“The endosymbiosis hypothesis is retrogressive in the sense that it avoids the difficult thought necessary to understand how mitochondria and chloroplasts have evolved as a series of small evolutionary steps.” -Thomas Uzzell and Christine Spolsky, 1974
The above old quote may make us chuckle now that Margulis’ theory has been vindicated by DNA analysis. Uzzell and Spolsky imply that endosymbiosis seemed to them too easy and naïve, like a myth describing how the first humans sprang from sown dragon’s teeth. Even though there was nothing prima facie impossible about the idea — no physical laws violated — these critics nevertheless felt that the endosymbiosis hypothesis was tantamount to a “revival of special creation.”  Symbiogenesis, the idea championed by Lynn Margulis, is here associated with the supernatural because it was considered to be a rare and too fortuitous event. Continue reading
The Book/Arts blog of the prestigious journal Nature has included Fine Lines in its top 20 book list for 2016.
Fine Lines was also review in Doppiozero in Italy, Haibun in Romania, and science and art blog, and made the top 20 list bioteaching.com
Vladimir Nabokov might be best known as a novelist, specifically as the author of Lolita, but what many might not know is that one of his deepest passions was studying butterflies.
Now, a new book from Yale University Press honors his dedication to the delicate creatures. The book, Fine Lines, is a collection of more than 150 of his scientific illustrations of butterflies, rivaling John James Audubon in their detail.
“…The book also shed light on Nabokov’s confusing legacy with regard to mimicry…Seasoned experts on various aspects of Nabokov’s legacy weigh in on the tricky questions about his dual pursuits in science and arts. Victoria Alexander of the Dactyl Foundation addresses Nabokov’s understanding of nature in light of more current ‘post-Darwinian’ views of evolutionary processes….”
WEDNESDAY, MAY 11 7 PM FREE
“Vladimir Nabokov and Insect Mimicry: The Artist as Scientist”
Victoria N Alexander
Public Scholars, NY Council for the Humanities: In collaboration with the NY Council for the Humanities, the Rosendale Public Library presents a slide/lecture on the controversial novelist and lepidopterist, Vladimir Nabokov, that reveals his insights into the mysteries of mimicry and how the scientific community responded to his studies. Fantastic images of insect mimicry will be used as examples of how important art is to good science. This event is made possible through the Public Scholars program with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days. Case in point: while I was watching football this past weekend, there were two television commercials in heavy circulation during the games that featured AI avatars—Siri and Watson—having life-like conversations with actors.
As you may know, I have a few opinions about the prospects and limitations of AI. Recently, I had an email chat with novelist and philosopher of science Victoria Alexander about AI, art, and chance. Alexander’s work focuses on the uses of chance in nature and in fiction and the changing conceptions of chance in science, religion, and art. What follows has been lightly edited for clarity. Continue reading
NY LASER, a Leonardo Education and Art Forum (LEAF) Rendezvous Event
What: Wine + discussion
Where: LevyArts: RSVP for info firstname.lastname@example.org
When: Saturday, April 12th from 4:00 – 7:00 pm
NYC LASER is a series of lectures and presentations on art and science projects, organized on behalf of Leonardo/ISAST’s LEAF initiative (Leonardo Education and Art Forum). Former LEAF Chairs Ellen Levy and Patricia Olynyk co-organize these presentations, and Ellen Levy hosts them on behalf of the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. There will be three feature presentations by Victoria N. Alexander, Lillian Ball, and Norman Ballard.
Victoria N. Alexander is director and co-founder of Dactyl Foundation, whose mission is to “bring the arts into the sciences and the sciences into the arts.” She earned her Ph.D. in English at CUNY Grad and her dissertation research focused on teleology, evolutionary theory, and complexity science at the Santa Fe Institute. She is a novelist (Smoking Hopes, Naked Singularity, Trixie and Locus Amœnus) and is on the editorial boards of Biosemiotics journal (Springer Press) and Meaning Systems book series (Fordham UP). Alexander’s talk will address the creative process from a biosemiotic perspective and is based on her 2011 book The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature and Nature.
Lillian Ball Lillian Ball is an ecological artist and environmental activist working primarily on water issues. A multidisciplinary background in anthropology, ethnographic film, and sculpture informs her work. She has exhibited internationally and her awards include a John-Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant. Her recent WATERWASH® public art project series combines stormwater remediation, wetland restoration, and educational outreach in a creative concept that can be adapted to coastal situations worldwide. Lillian will discuss transforming scientific data collected on WATERWASH by Drexel University Environmental Engineering Department into a reflective artwork.
Norman Ballard is an award winning innovator in the use of Laser technology and motion control ‘rayography’ as an artistic medium in the visual and performing arts. His presentation ‘Laser: The Ecology of a New Medium’, will reflect on his exploration of the emergent path of this technology and its ongoing cultural assimilation. He will discuss his breakthrough work over the past 3 decades driving the ascendancy of the laser medium into galleries and collections of fine art museums worldwide, as well as its extension to his current position as Development Coordinator for Production Automation at the Metropolitan Opera supporting its current Production Department Renovation and Technology Upgrade initiative.