In the current issue of Seed, Chuck Hoberman - designer, architect, artist, andengineer best known for inventing the Hoberman Sphere, a geodesic globe that can expand up to five times its diameter, meets with Harvard physicist Lisa Randall, famous for her work on extra dimensionality, to discuss the idea of shape.
On the menu: what it means to see. I found it interesting near the end of the video that for Hoberman, shape should to be functional above all else, whereas Randall seems to indicate that aesthetic values also come into play when evaluating the fitness of scientific ideas. It thought it might have been the reverse.
But her hesitancy to endorse practicality above all else, if indeed it was that, brought to my mind cosmologist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne's suggestion that "if you've got some ugly equations, you almost certainly haven't got it right." Of course, any discussion of our mental models and what they can access (or not) touches on the much older ideas expressed in Plato's theory of forms. Whether real or not we cannot comprehend, at least not now, all of reality at one time. An even deeper and related question might be why is there something rather than nothing? Because oblivion is unstable?
Heck if I know.
Elsewhere in Seed - it's a terrific issue - editor Jonah Lehrer fantasizes about other artist-scientist dream teams:
What are my dream art-science pairings? I'd put Richard Serra in a room with Edward Witten, and have them discuss the possibilities of 10 dimensions and curved space. Richard Powers would talk with Gerald Edelman about the strange nature of the self. Ian McEwan and Richard Axel would discuss scientific descriptions of consciousness. John Updike could talk with Steven Pinker about the uses of language. My list goes on and on. What artists and scientists would you pair together, and what problem would they work on?