Exhibition: “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty”
April 30-August 3rd, 2019
Marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Combines works from Houghton’s history of science collections, including first editions of Copernicus, Newton, and Galileo, with highlights on loan from a private spaceflight collection, including materials used in the Apollo mission and on the lunar surface.
The exhibition is accompanied by a commemorative catalog which focuses on the loaned items only and is also available for free online here.
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For centuries, artists and scientists have wrestled with how to convey three-dimensional objects on the page. Using some of the Bodleian Libraries’ finest books, manuscripts, prints and drawings, Thinking 3D tells the story of the development of three-dimensional communication over the last 500 years.
The exhibition shows how new techniques, developed from the Renaissance onwards, revolutionized the way that ideas in the fields of anatomy, architecture, astronomy and geometry were relayed and ultimately how this has influenced how we perceive the world today. Timed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibition shows how Leonardo and his contemporaries made great strides in the realistic depiction of 3D forms. Thinking 3D explores technological advances up to the present day including 3D modelling, photography and stereoscopy; and also highlights the works of modern practitioners and researchers in Oxford.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a range of other exhibitions and events across Oxford in 2019 as part of the Thinking 3D research project.
For more information, see: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/news/2019/mar-5
Reviewed by Amy Ione, March 2019
Published: Leonardo Reviews
A Different Kind of Animal is based on two lectures Robert Boyd delivered in 2016 at Princeton University as a part of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values series. In these lectures Boyd introduces his theory that biology and culture are both evolutionary, a topic he’s been working on with Peter Richerson for three decades. Needless to say, this is a broad topic, a point brought home by the four Responses to the lectures also included in the volume. All four commentators endorse the contours of Boyd’s theory and their critiques also raise valid questions: Is Boyd too reductive? Does Boyd’s view of social learning and cooperation rely too much on copying others? Does he adequately define the ways that norms arise and change? Is he ignoring how individuals manipulate norms?
At the beginning of the book Boyd points out that his lectures are about human uniqueness and cumulative cultural adaptation, not the inventive capacities of individuals. He writes:
“We are much better at learning from others than other species are, and equally important, we are motivated to learn from others even when we do not understand why our models are doing what they are doing. This psychology allows human populations to accumulate pools of adaptive information that greatly exceed the inventive capacities of individuals. Cumulative cultural evolution is critical for human adaptation.” (p. 16)
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Future of the Brain: Essays by the World’s Leading Neuroscientists
edited by Gary Marcus and Jeremy Freeman
Review by Amy Ione
Posted: Leonardo Reviews, May 2017
One of the Times Higher Education’s Best Books of 2015, Future of the Brain offers a compilation of original essays by leading brain researchers. Divided into seven sections, the range and disparities of the authors’ views underscore the dearth of an overarching theory researchers apply to studies in this area. Cross-references among chapters do, however, remind us that science itself succeeds through communication among scientists about what their data says. Also noteworthy is that, even given the spectrum of views, most of the authors share a “we can do this” attitude: They are confident we can and will eventually understand the brain. Suffice it to say, as Gary Marcus, one of the book’s two editors notes: “Neuroscience today is a collection of facts, rather than ideas; what is missing is connective tissue. We know (or think we know) roughly what neurons do, and that they communicate with one another, but not what they are communicating” (p. 205).
The first section, mapping the brain, presents connectome projects. This idea (with computation) is the primary research paradigm presented in the book. Essays by Mike Hawrylycz, Misha Ahrens, Christof Koch, Anthony Zador, and George Church set the stage for this book’s survey of current efforts to understand brain connectivity through mapping and imaging neural activities of mice, strategies for reverse engineering and so forth. Computation, the subject of the second section, includes essays by May-Britt and Edvard Moser, Krishna Shenoy, Olaf Sporns, and Jeremy Freeman. Together the two sections argue that the brain is an organ of computation and scientists need to figure out what the brain is computing. Continue reading “Book Review by Amy Ione: Future of the Brain: Essays by the World’s Leading Neuroscientists”
Review of A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman
Reviewed by Amy Ione, posted in Leonardo Reviews,August 2017
As a fan of biographies, I was excited to learn about A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. Not only is it a timely biography, this well researched and easy to read book also captures the imagination. Because Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman take care to situate Shannon’s contributions in their cultural context the volume encourages the reader to explore their broader implications. Claude Shannon’s legacy is no doubt of particular interest to Leonardo readers due to the range of his work. If Shannon’s training and conception of Information Theory brings the current elevation of STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to mind, many of his lesser known projects clearly align with projects associated with the STE(A)M (the inclusion of Art) community, although the authors never speak of STEAM per se. These include the playful spirit evident in his ongoing tinkering with electronic toys, his multi-faceted studies of juggling, and his unicycle experiments.
So, who was Claude Shannon? Born in 1916 in Michigan, by all accounts Shannon had an ordinary childhood. Noteworthy traits included a love of math and science, a dislike of facts, and mechanical inclinations. These proclivities led him to purse a dual degree in mathematics and engineering at the University of Michigan. After Michigan, Shannon was hired by the well-connected Vannevar Bush, then at MIT and later founder of the National Science Foundation (NSF), to help with his differential analyzer. This was a mechanical analog computer that depended on combinations of equivalent equations, using a wheel-and-disc mechanism for computation. A major problem was that the equations needed to be reconstructed for every problem, in effect annihilating the very efficiency the machine was intending to add to problem solving. The resounding question was how could it reassemble itself on the fly? Shannon, who was conversant with both symbolic logic and electrical circuitry, produced a landmark master’s thesis with an innovative solution. Titled “A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits,” the young Shannon tied Boolean logic and circuitry together, conceptualizing a path where 1’s and 0’s could represent logical operators of Boole’s (AND, OR, NOT) system, with an on switch standing for “true” and an off switch for “false.”
After a brief stint at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, New Jersey) Shannon joined Bell Labs to work on World War II projects. Here he found an environment that fostered cutting-edge discovery and even met a visiting Alan Turing, another key figure of the Information Age. The sections discussing the shared interests of Shannon and Turing are among the book’s high points, particularly in light of the role of computers in contemporary life. Both probed machine intelligence, feedback and programming commands, and cryptology. The authors tell us that, according to Shannon, much was also left unsaid between them. He did discuss his notions about Information Theory with Turing, but they needed to avoid cryptography because of security concerns.
Continue reading “Book Review: Amy Ione reviews A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age”
St Andrews has posted an edition of Euclid that is a richly saturated, tri-tone experiment in explaining the complexities of the foundations of geometry through shape and colour. This work, from the mid-19th century, conjures up Mondrian paintings, or Bauhaus and De Stijl schools of design. The following link offers a look at the work and some commentary: https://standrewsrarebooks.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/reading-the-collections-week-46-math-becomes-art-in-byrnes-1847-colourful-euclid/
The interview with Amy Ione, Director of the Diatrope Institute, is now included in the Interviews from Yale University Radio (WYBCX) index of The Art World Demystified, Hosted by Brainard Carey. It is available at http://museumofnonvisibleart.com/interviews/amy-ione/. This collection is an oral history of the Lives of the Most Excellent Artists, Curators, Architects, Critics and more, like Vasari’s book updated.
Keynote lecture for Off the Lip 2015 conference at Cog Novo: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Cognitive Innovation: Conference from 9-11 Sep 2015. The lecture introduces ideas from Ione’s forthcoming book, Art and the Brain: Plasticity, Embodiment, and the Unclosed Circle see www.diatrope.com/artbrainbook.
Also posted on the page are the two other keynotes: “Roger Malina, New Forms of Art-Science Collaboration: Case Studies” and “Sundar Sarukkai, Cognitive Innovation in Mathematics”, see http://www.cognovo.eu/events/otlip15-keynotes.php#amy-ione
Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures
by Eric R. Kandel
Columbia University Press, NY, NY, 2016
240 pp. Trade: $29.95, ISBN-10: 0231179626;ISBN-13: 978-0231179621
Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric Kandel, like his study The Age of Insight , builds on earlier efforts to couple science and art, particularly those of Alois Riegl (1858-1905), Ernst Kris (1900-1957), and Ernst Gombrich (1909-2001). These three men, he tells us, endeavored to establish art history as a scientific discipline by grounding it in psychological principles. Riegl emphasized the “beholder’s involvement, stating that art includes the perceptual and emotional involvement of the viewer. Kris studied ambiguity in visual perception, concluding that every powerful image is inherently ambiguous because it arises from experiences and conflicts in the artist’s life. Gombrich extended Kris’ ideas to include the inverse optics problem: how our brain takes the incomplete information about the outside world that it receives from our eyes and makes it complete. This is a problem that arises because the brain reconstructs the images we see. It should be noted that Gombrich’s positioning in his well known Art and Illusion  is, like Kandel’s, more concerned with beholders than artists or the community.
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From NPR: While most history courses start with the beginning of human civilization, roughly 10,000 years ago, Big History starts with the Big Bang. Humans don’t get mentioned until halfway into the course. It is exciting to hear that people are learning about history and science in tandem and I applaud the multidisciplinary as well. Like many historians, however, I wonder about the limited attention to human history in these courses. Parts 1 and 2 from NPR are below the break. Continue reading “Is Big History a step in the right direction?”