The natural world has a knack for disorienting even the most curious of thinkers. Its beauty astounds artists and its complexity eludes scientists. There’s something bewitching about the forces governing the universe that sparks intrigue. In his demonstration, artist and inventor Tom Shannon feeds into this intrigue, allowing the laws of nature to govern his artistic creation and captivate his audience.
His works draw audiences into a new way of thinking about all things science-related. Suspended from a pivot attached to the ceiling, Shannon’s pendulum concisely traces movement in three-dimensional space and translates it into a two-dimensional depiction of Earth’s rotational trajectory. At the tip of the pendulum are valves controlling the flow of paint from six cylindrical containers of different-colored paint. When set in a specific motion by the artist, the different colors combine in varying amounts to create concentric circles and recurring patterns that provide audiences with an artistic rendering of the same centrifugal forces originally exhibited by Foucault’s pendulum. The resulting wave propagations spell out the naturally-occurring designs of science and of nature—a timeless reminder of the confluence of art and science in the world.
It has been said that scientists have no place in the studio and artists have no business entering a lab. However, individuals whose intellectual curiosity includes the intersection of these two subject areas have been praised since the days of DaVinci. Treatment of the polymathic ideal that emerged from the Renaissance still reflects an understanding of this archetype as a rare commodity to be glorified—and rightfully so. The philosophical mores of the movement have atrophied considerably over the centuries, but inventors like Tom Shannon have reintroduced the Renaissance way of thinking. He gives new life to the moribund Renaissance ideal with his artwork, awakening the curious and creative child in everyone.
Far too often, complacency hinders the expansion of our purview, and breadth and depth start to become relative terms. If a polymathic praxis is to solve the complacency, it would have to come through a universally understood form—(for lack of a better phrase) really cool science toys. If science is to stir up curiosity, passion, and Renaissance-like thinking, it had better gauge the interest of the 21st century audience correctly and be able to express itself creatively.
By: Dy Phi