Thanks to Scott Chamberlain at r-ecology for sending me this article in the Guardian about collaborations between artists and scientists. The article opens, “Science and art are often considered opposites – so what happens when top practitioners in each field collaborate?”. Well, I think you know what I’d call it. Biocreativity! The article describes four very interesting collaborations between an artists and geneticist, a poet and speech scientist, a photographer and physiologist and theater director and neuroscientist. I think what I find most interesting about the article are the comments. This is probably the most intense discussion of the intersection of arts and sciences I’ve seen in a while. Interestingly, while I (and several of the commenters) tend to see this intersection as more of a continuum, many of the commenters seem to need to classify works as one or the other: artistic or scientific, and are staunchly defending their views. What do you think?



And…I’m back from a quick bout of post-ESA 2011 exhaustion (a few more posts on the way from ESA by the way)!

Loved Julie Palmer’s quick post last month on Bioephemera about a recent NYT article featuring graduate programs. The commissioned art for the piece strikes me as a more “serious”, NYTimes-y version of Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics (which was also featured recently in the NYT). I don’t have to tell any of you graduate students out there how great Cham’s uncanny depictions of your life actually are. According to the NYT article, he started writing the comics as “therapy” for coping with grad school. Even with no formal training in the arts, he’s made a career out of his creativity, and I think we grad students are all in his debt for bringing a little humor to our strife.

On the one hand, cartoons have the potential to engage us in biology without worrying too much about being ‘serious’. Exhibit A, Natalie Dee:

Thank God I'm Not an Earthworm by Natalie Dee. Available from

Thank God I'm Not an Earthworm by Natalie Dee. Available from

Cartoons also have the potential to bring awareness to how science can be perceived (or be ignored) in our culture. Again, Natalie Dee:

It's Gonna Last Forever Because of Our Unlimited Supply of Dead Dinosaurs by Natalie Dee. Available from

"It's Gonna Last Forever Because of Our Unlimited Supply of Dead Dinosaurs" by Natalie Dee. Available from

They can also serve as commentary on the process by which scientific research is sometimes (but not always!) conducted, as Cham often does with PhD comics:

Independent Research Study (c) Jorge Cham 11/17/1997 Available from

Independent Research Study (c) Jorge Cham 11/17/1997. Available from

If you didn’t know PhD comics movie is coming soon, hold on to your freakin’ hats, because it’s almost here!

Comics can also help describe some of the more endearing qualities of we who practice science (Randall Munroe of is very good at this):

Finally, no post on biology humor would be complete without a nod to Gary Larson’s The Far Side. Out of greatest respect for my favorite comic of all time, I can’t post one here. Here’s why. I’m sure many of you out there know of some great bio-comics! Let me know about them with a comment!


Ran across another cool biocreative WordPress blog today called eukaryography. Here you’ll find, “musings on biology, literature and the everyday.” I particularly enjoy eukaryography’s posts on poetryvisualization of biological phenomena and art + biology. I was also happy to have discovered (a scientific video site) through eukaryography’s blog. Enjoy!


Happy Monday, everyone! Just wanted to report that there’s a great article in today’s PsiVid (on Scientific American Blogs) about Dr. Carin Bondar’s recent adventures at the ‘Science Film Workshop’ at Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island, Washington. For anyone interested in such endeavors, she reports that there are two upcoming fall 2011 classes in October and November at Friday Harbor Laboratories and the Vancouver Aquarium, respectively. I want to go!

visualizing science is cool (and necessary)!


There’s a great article by Amy Wallace in today’s New York Times (“Science to Art, and Vice Versa”) on two really interesting artist-scientists. This is not a biology-related article, but it does address some of the concerns from my first biocreativity post. Thanks to my Uncle Phil for passing it on. I think Matthew McCory was right on when he said (and I quote from the article), “The scientists at Northwestern do physics, chemistry and biology really well, but they generally don’t have a clue when it comes to making good-looking images,” he said. “A lot was getting lost in translation.” Of course, this is not something unique to Northwestern. Luckily, there are folks like McCrory and Nathalie Miebach working to improve science communication through artistic visualization projects. Should visualization and presentation skills be just as critical as knowing how to analyze your data? If so, how do we begin to improve the artistic toolboxes of scientists?