Poring over charts and graphs or peering into particle accelerators can be an essential part of science, but Jonah Lehrer, author of the book Proust Was A Neuroscientist, argues in Seed that scientists should be paying more attention to art. Artists, Lehrer argues, can describe complex ideas in new ways, making unexpected analogies between the mysterious and the tangible. This can help scientists of all stripes understand their world better. Lehrer imagines a world in which science and art don’t face each other with the awkward silence of girls and boys at the fifth grade dance. He wants the two cultures to merge into one, because in the end they have the same goal: to understand human experience.
Santa Clara University is doing its part to meld art and science through an innovative class led by a science professor and a dance teacher. The two have teamed up to teach a course explaining basic physics through dance. Writing for the January issue of Physics World [excerpt available online], the professors explain that the course gives students “both the scientific tools to measure and understand as well as the personal experience of forces and motion. The physics involved is simply the mechanics of a moving body under the influence of gravity; the goal is to understand the physical principles that govern the dancer’s motion.”