I, Science Issue 53: Creativity (Winter 2022)

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Chestertons: Helping Imperial Students with Accommodation

London has one of the most complex and competitive property markets in the world, which means that many students find it di cult to find a suitable property when they move here. Every year, I,Science’s sponsor, Chestertons, – one of London’s largest and oldest estate agents –helps thousands of students from all London universities, including Imperial, find rented accommodation.

To help students and their families understand the process and avoid making costly errors, Chestertons has produced a ‘A student’s guide to renting’ which can be downloaded for free at www.chestertons.co.uk/students

Local South Kensington manager Cory McNally gives his top tips for renting a property in London:

Consider searching ‘o -season’: the rental market is busiest between July and September. If possible, start your search outside of this period to get the best deals.

– Prepare to pay rent in advance: As students don’t have a guaranteed income, most landlords will ask for six months of rent in advance and the second payment due in the fourth month. Be prepared for this!

– Choose agency-managed: Some landlords manage their own properties but they are sometimes slow to respond to maintenance issues. If you can, choose a property which is professionally managed by an estate agency.

– Consider longer term: Most rental tenancies are 12-months but consider getting a longer-term contract with a break clause as this will save you the stress of having to search for a new property after a year.

Know when to negotiate… and when not to: So competitive is the market that properties will often come on and o the market within a matter of hours. If you try and negotiate on popular properties, you will miss out.

– Use video viewings: Many agents now allow you to view properties by video. This is a great option if you are not able to view physically due to time constraints or not being in the UK at the time.

If you have any questions or would like any help with renting a property in London, please contact Cory on 020 7368 3042 or cory.mcnally@chestertons.com

A student’s guide to renting













































Dear Readers,

We hope you enjoy this issue of I, Science centred around the theme of ‘Creativity.’ We wanted to examine the relationship between science and other disciplines like visual art, drama, and history and even peek into the creativity of animals.

Please join us in stepping away from the lab bench to appreciate the intersection of science and art and the wider application of the scientific community’s work.

As you delve into the world of art, mindfulness, AI and drama in this issue, we hope you appreciate the interdisciplinary aspects of the world around us. And if you ever do science in the future, we hope you are inspired to be just a little more creative.



The neuroscience of creativity: are creative geniuses born or made?

Is it really nature vs nurture?

Science and art: two branches of the same tree

Can animals create and enjoy art?

How AI and artists can coexist as collaborators rather than adversaries?

Mad Miller: the philosophy of the doctor director

Science on stage: an interview with playwright Peter Sin Nachtrieb

Art therapy: the intersection of creativity and psychology

Science and ancient art

What we can learn from polymathy

Book review: Vaxxers

Mindful maker

5 6 10 14 18 20 24 27 28 30 9 22 News

The Next Space Race

Space had an incredible year in 2022. NASA and the James Webb Space Telescope produced beautiful images of stars and galaxies, the European Space Agency (ESA) made the initiative to send someone with a physical disability into space through their Parastronaut Feasibility Program, and NASA has made the initiative to return astronauts back to the Moon with their first test expedition Artemis I. NASA and the ESA were not the only ones eyeing space, as Russia’s Roscosmos plans to launch satellites into the Arctic by 2026, South Korea launched The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, and China completed their space station Tianmong.

So with everyone gearing up to explore space again, the question remains will a next space race occur?

The Space Race, put lightly, was a space exploration competition between the United States and the former Soviet Union. During this time the Soviet Union launched Sputnik

and sent Yuri Gragarin to space, who ended up being the first person in space. The race ‘ended’ when Neil Armstrong, and effectively the whole United States, became the first to land on the Moon.

Technological advancement during this time as demonstrated by spaceflight was viewed as necessary for national security, is this still the case. Let’s take a closer look at the parties of this new space race.

China, like other countries, has made an effort to explore space and create their own space program. China recently completed their space station named Tiangong, as part of their China Manned Space Program. Other plans for space exploration also include the goal of landing taikonauts on the moon by 2030. But NASA administrator Bill Nelson warned of China’s interest in the Moon and lunar exploration.

“It is a fact: we’re in a space race,” Nelson

told Politico in an interview. “And it is true that we better watch out that they don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Keep out, we’re here, this is our territory.’”

And claiming a new space race, like Nelson did, can be a controversial thing. A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington told Politico U.S officials have “spoken irresponsibly to misrepresent the normal and legitimate space endeavors of China.”

The statement to Politico continued stating “China always advocates the peaceful use of outer space, opposes the weaponization of and arms race in outer space, and works actively toward building a community with a shared future for mankind in the space domain.”

So the question remains are countries going to be in a new space race, or is space exploration just that, exploring?


The neuroscience of creativity: are creative geniuses born or made?

Stroke of genius

On an unsuspecting day in 1985, Alfred Schnittke, a famous 20th century Russian composer, suffered from a potentially career-ending stroke. Strokes can be devastating to cognitive functioning as they temporarily cut off blood supply to the brain causing tissue death. This can result in numerous debilitating deficits including paralysis and depression, all of which can severely interfere with day-to-day life.

However, Schnittke reported something completely inexplicable following his injury: he insisted that the stroke had amplified his creativity. In fact, Schnittke became more prolific than ever, composing works that would become some of the most celebrated pieces of classical music during his time.

There are myriad similar cases in which writers, musicians, and artists of all kinds continue to produce creative works following brain injury, as well as non-artists who picked up a newfound interest in the arts following brain injury. Emergent creative talent has been well documented in age-related degenerative brain diseases, particularly frontotemporal dementia, which is a form of dementia that predominantly impacts behavior and language. However, understanding what parts of the brain are involved in the processes underlying creativity remains elusive.

Many of us have been led to believe that some people are born “right-brained,” or more creative, and others are born “leftbrained,” or more analytical, and this limiting belief still lingers in public discourse today. But if creative spurts can occur later in life, especially after brain damage has occurred, then the notion that creative ability is written into the blueprint of our genes is implausible.

What is creativity?

It’s difficult to study creativity if we don’t have a grasp on exactly what it means. Although the definition varies and has shifted

considerably over the years, a consistently agreed upon characteristic is novelty. This is the primary defining characteristic of a creative idea: the idea must be new in some way. A “novel” or “original” idea is defined as something that you don’t come across frequently or ever.

But just because something is new does not make it creative. There must be context to this newness; it can’t be completely random. Therefore, another factor of creativity is an idea’s “appropriateness, relevance, or fit,”. In other words, it must be useful, meaningful, or valuable in some way.

To build on our definition of creativity, something is deemed creative if it “is a novel work that is accepted as… useful or satisfying by a group in some point in time”. However, there is much debate about whether these two criteria are sufficient in labeling something as vague as creativity. Regardless, the consensus is that creativity is generating something that is fresh and meaningful in some way.

Where is creativity found in the brain?

Tracking creativity in the brain is no easy task. Early studies pointed to the idea that the right hemisphere of the brain is more involved in creative tasks, thus engendering the myth

"Recent studies have found that creativity is more strongly linked with personality traits such as openness to experience and emotional intelligence than with particular brain areas. "

of being “left-brained” or “right-brained.” Other early studies looked for differences in the size of specific brain regions and how regions with increased size might play more of a role in creativity. But the idea that something as subjective and poorly defined as creativity could be localized to one brain region is misguided.

It’s more likely that an orchestration of large neural networks spanning several brain regions are involved in producing creativity. Recent studies have found that creativity is more strongly linked with personality traits such as openness to experience and emotional intelligence than with particular brain areas. According to a comprehensive review on creativity research, numerous studies have “demonstrated that openness of experience robustly predicted individual creative thinking and creative achievement”. In fact, openness to experience seems to be the most important predictor of creativity.

Despite all of this, critics argue that research on creativity up until this point is inherently flawed because it can’t be reliably measured or defined, and thus meaningful conclusions cannot be drawn from the data.

Where does that leave us? Do creative people truly have different brains than non-creative people?

Researchers studying creativity are now pointing to the concept of “creative potential.” This shifts the conversation from creativity as something that is genetic or fixed to something that can be developed as one would develop skills for anything from a sport to an instrument. One recent study on creativity asserts, “Creative potential exists in everyone, and individual differences are reflected in a matter of degree of high or low creative potential, rather than all-or-nothing creative potential. Creative potential is not exclusive to geniuses or scientists. Everyone has creative potential”.

How to train your creativity?

What are some safe ways to strengthen creative ability that don’t involve brain damage? One of the safest ways to foster creativity also happens to be the easiest: go to sleep.

Research reveals that REM sleep, or the state of sleep in which most dreaming occurs, seems to increase creative problem solving. “Creative thought relies on the reorganization of existing knowledge,” one study explains. “The high excitation, plasticity, and connectivity of REM sleep provide an ideal setting for the formation of novel, unexpected, connections” between neurons in the brain.

To harness the power of your dreams, Balder Onarheim, founder of the Copenhagen Institute of NeuroCreativity, recommends actively thinking of the problem you’re trying to solve right before going to sleep. Some people also tout that keeping a dream journal nearby can aid in the development of more creative ideas.

In addition to dreaming, walking also seems to aid creativity. A study conducted at Stanford University found that a short walk on a treadmill resulted in a significant boost in creative thinking.

Finally, since openness is so crucial to being creative, this may be an area of improvement on which to focus. Our brains are extremely flexible in that they are constantly reorganizing and adapting to new input, thus becoming more open to new experiences is something that can more or less be learned like anything else.

While we may never fully track down the phenomenon of how creativity is produced in the brain, we’ve learned that creative ability is not reserved exclusively for artists and savants, and it’s not something that one is born with or without. The embers of creativity reside within all of us and can be ignited with continued practice.

"Research reveals that REM sleep, or the state of sleep in which most dreaming occurs, seems to increase creative problem solving."
"The embers of creativity reside within all of us and can be ignited with continued practice."




Is it really nature vs nurture? The answer might be culture!

For decades, scientists have debated the influence our genes and our environment have on our lives This debate also brings to the fore the larger question of determinism vs free will. Both determinists and environmentalists have strong arguments in their favour and the debate is yet to be settled conclusively. It remains to be seen what impact our thoughts, feelings, and actions have on our own lives and on the lives of those around us.

However, human nature doesn't have to be determined by either one or the other. Recent scientific studies in the fields of epigenetics and neuroplasticity have supported the idea that both genes (nature) and the environment (nurture) can influence human development.

Epigenetics is the study of how external factors can change gene expression. An extreme example of this is cancer. Some individuals, because of their genetic constitution, may be predisposed to certain types of cancers such as the breast or lung. However, only a small subset of them develop cancer. This may be due to additional factors such as pollution, smoking, poor diet, or a sedentary lifestyle.

in the somatosensory cortex are activated and reorganize themselves leading to the development of sensation in the amputated limb. Discoveries in the field of neural plasticity have strengthened this line of argument.

Such genetic changes may also influence the mind. In fact, it is thought that genes mainly control our minds through the kind of experiences one can have in life. Such factors may be responsible for familial personality traits and mental illnesses. One possible reason for this great flexibility (plasticity) could be our extended childhood period when compared to other animals. It is said that babies are the R&D department of human beings and are considered the ultimate learning machine.

Studies have shown that babies perceive, judge, and remember far more than we, as adults, give them credit for. However, compared to the young ones of other animals, human babies are helpless and almost completely dependent on their parents. Generally, animals mature much faster than humans, for example, young elephants can walk and join their herd soon after birth. One key reason for the extended childhood of human beings is that we pass on key values and aspects of what makes us human to our children and these skills take a lot of time to learn and master. Perhaps the most important aspect that differentiates us from other animals is culture, which is based on empathy.

are responsible for imitation and empathy. Subsequent work by scientists such as Dr. V. S. Ramachandran has shown that they are activated both when we perform an action and when we watch the same action performed by others. Repeated firing of these neurons strengthens their connections and enables us to learn a new skill or response to a situation. Examples include monkeys learning to swing from branch to branch, babies learning to speak or walk, or wincing when we see another person touch something sharp.

Another example comes from the work of Indian-origin neuroscientist Dr. V. S. Ramachandran on phantom limbs. Following an amputation, patients may still feel the presence of the severed limb, quite vividly. These are phantom limbs, which are often extremely painful and nearly impossible to treat. Dr. Ramachandran reasoned that this phenomenon occurs due to rapid changes in the representation of body image in the brain following the amputation. Following an amputation, the relevant neural pathways

Empathy is quite literally the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes. It is the ability to perceive and consider another person’s point of view, and by extension, to imitate their actions. The development of fundamental skills, from language, tool use, and farming to modern innovations such as computers and artificial intelligence, can be attributed to our capacity to imitate and learn from others.

Scientists have long searched for the biological basis for imitation. The discovery of mirror neurons in monkeys is considered a critical development in this regard. Mirror neurons are so called because they

Of course, mirror neurons are far more abundant and densely connected in humans than in any other primates. These may have been responsible for the culture boom that occurred 60,000 years ago which resulted in the development of cave art and constructed housing. The exact reason for this is still unknown.

Mirror neurons also point towards a possible mechanism for free will. Numerous neurons fire in response to the various events we observe around us and subconsciously generate many possible responses. It is up to us to consciously choose the situations to which we respond and how we respond. Whatever their possible role in this deep philosophical question, one thing is quite clear, mirror neurons have played a key role in defining us as a species and in making us who we are.

These examples demonstrate that changes in the brain can occur later in life, even in fundamental aspects of human nature. I feel it is better to say that our lives are determined by nature via nurture, rather than by either one factor alone.

"It is said that babies are the R&D department of human beings and are considered the ultimate learning machine."
"...it is better to say that our lives are determined by nature via nurture, rather than by either one factor alone."

Science and art are often considered to be polar opposites of each other. One is highly logical and rational and beset by rules, while the other is highly creative and completely without rules. But science and art have much in common and their journey and evolution are intertwined throughout history.

human proportions. The chosen size and ratio of each body part depicted in the drawing were the result of his extensive knowledge of geometry and over 200 measurements of the human body. But, at the same time, the Vitruvian Man is anchored in philosophy and self-reflection. The drawing is widely believed to be an idealised self-portrait in which, according to the historian Toby Lester, “Leonardo, stripped down to his essence, peers at himself with furrowed brow and tries to grasp the secrets of his own nature”.

of artistic expression, a common thread was the focus on capturing a single moment in time as perceived by the human senses. This could be a photo-like image of a scene according to the painter’s eyes or a portrayal of the impression a moment left behind. Artists portrayed ideas, real or imaginary, from a perspective limited by their senses. But, come the turn of the century, the fields of mathematics and science were revealing the world beyond human perception.

Where better to start in the journey of science and art than perhaps history’s most famous polymath –Leonardo Da Vinci? As well as being considered one of the greatest painters to have ever lived, Leonardo’s scientific studies spanned across almost the entire realm of contemporary human knowledge. When he wasn’t spending dark nights peeling the skins of corpses to reveal an intricate structure of nerves and muscle fibres, he was looking to the stars to question Earth’s place in the universe or inventing the helicopter 450 years early. But for Leonardo, these were not separate pursuits. Many of his scientific works were also beautifully detailed pieces of art.

The Vitruvian Man, one of the most iconic drawings in Western civilisation, is both a work of artistic expression and a detailed scientific observation of

Similarly, some of Leonardo’s most enduring artworks are, at their heart, deeply scientific. For centuries the alluring smile of the Mona Lisa has had its audience enraptured, captivated by her elusive gaze, and this effect is entirely by scientific design. His dissections of the eye combined with his study of optics revealed the interactions of light and the retina and how this effects our perception of light and shadow. The result is an almost imperceptible flicker in the smile of the most famous yet mysterious woman in the history of art.

For Leonardo Da Vinci, science and art were one and the same. Simply a medium through which to paint the mystery and beauty of the world he saw before him.

But science and art are not just means of portraying our perceptions of the world, they also shape the way we see it, growing and evolving together as new ideas come to light. Never was this truer than at the birth of the 20th century.

Leading up to the early 1900s, art had progressed through many distinctive movements, varying in their levels of realism. Throughout the varying forms

Science and art: Two branches of the same tree

The year 1905 revolutionised physics with the publication of Einstein’s paper describing his special theory of relativity. His theory stated that time is not a universal experience but relative to the observer, and it is not a separate entity, as human experience would suggest, but is joined with three-dimensional space to form four-dimensional spacetime.

As well as Einstein making the front pages, only a few years earlier, Henri Poincaré’s book, Science and Hypothesis, had brought ground-breaking science and mathematics to the masses. Amongst these masses, and said to have carried Poincaré’s book with him, was Pablo Picasso, a founder of a revolutionary new art form – Cubism.

Picasso, like Einstein, rejected the limits of human perspective, and filled his works with abstract geometric forms, showing objects from multiple temporal and spatial perspectives. This treatment of reality as more than just the three-dimensional world we see, reflected both Einstein’s discoveries and the non-Euclidean geometry discussed in Science and Hypothesis. Scientific and artistic creativity were uniting in reflecting a new abstract view of the world.

This is a partnership that continues today, notably at one of the world’s most famous research organisations – CERN. The home of particle physics research and the Large Hadron Collider, research at CERN spans from trying to detect dark matter to recreating the conditions of the universe moments after the Big Bang. CERN’s visionary work has sparked the imaginations of artists and, in 2008, an art residency was set up. Artists are paired with a CERN researcher – an ‘inspiration partner’ –and produce artworks inspired by the physics they discover during their residency.

One such artist, is Ryoji Ikeda, a Japanese visual and sound artist who was resident at CERN from 2014-2015. Ikeda is known for his immersive live performances and installations combining visuals and sound with mathematical and physical phenomena. During his residency, Ikeda met with experts on theories of extra dimensions and supersymmetry and developed his installation supersymmetry. It combined 40 projectors and computers to produce a disorientating combination of light, sound and visual data that mirrored the breath-taking complexity of the mysteries of the universe being tackled at CERN.

There are many different kinds of creativity, and art and science are two equally creative ways of channelling the need to understand and portray the world around us. Whether the chosen medium is mathematical equations or oil paints, both portray the beauty of reality that is beyond the limits of our senses. Perhaps, by standing at their intersection, we can truly appreciate the full picture.

"When he wasn’t spending dark nights peeling the skins of corpses to reveal an intricate structure of nerves and muscle fibres, he was looking to the stars to question Earth’s place in the universe or inventing the helicopter 450 years early. "
"There are many different kinds of creativity, and art and science are two equally creative ways of channelling the need to understand and portray the world around us. "

Where do creative ideas come from?

Where do creative ideas come from? What do creatives mean by being “in the zone” or in a “flow state”?

Although the current cognitive paradigm proposes that creativity is unique to higherlevel cognitive processes – a result of analysis and evaluation built on experience and memory – it is not supported by the lived experience of creatives.

Rather, it may be necessary to expand investigation outside of the consciousness/ unconsciousness and into what N. Katherine Hayles calls ‘the cognitive nonconscious’. This is a cognitive level shared by all living organisms, where the sensorial information from the environment is directly processed, functioning in humans like a supercomputer within the mind.

Within this framework, it is possible that creativity originates in nonconscious cognition and then is processed by consciousness and unconsciousness. However, more rigorous research is needed to shift the current paradigm.

‘Palenque’ represents the moment when a giant elephant ear plant is about to unfurl, a moment of potential energy transforming into kinetic energy, of possibilities unfolding.

PALENQUE NINA GONZALEZ-PARK Image of artist painting ‘Palenque’ in her studio, October 2022 Photo courtesy of Adrian Maidman
MARSCHNER (clo.glyphics)
KATHERINE GARNER Can animals create and enjoy art?

In 1954, British zoologist and artist Desmond Morris undertook a strange experiment at London Zoo: to see whether animals could create art. His subject was Congo, a chimpanzee chosen for his boisterous personality. Morris taught the chimp how to hold a paintbrush, provided him with paints and paper, and observed his first artistic attempts.

Congo’s initial paintings would probably fail the criteria for what most of us consider ‘art’. Primarily, they lacked creative intent. Each painting consisted solely of brushstrokes in a radiating fan shape – a wild chimp makes this movement when spreading out leaves for a nest, so these early paintings arguably just represent a reflexive action.

However, Congo’s paintings began to change as he started using a wider variety of shapes and colours. The first painting that really excited Morris was titled Split Fan Pattern with Central Black Spot. Here, Congo disrupted his usual fan pattern with a bold circle of paint in the centre. These small decisions, claimed Morris, marked the chimp’s transition from animal instinct to aesthetic intent and indicated that Congo had a nascent understanding of artistic composition.

call him an artist? An eye for colour is present in many animals for survival reasons rather than aesthetic reasons. Bower birds, for example, decorate their tunnel-shaped nests with brightly coloured objects; by arranging these from smallest to largest, they create the optical illusion of a much larger nest, to attract mates. This is arguably more of a method of communication and manipulation than it is art.

Whether they were horrified or thrilled by the irreverence of displaying Congo alongside Pollock and Picasso, those within the art world became intrigued by the chimp’s paintings. Picasso himself held no grudges against animal artists: allegedly when asked by a reporter to comment on Congo’s art, Picasso left the room, returned clutching his newly purchased Congo painting, wildly swinging his arms like a monkey, and bit the reporter. Works by Congo hung in the homes of other well-known artists like Joan Miró and were publicly praised by Salvador Dali.

But was Congo’s “natural curiosity for shape and colour”, as Morris called it, enough to

It is Congo’s behaviour that arguably sets him apart from other animal artists. For example, he often threw tantrums if his paintings were taken away before he deemed them finished. Just as importantly, he exercised restraint in his painting – while some compositions were dense with colourful brushstrokes, others were strikingly sparse, and Congo would refuse to add to them further. These accounts suggest that Congo cared about how his paintings looked and had an artistic process.

Since Congo made his artistic debut, many more artists have undertaken collaborations with animals. In the 1970s, the Russian artistic duo Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid were the first to equip Asian elephants with paintbrushes and colour. The sale of the elephant’s paintings raised more than £19,000 for elephant conservation. In a Guardian interview, Komar said of the animals’ aptitude for painting “elephant art is only new to people, but it's not new to the elephants”; wild elephants had been seen doodling in the mud with sticks previously.

This raises another question: to what extent are animals capable of enjoying art for its own sake? It is difficult enough to establish neurobiological reasons for why art elicits emotion in humans, let alone animals. However, Stendhal, a 19th-century literary realist, suggested that we enjoy beautiful things because “beauty [is] the promise of happiness” – a principle which can be seen in the theory of sexual selection in animals.

For example, in many species of butterflies and birds, males have evolved beautiful colours which they use to woo females. Modern evolutionary biology would identify this as a tool for the female to pick a partner with the best reproductive fitness. For example, in birds like peacocks, abundant and colourful feathers are a sign of good health. However, Darwin himself was convinced that female animals “appreciated the beautiful as [beautiful]”. While studying butterflies, he decided that females did not favour flashier males solely because their beauty was a sign of fitness. Rather, he believed that the females enjoyed the males’ beauty for its own sake. Personally, I think that we should not be hasty to overexplain this behaviour with aesthetic judgements, we cannot assume that our human tendency to enjoy the ‘beautiful’ extends to birds and even insects. In peacocks, scientists have found that aesthetic factors as seemingly frivolous as tail symmetry are linked to environmental and genetic stress, providing potential mates with valuable information. This research suggests that even some of nature’s most beautiful animals are not motivated by straightforward aesthetics.

Congo, on the other hand, appeared to genuinely care about how his paintings looked. In a review of a Congo exhibition, art critic Waldemar Januszczek found it notable that the artist’s brush never shoots off the edge of the paper or blends colours into an unattractive muddiness. Congo was even said to have had favourite colours, preferring to paint with reds over blues.

Whatever the judgement, animal artists like Congo continue to capture the public imagination. The well-respected Mayor gallery in London exhibited 55 of the chimp’s paintings as recently as 2019. To enthusiasts, animal art is like gaining an insight into the secret inner world of a being with whom you can never otherwise communicate. To detractors it perhaps cheapens the definition of art, surely an animal could never compete with the emotion and aesthetic intent of the human artistic process?

However, I think that the aesthetic imperfection of true, animal-created artthose crude yet promising suggestions of selfexpression through symmetry, shape, and colour - is part of its appeal. Because there is something captivating about the idea of animals creating art, of creatures transcending the boundaries between species and doing what is, essentially, communication in its simplest form. After witnessing the creation of the famous Split Fan Pattern with Central Black Spot, Desmond Morris said that watching Congo paint “was like witnessing the birth of art”. To whatever extent animals can be said to be capable of creating art, the results are certainly fascinating to look at.

"Picasso himself held no grudges against animal artists: allegedly when asked by a reporter to comment on Congo’s art, Picasso left the room, returned clutching his newly purchased Congo painting, wildly swinging his arms like a monkey, and bit the reporter. "
"...he often threw tantrums if his paintings were taken away before he deemed them finished. "
"...we cannot assume that our human tendency to enjoy the ‘beautiful’ extends to birds and even insects. "

How AI and artists can coexist as collaborators rather than adversaries?

The discourse concerning ‘art’ created by artificial intelligence seems to be fast approaching a consensus. Computergenerated art has at its best been an exercise in creating absurd surrealist memes, such as the twitter viral “Court Sketch of Godzilla on Trial” by DALL-E Mini. At its worst, AI art has been a method by which freelance artists are being driven out of work, such as “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” by Midjourney which won the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition, much to human competitors’ dismay. Using AI to create ‘art’, or at least images, is not new however, the ease with which these images can be created has drastically decreased whilst the quality has drastically increased. Andy Baio does a comprehensive analysis of the various dangers this advancement holds, ranging from reducing “demand in some paid creative services” to “opening up new avenues for deepfakes, misinformation, and online harassment and exploitation”. If we believe there is an ethical responsibility on artists in the creation of their art, which is perhaps an unreasonable belief, can we find an ethical and constructive use for AI within the field of design?

Beginning a search for this tool should start with a brief look at how these image generators work. Many of the most popular generators (DALL-E 2, Midjourney, Nightcafe, Stable Diffusion) use Vector Quantized Generative Adversarial Network and Contrastive Language–Image Pretraining (VQGAN+CLIP) – a maths-heavy acronym that isn’t particularly meaningful for anyone outside of machine learning circles. Breaking this down, we have an image generator process in VQGAN and an image discriminator process in CLIP; VQGAN creates the ‘art’ and CLIP decides how well this ‘art’ meets the prompt the user has supplied, feeding back to VQGAN who tries again. The first iterations of

this process involve grainy nothing canvases that CLIP squints at and says “I guess it kind of looks like an erupting volcano painted by Van Gogh?”, or whatever the prompts was, before VQGAN returns a new iteration and asks “How about now? Hotter or colder?”. This repeats until we have an VQGAN image output that can fool CLIP (and discerning humans) that what they are seeing is the real deal. The success of this process relies heavily on how well-trained the process is, which is primarily a function of the quantity of images it has been fed as reference. This dataset routinely demonstrates societal biases seen in online image catalogues – for example, disproportionately returning photographs for cis-men when searching ‘CEO’, or white people when searching ‘professional hairstyles’ - and searches and inevitably contains copyrighted material, like original art and photography. Artist RJ Palmer told BBC News’ Chris Vallance that “AI is not just like finding inspiration in the work of other artists: This is directly stealing their essence in a way".

The 3 main considerations we want to consider in creating an ethical use of AI in design (alongside concerns about the quality of output, well-covered elsewhere) are as follows:

• AI should not replace an artist but instead be another tool a designer could utilise, like a new set of brushes or an idea journal.

•AI should not mimic an existing artist but instead at most reference styles and concepts, with personal touches added by the designer, like seeking inspiration from a gallery visit. • AI should not be trusted with solely directing output but instead work under supervision and guidance from an (ethical) designer, like a master directing an apprentice.

With these in mind, we can craft a VQGAN+CLIP+Designer approach in which the designer inserts themselves into the AI process to ensure these considerations are met. This concept, known as Human In The Loop (HITL), has been applied in many machine learning environments to improve transparency, incorporate human judgement, and lessen the need for ‘perfect’ algorithms. The existing

“AI is not just like finding inspiration in the work of other artists: This is directly stealing their essence in a way."
"AI should not replace an artist but instead be another tool a designer could utilise, like a new set of brushes or an idea journal."
"Computer-generated art has at its best been an exercise in creating absurd surrealist memes, such as the twitter viral ‘Court Sketch of Godzilla on Trial’ by DALL-E Mini."

literature has, however, been much more focused on the improvement of decision-making/outputs through HITL, rather than viewing it as an ethical necessity.

We begin with creating the prompt for the ‘art’; the designer here comes up with a broad idea and refines it through conversation with an AI. This issue of I, Science is around creativity, so the designer wants to produce something that represents the theme. They let a chatbot finish the sentence “The overlap of technology and creativity can be represented by a painting of…”

"...Charlie Chaplin and a music box that plays Modern Musical Instruments (1935) by Gerald Landgrebe

...the artist and the child looking at the light switch at the bottom of the artwork

...one giant code, from which our knowledge is being redefined and our creativity evolved"

The AI struggles to stay on topic here, but the designer likes the idea of a painting of code, something we rarely see outside the medium of a pixellated screen. The designer takes this idea and brings it to Midjourney, an image generator and discriminiator as we described earlier, prompting the AI to create fuzzy shapes that iteratively approaches the prompt “a beautiful impressionist oil painting of computer code”the outputs of this can be seen in progress and finalised in the first two images.

The designer appreciates the AI framed pieces, but much prefers the computer setup included in the second option. The designer returns to the AI for variations on that image-the finalised outputs of this iteration can be seen in in the third image.

The designer instructs the AI to now upscale the favoured option from this batch, so it is a higher resolution for use-seen in in the fourth image. They can then import it into their design software of choice (which may have its own AI tools) to add their personal touches to the piece and shape the output to their requirements-seen in the fifth and sixth images.

When appraising this approach against our stated considerations, we can at most say that damages have been limited rather than completely averted. Has the designer robbed an artist of the opportunity to fill this magazine page with their original art? Has the designer stolen the copyrighted content of historic and contemporary impressionist painters as well as stock photography companies? Is there enough involvement on the designer’s part to claim this ‘art’ is theirs or does it belong to the generator? Or to nobody?

I started an AI-designed-graphic-tee-sidehustle earlier this year, called GraphicAI, and attempted to use this design process and principles throughout. I am certainly doing my best to be ethical, but there may be something inherently flawed in AI ‘art’ and design that I cannot overcome. Should this endeavour grow in success, the size of this moral dilemma will certainly grow with it.

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Medical tests like electroencephalography (EEG) or blood tests cannot solely be depended upon to diagnose mental illness, yet treatment is widely through medical intervention. Regardless, in many communities mental illness diagnoses aren’t taken seriously and remain taboo. ‘Diagnosis is Futile’ is an attempt to reconcile with these contradictions and personal battles.


Mad Miller: The philosophy of the doctor director

It’s difficult to distinguish where the madness of the titular Mad Max begins and where the creative genius of director George Miller ends. His latest film, Three Thousand Years of Longing, released early September is about a Djinn unleashed from his lamp by a taciturn woman who is reluctant to know what to wish for. The film travels back through history as it interweaves myth and reality, all with a cinematic panache that dazzles with its movement and colour.

Before this, he made movies about sweet talking pigs like Babe, animated tap-dancing penguins in Happy Feet and apocalyptic vehicular dystopias in the form of the Mad Max trilogy. In the cinematic industry where directors are usually so specialized to a specific genre, it’s very rare to see anyone trail blaze with a combination of such range and resounding success.

With such a filmography, one would assume the creation of such stories with acerbic intuition and skill would have come from the tongue of an individual with immense background in the arts. To the surprise of most however—though perhaps not to the man himself— medicine was in fact his first true profession.

So how did someone initially burdened with such a demanding occupation become one of today’s most pre-eminent directors? Did such a commitment to science and medicine lend a healing hand to his modern creative acclaim?

To produce a crispy clear 4k movie picture of his unique development, let’s take a trip through Fury Road and deeper down south towards George Miller’s past. At the age of eight, George Miller had already aspired to be a doctor. A child of immigrant parents, he grew up in the small Australian town of Chinchilla in South Queensland, at the time home to only two thousand people. He had no intention of making films, as there was no prospect of a future in what could only be a passion and nothing more. In a way, he claimed being unaware of its professional potential was actually a better method of learning. Despite having both feet entrenched in the throes of medical school, he would cut classes to attend cinema screenings by his university film society and local grindhouse during lectures. He would only keep up by reading the notes transcribed by his twin brother, who was also his medical school classmate. By the time he graduated, his

obsession paid off as he was awarded a prize for a short film he made with friends. This allowed him to attend a film workshop that further propelled his career, and we can only be thankful he never looked back. It seems the passion, as it always does when fate is on your side, trumped obligation.

are engaged with humans from varying points of view and in their totality. You look inside a person during surgery, inspect minuscule cells the lens of a microscope, and also take a wider macroscopic view on epidemiological trends and relationships. To Miller, the various perspectives of human investigation from the microscopic to the entire population mimic that of the screen in its use of wide and close-up shots. There are parallels for anyone willing to see it and are open to let fascination take hold of you with reckless abandon. In this way, Miller claims the investigation of the human element through medicine has made his cinema what it is.

However, when there has always been a perceived gulf between science and art, George Miller has substantiated the existence of a bridge in this gap through his own experience entwined in both. He has credited his medical life as somewhat of an apprenticeship for his film career and sees a parallel between them in the involvement of active problem solving. Both a patient in need of resuscitation and a pressurized film set must be treated swiftly before going limp.

Regardless of how indebted Miller is to science, it is intriguing to hear him contend, “in any case, no matter what your discipline, the process is the same.” In the same way a doctor treats an unknown illness, a mathematician finds the solution to an equation, or an actor figuring out how to perform his scene: the process is always the same. The best work is done with reckless abandon, and a trust in the intuition only gained through intense preparation. Reading between the lines then, it is not what profession you’re in that defines what you create, but the passion and dedication residing deep within that is quietly but not so patiently waiting to unravel and unleash

More importantly, the medical life demands human interaction, and these interactions give you a refined sense of what is contained within the human condition. In his own words, it offered him “ a very privileged perspective of other humans.” Medicine exposes you to the need to understand people’s histories in order to diagnose their ailment; to witness the extremities of life such as death and childbirth. Within it you

“In a sense, we’re all on our own Fury Road,” he says, and he has lived true to this maverick mantra to an extent even greater than Mad Max himself. The man, now seventy-seven with thick curly grey hair and a penetrating gaze through his distinguished set of polarized spectacles, inspires the look more of a wizened djinn that he himself would have created. Yet it must be said that based on what he’s achieved, it may be hard-pressed for anyone to be convinced otherwise.

"However, when there has always been a perceived gulf between science and art, George Miller has substantiated the existence of a bridge in this gap through his own experience entwined in both."
"...the medical life demands human interaction, and these interactions give you a refined sense of what is contained within the human condition."
"It is not what profession you’re in that defines what you create, but the passion and dedication residing deep within that is quietly but not so patiently waiting to unravel and unleash."

Science on stage

An interview with playwright

Lights up on a subterranean laboratory on a research university campus. Jo, a female undergraduate, has just arrived in response to an online post promising a night of “intensely significant coupling”. Unbeknownst to Jo is that Jules, the male marine biology PhD student who wrote the post, is gay, and has invited Jo due to (correctly) predicting an oncoming apocalypse based on years of observing fish behaviour. Therefore, he needs a fertile female with which to re-populate the human race. In the end, it’s unnecessary as two of his fish lay eggs, allowing the chordate evolutionary chain to begin anew. Oh, and one last twist… the entire universe of the subterranean lab is part of a science museum exhibit operated by curator Barbara—asking the audience to play the role of both the scientist and the museum guests by watching the specimens in the tank and how they interact. After a workshop over the summer of 2007, it got picked up by Ars Nova, now one of the top Off-Broadway theatres for bold new work including Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (which then ran on Broadway and garnered twelve Tony nominations, the most of any show that season). From there, boom…if you’ll forgive the pun…exploded, becoming the most performed play in US regional theatre in the 2009-10 season and continuing to regularly appear on college, community, and professional stages today.

Peter Sin Nachtrieb has written many plays, particularly dark comedies that ask scientific questions—and they’ve been performed on stages all across the United States and the world. I sat down (okay, I zoomed) with Nachtrieb on a crisp Friday afternoon, where we talked science, theatre, and bridging the gap between the two.

"I wanted to give that poetry, the romance, to the scientific story that also exists in a lot of religions and creation myths."

playwright Peter Sin Nachtrieb

Q: In the introductory notes for boom, you say something that has resonated with me for a decade—that both biology and theatre are trying to make sense of the world in an epic and intimate way, which is interesting because it seems almost paradoxical, but it isn’t.

A:Yeah! So, I just think the rules are different. They’re both trying to interrogate who we are, and our truth, and I think for me, I really ended up bending towards theatre because I want to be able to ask questions that I can’t answer. And I feel like in science you have to be able to at least attempt to answer the question—but I think even those questions that you can answer by experimental design, they’re often pushing towards the unanswerable question and I think that’s what theatre is about, just leaping into the void a little farther. So, I do think that they’re very interconnected. I wanted to give that poetry, the romance, to the scientific story that also exists in a lot of religions and creation myths.

Brown, my theatre professor Larry Marshall, was running their summer theatre that had sort of a “new play” focus…some people came to see it and I got invited to do a reading at Ars Nova in New York and I think that was the first hint that this play had some traction and some interest beyond what I would normally expect. It happened really quickly—and at the same time a couple of large regional theatres had reached out about it as well. And then it got published and produced all over the place.

what I liked so there’s already some crossover there. I actually have a musical that we premiered in 2019 called “Fall Springs”. It turned into a musical about a town called Fall Springs that’s sinking into the ground because they’re fracking for essential oils underneath it. The daughter of the mayor, Eloise, is a “closeted” scientist—her mom was a geologist who died in a cave accident… this is all like, deliberately inspired by tropes of disaster films.

Q: Had you ever done a musical before that?

A:No, so that was my first full-length musical. It was seven or eight years before we got that premiere production, so y’know, a lot of workshops, a lot of readings…and we’re continuing to work on it.

Q:When you originally decided to pursue a theatrical career, was playwriting the original plan?


:Is the word boom in reference to the Cambrian explosion, the apocalyptic event, or both?


both and probably more things too. It’s the explosions, the radical changes that can happen, whether it’s a comet, a personal epiphany…the title is intentionally lowercase, to create a little tension between the word and how it’s written and I think that’s sort of speaking to the evolutionary story it’s looking at. Sometimes evolution is triggered by major events and sometimes it’s triggered by one little accident that happens to be very successful.

Q:At what point did you realise boom was going to be so successful? Did you have any idea?

A:Honestly, I had no idea…I definitely did not expect when writing it that it was going to be my “moneymaker” so to speak. At

A:Oh no—it was acting first, then directing, then I was doing a lot of writing as well, a lot of sketch comedy. I think there was a moment where I realised I couldn’t mentally sustain being a hyphen—a something-slash-something-slash-something. It felt like I needed to commit more to writing, so I made a commitment to being a playwright first.

Q:So when you were shifting from hyphenate to mostly playwright, did you intentionally think “I’m going to make plays about science” or was it more unconscious?

A:I think it had always been there. I remember also watching a lot of Monty Python, which has a lot of science-y humour in there, that intellectual humour was always

Q: So, any person who makes art that communicates scientific concepts is a science communicator, right? It is a science communication magazine, after all. What do you think the role is of a science communicator?

A:I think it’s so important—it’s to be a translator, in a way. I think the best science writers are the ones who can incorporate that storytelling feel to it, so they create a narrative. I think that if you can present something in a comic way, you can make a deeper impact in someone’s soul. When you open people with laughter, the ideas can drop in a bit more easily.

Jocelin Weiss is an MSc student in Science Media Production and Co-Editor of Video Content at I, Science. She played Jo in the opening scene of “boom” and then was the marine biology dramaturg for a workshop of the play during her undergraduate studies.

"I think that if you can present something in a comic way, you can make a deeper impact in someone’s soul."

Art therapy: The intersection of creativity and psychology

What is art therapy?

According to the British Association of Art Therapists, art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves making art to communicate unspoken feelings and experiences. Rua McGarry, an art therapy master’s student in the USA, defines art therapy as:

“a practice that incorporates art into therapy, where clients are given the opportunity to use more than words to process and express themselves. It is also a beautiful opportunity for clients to receive unconditional praise for their skills, build confidence, and connect with themselves.”

Clients need no previous art skills or experience to participate. Art therapy sessions will vary in activity depending on clients’ needs and preferences. For example, art may be made in silence or while in conversation with the art therapist, and the medium and materials used is up to the client. Clay sculpture-making might suit one more than painting with acrylics or watercolors.

Meanwhile, the art therapist might sit quietly and pay attention as the client makes art, or they may join in on the artmaking. Art therapists will then help the client think through the “thoughts, feelings and experiences” that appear when studying the art made or during the creative session.

Can it help cancer patients?

Many people can use art therapy to help with emotional difficulties. Charity organization Cancer Research UK supports art therapy as an option to help cope with cancer symptoms and treatments.

In fact, a study was conducted in the UK in 2019 on how art therapy might impact pain after breast cancer treatments. Previous research has shown that art therapy can improve depression, health, and other factors, so it might have strong potential in being a form of pain treatment. The results are currently unavailable, but this is just one example of art therapy being explored in different fields.

An art therapist in training

Rua McGarry is studying to become an art therapist in the USA.

During her undergraduate studies in studio art and psychology, McGarry interned with licensed art therapists at an art center at a residential camp for people with social, cognitive, and developmental disabilities. Also during university, they gained experience as a social work intern at an intensive outpatient day hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. McGarry worked with children with behavioral and mental health issues who couldn’t participate in their regular routines.

“As a social work intern, I spent a lot of my day calling therapists and trying to establish long-term care to follow discharge, but I also spent any free time coloring, crafting, and being present with the children.”

Through these internships, McGarry was able to witness people regulate their emotions by making art and see just how finished artwork

elicited pride and offered paths to talk about difficult feelings.

“My own experiences using art to process complex emotions have also played a large role in inspiring me to seek greater knowledge about art as a therapeutic mode of healing and communication.”

McGarry began their graduate studies in the summer of 2022, so she is at the beginning of her training. The foundations of graduate studies in art therapy begin with the history of art therapy. Students like McGarry learn how art therapy has developed using Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic therapeutic theories. They also study how prehistoric cave paintings contribute to modes of art and communication in the modern day. Studying art history – specifically the history of creating and making art alongside the history of storytelling – demonstrates that people have been making art for no purpose beyond creating and leaving a legacy of sorts. Expressing emotions and complicated feelings through art is a historical process, and people in the modern era are explicitly harnessing this creative process to improve mental health.

Art therapy students can also take classes on power, privilege, and oppression, which McGarry is really excited about. “It is so important, especially for therapists who are in a position of power, to be knowledgeable about how their actions [have the potential to be] deeply harmful.”

Supporting those in times of mental health crisis involves understanding individual struggles and the larger external systemic processes that are causing long-lasting distress and damage to people. By studying both art-therapeutic theories and systems of oppression, art therapists are being equipped to help people cope with the complex problems they face in our world.

In the future, McGarry’s dream is to open an art gallery where people experiencing housing insecurity can create and sell art. This unique method of art therapy would allow some of society’s most vulnerable individuals seek mental health support while also offering an opportunity to make money and ease some financial burdens. Furthermore, this gallery space would facilitate informed community support, which would make a positive impact on the wider public as well.

But right now, as she works through her first year of graduate school, McGarry is most excited to learn how to interpret clients’ artwork. “I think we say a lot subconsciously through art.”

"Previous research has shown that art therapy can improve depression, health, and other factors, so it might have strong potential in being a form of pain treatment."
"By studying both arttherapeutic theories and systems of oppression, art therapists are being equipped to help people cope with the complex problems they face in our world. "


COVID-19 and its associated symptoms have raised awareness of anosmia (loss of smell) which is at the centre of my practice research. ‘Anosmia Visualised’ is my response, as an olfactory artist, to the life-changing effects of the condition, representing pungent and appetising foodstuffs as bland and transparent, showing what it must be like without the sense of smell or taste.


Science and anci ent ar t

Scientists and philosophers have often tried to establish the nature of the relationship between science and art. They have mainly used two lines of investigation: how the two disciplines have interacted throughout history and how scientific developments have enabled us to preserve and uncover mysteries behind impactful artwork.

and yellow ochres from Haematite, iron(III) oxide, manganese oxide browns, charcoal black and calcite white. The pigments were finely ground and placed in water to separate the heavy quartz that sinks in water from the colour pigments which remained suspended on the top (this a method known as separation by density). The pigment residue left after evaporation of the water was bound using plant sap. The palaeolithic artists even explored the size dependence of the particles by obtaining purple from red haematite by increasing the particle size.

Cave paintings are the earliest recorded artwork and date back to the dawn of civilisation. Although simple and minimalist, they have endured thousands of years of natural wear and tear through the ingenious use of pigments and minerals. Today they give us a great insight into the life and evolution of prehistoric humans. The oldest discovered paintings found in the limestone karst caves of Sulawesi, Indonesia are at least 32,000 years old, with the oldest painting being at least 45,000 years old. The age of the paintings was estimated through Uranium dating, a method that uses radioactive decay timescales to estimate age, a great example of scientific development that helps us understand art. The paintings depict Sulawesi warty pigs in red and purple hues and are a very typical example of a Palaeolithic cave painting. The Palaeolithic period (38,000 –12,000 BC) was marked by cave paintings that depicted animals spread throughout Europe, Africa, Southern and Pacific Asia. Colour palettes depended on the geological features of the region as the pigments were made of inorganic rock materials like red

Dated between 5000 BC to 300 AD, the ancient civilisations thrived in India, Rome, Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China, among others. Art was considered a means of enforcing political and religious order in societies and was of great significance. The science of art became more sophisticated in these regions, and it laid the foundation for modern scientific methods, for example, materials chemistry evolved tremendously with nanotechnology rooted in this period. A classic demonstration of this is the Lycurgus Cup that is made of dichroic glass, it changes colour depending on the lighting angle and is currently in the British Museum. When light is shone through the cup it appears red purple, but it appears green in direct light. Through spectroscopy, a method that uses the emission and absorption of light for imaging, the dichroic effect was explained to be because of miniscule gold and silver particles dispersed in the glass. This is another instance when scientific development has helped us uncover artistic mysteries. The gold particles are larger and produce a red colour by absorbing longer wavelengths, and the silver particles similarly

are responsible for the green. Ancient Roman glass makers and potters also dispersed Copper and Iron Oxide to obtain bright and lustrous red colours. Mayan mural paintings and ceramics usually featured Maya Blue, an organic/inorganic hybrid composed of palygorskite clay and indigo dye. Palygorskite clay is a zeolite, a type of crystal, with very miniscule channels filled with water. The ancient Egyptians also made use of a type of zeolite called lapis lazuli for its lustre and bright blue colour in pharaoh tombs and ornaments. The Ajanta caves in India feature beautiful murals that have 3-D visual effects achieved using clever colour blending and optical effects. The palette only consisted of six colours that were naturally available, they revolutionised cementing techniques using zeolites in the earthen plaster that was used to smoothen the surface and increase the intensity of the colours used. Just south of the region of the Ajanta Caves in modern day Karnataka, Wootz steel was made using the crucible method, by heating wrought iron with carbon rich materials. Wootz steel is an ultra-high carbon steel exhibiting properties such as super plasticity (the ability to exhibit extraordinarily long elongation at high temperatures) and high impact strength. The steel contained carbon nanotubes (single layer of interconnected carbon atoms rolled into a cylinder) and was used to make ornate swords and daggers. Around this period the ancient Chinese had mastered the art of Porcelain making. The ornate vases and pots were decorated with intricate floral and abstract patterns. The most coveted type of porcelain was the “Blue and White” variety which had pure white clay bodies and were painted in rich shades of blue using cobalt.

It is clear that ancient artists had an advanced knowledge of materials and scientific methods, but how does scientific advancements today affect the way we view and interpret these works of art? Commonly used spectroscopy and radioactive dating are tried and tested methods of analysis. Newer methods allow us to map out the materials and elemental composition of paintings and the sequence of application of the materials. The method quantifies the amount of light reflected

"The oldest discovered paintings found in the limestone karst caves of Sulawesi, Indonesia are at least 32,000 years old, with the oldest painting being at least 45,000 years old. "
"Art was considered a means of enforcing political and religious order in societies and was of great significance. "

by the artwork and identifies the components of the materials. Artistic mysteries have also been uncovered using science like the famous Chinese terracotta dancing horse of the Tang dynasty that was recently found to have a tassel on its forehead which had been lost after countless restorations. This was discovered using cutting edge molecular, chemical, and mineralogical tests. The focus now has shifted to conserving art. Efforts are being made to clean up past mistakes from previous restorations using AI aided imaging, glue-eating bacteria and a clever mix of solvents as well as using laser technology to destroy dirt. Nanotechnology and colloidal science, which is the study of particles suspended in solutions, are being used to replace traditional cleaning solvents as well as rebuild deteriorating frescos.

What we can conclude from this is that both lines of investigation proposed by philosophers have the same answer. Art and science can have a symbiotic relationship; in many ways they are inseparable and will be for years to come.

"Art and science can have a symbiotic relationship; in many ways they are inseparable and will be for years to come. "

What we can learn from polymathy?

also a popular one. However, the general trend is glaringly obvious.

However, numerous historical figures with various skill sets spanning the scientific and creative realms are remembered as genii. This is the world of polymathy: where inventors are also magnificent sculptors, astronomers philosophise famously by night and physicians write profound poetry in their spare time. In a world that increasingly promotes and demands specialisation, some argue that polymathy died with Leonardo da Vinci. Others argue that the phenomenon has just rebranded and is demonstrated by individuals like Elon Musk. Essentially, identifying the ‘modern-day’ polymath is a controversial inquiry. In her Ted Talk titled Pageantry, Polymathy and Purpose, self-proclaimed polymath Stephanie Hill suggests that we are in the middle of a new Renaissance era with polymathy accessible to most. Whether or not people agree with this claim, one cannot deny that the conversation has largely revolved around men.

Traditionally, a ‘polymath’ refers to a famous individual who has had monumental successes in any number of unrelated fields. Linguistically, the term originates from the Greek words ‘polu’ and ‘manthanein,’ meaning ‘much’ and ‘learning’, respectively, which combine to form ‘polumathēs’: having learned so much. Other definitions include “a person who knows a lot about many different subjects” or, arguably more succinctly, “a person of Encyclopaedic learning”. Common to most lists of famous polymaths are names like Aristotle, Nikola Tesla and Benjamin Franklin. Occasionally, individuals like Marie Curie, Hellen Keller and Katherine Johnson make appearances. Nowadays, individuals like Steve Jobs, Donald Glover and Stephen Fry tend to appear after Google searching “who are recent polymaths?”. Actor Natalie Portman, who has a PhD in Psychology, is

Several reasons contribute to the fact that there seem to be fewer female polymaths. As is known all too well, women have historically been limited in a professional scope, therefore, the representation and celebration of successful women (and especially those of colour) is lacking. Hence, it is understandable why the same trend carries over into polymathy, which is essentially a combination of fields. In spite of an unfavourable history in this regard, there should be emphasis placed on honouring these talented women. One example is Dr Mae Jemison (b. 1956): the quintessential modern-day polymath.

to the same questions: who are we and why are we here? These independent institutions have developed their own creative methods to seek these answers, investigations which Jemison is all too familiar with. The differing philosophies of these ‘avatars’ amalgamate to create new perspectives about the world, which is arguably where the power of polymathy lies. Polymaths are magnets for collaboration, bringing together different specialties and skills that lay the foundation for powerful innovation and rapid growth, fuelling original and out-of-the-box solutions to problems facing society. Polymathy is powerful and is not only responsible for some of the greatest advances in the modern world, but also for highlighting the relationship between science and creativity.

“Astronaut, Physician, Engineer, Educator and Futurist,” reads the Twitter bio of Dr Jemison. Most celebrated as the first woman of colour to travel to space onboard the Endeavour in 1992, she orbited the earth 127 times. Prior to her astronautics career, Jemison obtained degrees in Chemical Engineering, African and African American studies and Medicine. She worked as a doctor in her home country of the US as well as various developing countries and she served in the Peace Corps. Entrepreneurship is listed in her more recent endeavours, more specifically establishing her technology consultancy company, the Jemison Group. She has also trialled writing, authoring an autobiographical children’s book entitled: Find Where the Wind Goes. Her multi-faceted background qualifies her as a spokesperson for the intersection of a common polymathic combination, science and art, of which she famously said:

“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.”.

What Jemison was exploring was that, in essence, art and science propose answers

Although the immense achievements of polymaths like Dr Jemison may seem intimidating, as Ella Saltmarshe said, “[to be a polymath] doesn’t mean you have to be a particle physicist by day, a Bookerwinning novelist by night and winning marathons on the weekend. You just need to be skilled in diverse areas”. Therefore, as the technical definition of polymathy details, this traditionally esteemed title is up for grabs: anyone could be a few Duolingo courses or musical theatre classes away from being “a person of wide knowledge or learning.” So, the host of self-proclaimed polymaths you can read about on the internet are not necessarily making false claims. On the contrary, with the saying “to be a jack of all trades, a master of none” looming, professionals of today are advised to sharpen their career focus and develop their niche skill set. This perspective can be traced to the industrial revolution which propagated the specialisation of knowledge and intellectualism. However, the case for the success of generalists is growing. With the popularisation of STEM as a distinct entity in education and business, as well as the inclusion of art as STEAM, it seems that the world is understanding the powerful force of harnessing different skill sets to innovate and create.

Irrespective of which side of the debate one supports, it is undeniable that there is lots to learn from the so-called polymaths of the past and present. This is especially true for those whose unique stories of blended talent have remained untold.

"Most people will agree that scientists need to be creative. Most people will disagree that they need to have a sister degree in Fine Art."
Most people will agree that scientists need to be creative. Most people will disagree that they need to have a sister degree in Fine Art.
"...The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity."

Book review: Vaxxers

"While it is a reminder of the challenges and tragedy of the past few years, this book overwhelmingly stands as a testament to the mammoth feats that are possible when humans unite. "

In their book Vaxxers, Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green retell their experiences from January 2020 through April 2022 as they developed the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. While predominantly focused on the ins and outs of creating, scaling, and testing their vaccine, they occasionally inject their personal experiences of lockdowns and personal tribulations into the narrative—from dealing with wasp infestations to managing COVID Christmases—which brings their humanity to the forefront. The book quashes common myths and misunderstandings about vaccines (the AstraZeneca vaccine in particular), demonstrates the enormity of human effort put into the vaccine’s development, and recommends lessons to learn in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is a reminder of the challenges and tragedy of the past few years, this book overwhelmingly stands as a testament to the mammoth feats that are possible when humans unite.


Gilbert and Green start in January 2020, when they first heard the news of an unidentified disease outbreak in Wuhan, China. They explain how they quickly decided to use their existing vaccine platform, ChAdOx, to develop a vaccine specific to this new disease. What starts as exploratory work on a disease that might fizzle out before they even receive materials to start vaccine development rapidly becomes “the only story in the world,” with governments, the media, and all of humanity watching. Throughout the complicated process, Gilbert and Green share the challenges, triumphs, worries, and frustrations they faced to produce a vaccine faster than ever before.

One of the predominant messages the authors aim to deliver is the presence of safety checks and balances in the process of vaccine development. By explaining each phase of development step by step—and often in much more detail than ever provided in the media—Gilbert and Green demystify vaccine development and dispel fears and misunderstandings. They specifically address myths about the AstraZeneca and other COVID vaccines—such as the myth that the vaccines cause infertility—worries about the ingredients (they include an annotated list of the ingredients in an appendix of the book), unfounded concerns about very decreased effectiveness in older adults, and more.

One of the largest concerns they address is how the COVID-19 vaccines were able to be developed at such a rapid pace compared to previous vaccines. With the help of a huge team of people around the world, Gilbert and Green orchestrated the creation of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, scaled up

production to millions of doses, completed animal trials, and mounted three phases of clinical (human) trials on multiple continents. There were three key factors that allowed this process to take less than a year, which are reiterated throughout the book: abundant funding, decreased waiting times between trial phases, and prior development of vaccine platforms and technology.

The urgency of the pandemic meant that governments and companies were throwing money at the issue in a way that had previously never been done. With abundant funding available, many of Gilbert and Green’s vaccine development phases did not need to wait for fundraising before proceeding. Before there was abundant funding from grants or AstraZeneca early in the development process, Gilbert, Green, and Oxford University chose to take financial risks to continue with the next stages of development. They also prepared materials and vaccine doses in advance so that when a previous phase was successful, they could immediately move into the next phase. Thus, due to increased funding, taking financial risks before funding was available, and expert organizational foresight, there was very little waiting from one stage to the next. Additionally, much of the technology and platforms used for the COVID vaccines had been in development for years, propelled by research into vaccines for Ebola, influenza, and other diseases. Many of these developments in vaccine technology happened well before the first case of COVID-19 in a human and were already well tested, helping scientists avoid a lot of trial and error that would have slowed COVID vaccine development.

In the final few chapters (including a new chapter published in April 2022), Gilbert and Green lay out many of the lessons the world must learn from this pandemic. They emphasize the importance of exploratory pandemic preparedness research and development—for vaccines, but also for diagnostic technology, disease surveillance, manufacturing techniques and facilities, and more. Investing in pandemic preparedness allows for discoveries to be made that can benefit many different aspects of pandemic management. Research we do now could help us produce vaccines even faster in the future, allow for better management and care of people during a future pandemic, and catch disease outbreaks before they become pandemics in the first place. Another pandemic is inevitable someday; Gilbert and Green urge readers and governments to prioritize pandemic funding so that when the next one comes, we are better prepared for it.


Gilbert and Green’s book demystifies and humanizes the process of vaccine development. As the book unfolds, the reader is faced with the sheer amount of people, resources, and time that was dedicated to this vaccine. While the book reminds the reader of dark times, it still leaves a sense of wonder and a tender heart for every person who had a part in creating a vaccine that helped the world return to normality.

There are a few aspects of the writing and structure

of the book that can make it difficult to follow. The timeline repeats itself often; this adds to the reader’s awareness of the organizational challenge of overlapping vaccine development steps, but also makes for a more confusing read. Occasionally, the authors get ahead of themselves explaining a particular issue, and then cover the same information in a later section. Perhaps a graphic timeline of events would have been a helpful appendix.

While some sections describing technical aspects of making the vaccine are clearly written and easy to follow, others get wordy or require multiple rereads in order to fully comprehend what was done. Gilbert and Green use metaphors, with varying degrees of success, to describe techniques they used, define terms, or add a more artful touch to an otherwise mostly technical and explanatory work. Somehow, these signs of imperfection ultimately feed a sense of humanity that permeates the entire book. The COVID-19 vaccines that released us all from the confines of masks and social distancing were not produced by amorphous, abstract machines and companies. Of course, companies and machines were involved, but this book leaves the reader struck by the fact that the ideas and choices that ultimately led to our salvation were made by people.

From the earliest news of a disease outbreak, there were real humans who were looking out for the world. In the face of continual setbacks and challenges, they persevered for the sake of people— even when some of those setbacks included false accusations and protests lobbied directly from those people they sought to protect. As the pandemic unfolded, humanity was repeatedly struck by loss of life, fear for family and friends, mental health struggles in lockdowns, and so much more. People threw blame and vitriol at each other as science became political, and frustrations and mistrust mounted between governments and their people, and between neighboring countries. For many, the pandemic has left us feeling sapped of energy and disillusioned with humanity. Yet, as Gilbert and Green demonstrate in their book, while it was our humanity that made a mess of the pandemic, it was also our humanity that got us out of it.

Vaxxers is a reminder of the light in the darkness. Readers will be left with a sense of appreciation and awe for the thousands of people—including scientists, manufacturers, vaccine trial participants, and even some big pharma employees. The curtain has been raised on vaccine development, and what waits behind is not a horror film, but a feel-good movie.

"From the earliest news of a disease outbreak, there were real humans who were looking out for the world. "


In the cinematic genre of body horror, we often witness when science and technology go too far.

Above depicts the grotesque transformation of scientist Brundle into a fly after his ambitious experiment malfunctions (The Fly, 1986).

Below is the protagonist of Titane (2021), who inconceivably fuses with a car following the medical insertion of titanium plates into her skull as a child.


Mindful maker

Mindfulness is defined by an awareness of the present moment and non-judgemental acceptance. By being fully present in the moment, we can reduce stress, gain insight and experience true joy. Although a simple principle, in practice mindfulness meditation can be much more challenging to achieve. Guided meditations can provide a strong foundation for our practice, but reaching a meditative state is not necessarily the ultimate way to practice. Socalled ‘mindful moments’ focus on the natural harvesting of a sense of awareness through everyday activities that may include eating, showering, or walking. Several mediationbased mindfulness practices have been developed at universities across the world. But there’s a gap in alternative forms that the practice can take. The world is ever more mass consumerism focused, which leaves

little space to fulfil our need for creativity. Crafting can be defined by a need for this creative input. The repetitive act of many crafts such as needlework, knitting, and sculpturing encourages a meditative state and crafts such these give a tactile foundation for our practice. For example, when we knit, we learn to observe to stitches and patterns with our full attention. This practice of relaxation, while also keeping our thoughts in check, harnesses a sense of peace and focus. This is how crafting can be a practice of mindfulness.

additional benefits to the practice through sharing."

Mindful crafting hands over the trust to our inner creative, allowing us to express ourselves through the art of making. Letting go of judgement is a key focus of mindfulness and manifesting this through craft can feel like a safe way to be ourselves and be imaginative. When we take responsibility for mistakes in our work and learn how to correct them, we practice patience, confidence, and independence in a safe way. Mindful crafts work well on an individual basis, although studies show that group crafting adds additional benefits to the practice through sharing. Evetts, Miller, and Gay conducted a study using mindful craft guidelines in students. Feedback from the students indicated the usefulness of crafting guidelines in allowing them to uptake leadership roles.

At Imperial, mindfulness is offered on an extra-curricular basis as part of a new social society formed this year. And mindfulness is becoming more popular amongst college campuses worldwide, but it is far less widespread amongst STEM disciplines, despite these subjects being stressful for many learners and staff. Art is often insufficiently acknowledged in the field of science, despite it playing a key role. The skill of distinguishing patterns, shapes, and spatial relations allow scientists to become more well-rounded with regards to their observational skills. It also allows them to make clearer representations of the data obtained. It would be positive to see more artwork shared within Imperial, particularly through shared activities such as mindful crafting sessions. Do you have ideas in ways that mindful crafting could be incorporated into Imperial’s community?

"Mindful crafts work well on an individual basis, although studies show that group crafting adds
"By being fully present in the moment, we can reduce stress, gain insight and experience true joy."
"At Imperial, mindfulness is offered on an extracurricular basis as part of a new social society formed this year. "

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Articles inside

Art therapy: The intersection of creativity and psychology

pages 22-23

playwright Peter Sin Nachtrieb

page 21

Science on stage An interview with playwright

page 20

Mad Miller: The philosophy of the doctor director

page 19

How AI and artists can coexist as collaborators rather than adversaries?

pages 14-15, 17-18

Where do creative ideas come from?

pages 11, 13

Science and art: Two branches of the same tree

page 10

Is it really nature vs nurture? The answer might be culture!

pages 9-10

The neuroscience of creativity: are creative geniuses born or made?

pages 6-8

The Next Space Race

page 5

Mindful maker

page 16

Book review: Vaxxers

page 15

What we can learn from polymathy?

page 14

Science and anci ent ar t

page 13

Science on stage

pages 11-12

Mad Miller: The philosophy of the doctor director

page 10

Can animals create and enjoy art?

pages 7-9

Science and art: Two branches of the same tree

page 6

Is it really nature vs nurture? The answer might be culture!

pages 5-6

The neuroscience of creativity: are creative geniuses born or made?

pages 4-5

The Next Space Race

page 3

Chestertons: Helping Imperial Students with Accommodation

pages 2-3
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