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Diagrammatic Experiments – Science themed Drawings

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Science Figures and Science Inspired Drawings

Tour the Exhibit “Aesthetic Experiments” online.  Use the links below to navigate to other sections of the exhibit.

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Rationale:

Scientists will often take raw data and process it through numerous layers of interpretation before presenting their findings to the world.  Even after data is presented to the Research community, it is often distilled and reworked for educational and outreach purposes.  One of the most difficult things one learns as a graduate student is how to perform these distillations of data for different formats – group meetings, peer reviewed publications, presentations to undergrads, outreach, etc.  There are layers of rules used in order to create information-rich graphics that can be read by anyone in the scientific community.  In a very real sense technical figures and illustrations contain more layers of oblique symbolism than the Religious paintings of the great pre 20th Century masters.  These layers of symbolism and understood rules are powerful tools for scientists and for those who know how to read the symbols.  However they can make even the “pretty pictures” in a research paper impenetrable to laypeople.  They can also create challenges for communication of genuinely novel ideas, as inventors and innovators try to navigate a tangle of “this means exactly that” in their use of imagery to portray ideas.

I have been exploring the levels of symbolic abstraction in technical illustration through Science inspired drawings that tweak the rules or sometimes throw them out.  None of these drawings would be accepted as valid scientific schematics, yet almost all of them convey real information – often deeply and effectively.  I have found that many people respond to both the art and the ideas behind the art when the technical is taken out of its cloister and simply communicated through art.  I also know of a  few people using my art to help teach science, which takes the idea behind the drawings full circle and pleases me.

Technique

The soft wash effects in the colored areas were created by layering marker colors on the reversed side of the drawing paper and allowing the ink to seep through. When the paper is flipped over, single marks have a soft uneven washed appearance with a faint dark line around the edges from the properties of the ink and paper fibers. In places where marker was applied more than once in layers, each pass with the marker pushes more color from the previous layers through to the other side of the paper. This property allows me to create mask effects, broken shapes and different types of contrast. When the colored portion was finished, the paper was lipped so I could work on the less saturated and more interesting side where the ink seeped or was pushed through the paper. Fine line traceries with an ultrafine tip felt tip (micron pigma 005 through 03 pens) were added. Selected colored regions were filled in with marker to create pops of saturated color

The Drawings

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Colonization

Patterns of circles and rings in “Colonization”  suggest  petri dishes gone a bit amok. My first laboratory job was at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories when I was a High School senior.  Our group was sequencing some of the viral plasmids and vectors that are now widely used in Biotechnology and genetic engineering.

Much of Microbiology involves using the growth properties of microorganisms to amplify something happening on the molecular level.  For example, small somewhat randomized changes are made to a plasmid’s genes.  The plasmids are then inserted into a population of host bacteria, at a dilution that ensures that multiple insertions are rare.  The bacteria are diluted so that each one is far apart in solution. When they’re dropped onto a petri dish, each individual grows mitotically into a colony of millions of bacteria, identical to the original bacterium that started the colony.  Each colony can be tested, selected, and grown further.  Equal growth in all directions on flat, fairly uniform Agar medium creates circular colony patterns.  If there are liquid resources diffusing through the medium (in a natural environment rather than a dish) then rings will form as resources are periodically depleted by too fast colony growth.

The microbe growth pattern idea is emphasized with a counterpoint of fine line drawings echoing the larger softer marker patterns.

Figure 1

An example of petri Dish Colonies taken from a study in the Technical literature, Mycologia 102(5) p1114, Zhang et. Al.

Learning Circuit

“Learning Circuit” refers to early ideas in A.I., expert systems, and heuristic neural networks. The colored drawing is reminiscent of circuitry odd patterns. The line traceries are overlaid like wispy ideas and connections beginning to form.

thumbnail image

Printed circuit board for an MP3 player, pjrc.com

Cellular Generation

A little fantasy on cellular structure and function. A cell is like a little Biological factory or engine in many ways, and that is an aspect of cellular function that has always fascinated me.

Intracellular Diversion

A little fantasy on cellular structure and function. A cell is like a little Biological factory or engine in many ways, and that is an aspect of cellular function that has always fascinated me.  Intracellular diversion contains playful references to DNA, amphiphilic membranes, biological macromolecules and other cellular micro and nanostructures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D-Branes

D-branes are mathematical structures used in String Theory, They’re represented with “bulk” in between the branes.

http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/tong/string/dbrane.jpg

An illustration of a D-brane, from David Tong’s Lectures on String Theory, Cambridge University UK

Archimedes Chiral

The title “Archimedes Chiral” is a pun on the Archimedes Spiral, which is a 2 dimensional chiral object based on the Transcendental number “phi” and the Golden Mean. In this case the black ink patterns overlaid on the spiral suggest differing chiral environments and entities interacting with the spiral path.

Muscularity

Muscularity is an amalgam of ideas on Tissue Engineering and layered Biological materials combined with imagery and forms from electron micrographs and from scientific illustration and schematics. No chemical specifics this time (though the Adenosine triphosphate cycle might be cool for another time)

You can see cells with nuclei in parts of the drawing, while in other parts irregular shapes imply cells, but the inner structures are hidden. The relative flatness evokes different types of micrographs, especially photographs of cells and biological tissue in the transmission electron microscope (TEM). The electrons in the TEM must go through the sample to form an image, but even at 200 KV the electrons can’t go through very much material. They’ll be stopped by less than a micron thickness, even if the material is made up of very light elements. Cells and tissues are bigger and thicker than that, so they’re sliced up into very thin flat sections. Selective staining with heavy elements can help with stability and contrast.

Electron wavelengths and the structures imaged are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light, so there is no real “color”, and images are monochrome. Sometimes different contrast modes can be used to falsely color the image according to composition, for example.

Spinodal Decomposition

Spinodal decomposition is one way for a blend of two things to come unmixed. In spinodal decomposition the components of the blend spontaneously separate, forming complex interwoven swirls of composition.

https://matforge.org/cmu/raw-attachment/wiki/mmsp/spinodal.png

2-D simulation of Spinodal Decomposition, from the NSF supported Mesoscale Microstructure Simulation Project

Tesselation Waltz

Tesselated and packed patterns of triangles combine with fine line traceries and ink stippling to create a feeling of movement. One can imagine the movements and figures of dancers within the patterns, with the triangles suggesting a three-step; perhaps a waltz.

Tesselation refers to a type of packing of objects where the objects fit together but do not repeat precisely through space.  A tessellation is like a complex Escher drawing or diatom structure.  It lacks long range periodicity – it’s not like a grid of square tiles (the grid has the type of periodic order that characterizes crystals).  Tesselated non-crystallographic order with local symmetry is found in structures called “Quasicrystals” and was believed to be the basis for metallic glasses when they were initially discovered and produced for study.

Evolutionary Tree

Straightforward DNA and evolution based “Tree of Life”  for those of us who believe in Biochemistry and Natural Selection rather than magic.

Variation on a Cayley Tree

The Cayley tree is a type of Bethe Lattice. It’s essentially a branched structure. Each node joining the branches in the “tree” has three branches emanating from it (think of it as a trunk that forks into two branches at the node). Each branch terminates at another node which also branches. A smooth plane has two dimensions and a smooth line has one dimension, but a Cayley tree has an intermediate dimensionality or a “fractal dimension”. This can be useful for certain types of calculations: where a fractal surface either better reflects the physics of the system, or where the symmetry of the Cayley tree simplifies the physics and/or math.
In “Variation on a Cayley Tree” some liberties were taken with the strict branching geometry and topology of the mathematical object, in order to map it onto a form that actually resembles a tree. The drawing “Variation on a Cayley tree” is part of a series of drawings and paintings examining tree symbolism in nature, and in the world of scientific ideas.

http://ej.iop.org/images/0295-5075/103/1/10005/Full/epl15570f1_online.jpg

A Cayley Tree from the Physics Literature; Saberi, 2013 EPL 103 10005

Size Exclusion Chromatography

This is a pretty straightforward drawing of the principles in size exclusion separations and chromatography. Little porous beads are packed together, and a solution of molecules passes through the packed bed of beads. The large molecules are too big for the pores of the beads and they quickly pass straigth through the packed bed. Smaller molecules can explore more of the bead porosity and take a longer path – and longer time – through the bed. The underlying mechanism is different than, for example, paper chromatography, which you can try at home.

http://cnx.org/content/m34657/latest/image3b.jpg

Lin and Barron, in Modern Size-Exclusion Liquid Chromatography- Practice of Gel Permeation and Gel Filtration Chromatography, 2nd Edition. Hoboken. N.J. (2009)

 

 

Entropic Repulsions

Tiny particles can cause problems as particulate flows because of their high surface area to unit volume.  All of that surface can get “sticky”.  Counterintuitively, adding polymers can help solve this problem.  When the particles get too close together, the attached polymer chains become squeezed and constrained, losing a great deal of configurational entropy.   Entropic Repulsions is a creative artist’s interpretation of this phenomenon.  Nothing is to scale, but the configurational freedom of the polymer chains, squeezing and loss of entropy, and other phenomena are all portrayed. 

https://www.soils.org/images/publications/jeq/39/6/1909fig4.jpeg

 

Technical Schematic of Entropic Repulsion, Hotze, et. al. Journal of Environmental Quality 3(6) p. 1909

 

 

 

 

 

Enantiomeric Excess

Enantiomeric excess is a concept from chemistry. Enantiomers refer specifically to a type of isomerism where the two molecules are identical in every way, except that they’re mirror images of one another. The ability to possess a mirror image is a property called “chirality”. The 3-dimensional shape of your hand is chiral. Your left and right hands are, in a sense, enantiomers of one another. Enantiomeric excess sets up the idea of chirality using a spiral, which is a chiral object in 2-dimensions. Very fine line details in black ink also represent chiral objects, but in both handedness or both enantiomers. There is a preponderance of one type of enantiomer. If you know a chemist, a biochemist, or someone who works in pharmaceuticals, :“Enantiomeric Excess”, the drawing, can function as a talking point as well as art. In chiral separations, synthesis, and analysis, a chiral environment (the marker spiral) is used to sense and sort chiral molecular objects (the black ink drawings) to create a large excess of one enantiomer.

Heterogeneous

Heterogeneous describes something having different characteristics as an observer traverses the something. I was considering the titles “heterogeneous nucleation” and “heterogeneous flocculation” for this drawing. However, the objects that are clustered heterogeneously aren’t arranged in a crystalline symmetry, and flocculation is already heterogeneous and disordered. So “heterogeneous”

 

http://water.me.vccs.edu/courses/env110/clipart/coagulation.jpg

A technical illustration of flocculation from a college lecture; Rosa lee Cooke, Mountain Empire Community College, VA

Concavity

Gradations of size and complexity were used to create the illusion of a concave surface out of colored circles and concentric rings.  Self-explanatory.

 

Convexity

Gradations of size and complexity were used to create the illusion of a convex surface out of colored circles and concentric rings.  Self-explanatory.

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  1. Susan
    |

    This is an incredible series.