed


our discussion has gone quiet as to whether art science collaboration
contributes to scientific research- the next step seems to be to
compile a blibliography documenting specific examples if anyone knows
of such a bilbliography or would like to work on one contact me at

meanwhile i propose to segue onto a connected topic that discusses
the STEM to STEAM movement

There is an active discussion these days as to whether there is really
a shortage of STEM trainied professionals

A recent article in IEEE Spectrum argues

,,,And yet, alongside such dire projections, you'll also find reports
suggesting just the opposite—that there are more STEM workers than
suitable jobs.

Can we argue that what is missing is STEAM professionals ?

Roger Malina

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