Sunday, June 6, 2004

Art & Science
Originally appeared in the Boston Globe

Where does science end and art begin? A Harvard physicist and an MIT photographer offer different -- and surprising -- answers.

By Harvey Blume

THERE'S NO ESCAPING the provocative power of the scientific imagery that bombards us regularly. The fingerprint, the skeleton as revealed by X-rays, the double helix, and fractal geometry are among the iconic images that demolish old ideas and crystallize new visions of the world.

And yet, though they continue to generate visual evidence of ongoing revolutions in science, scientists themselves are divided about how these images should be interpreted -- and, in particular, about whether they can or should be seen as art. What's more, just to complicate things, many of the procedures scientists now take for granted have analogues in the arts, which raises thorny questions about just who, in the end, is influencing whom?