Some kids get to go to cyber camp. Next week I am going to SciBar Camp (and taking my mimesis/mirror neuron mish-mash with me). I'm looking forward to it, but I must admit to a certain amount of skepticism about the current rampant enthusiasm for art-science collaborations. There are a few barriers. For one thing, contemporary art is just about as inpenetrable for the novice as science, but most scientists are not self-educating on the leading edges of art theory (and why would they?). There are also distracting superficial reasons for getting together. Scientists are often attracted to the idea that artists might beautify and disseminate their science (do outreach) for new audiences. For artists, science provides status and legitimacy (and bigger grants).

In contemporary art discourse, it is (rightly) very difficult to make claims to universal meaning. By attaching ourselves to science, artists get to piggy-back our work to content that seems on the surface like empirical truth. Of course, anyone who has done any half-way serious research knows that the knowledge produced by science is also negotiated, historical and subject to cultural influence and ideology. But it is very tempting for artists to sweep this understanding under the rug in order to get the sexy "hit" of external meaning. I know because I've done it myself. It's fun and liberating to take a break from the contexts and conventions of your own field, kind of like going on a vacation to another country (which is why I've adopted the role of "tourist" for my forays into physics). But I think it's probably a good idea to try and stay critical, even when you're on a holiday.

These pitfalls also present opportunities and open up new paths of inquiry. I dunno how much of this discussion belongs at SciBar Camp. I don't really want to participate in cranky old-lady mode, since I am completely inspired right now by my own cross-disciplinary research. I guess I'll just show up and see what happens next.

- sally mckay 3-07-2008 12:17 am

In keeping with our new all limericks all the time policy:

A teacher was once heard to yell:
"Silence! You bastards from hell!"
A young punk up front
Remarked with a grunt:
"Sience, you git, has no 'L'"

A mosquito cried out in pain
"A chemist has poisoned my brain!"
The cause of his sorrow
Was para-dichloro

A biology prof name of Caster
Had a project she knew would outlast her,
For it was most complex,
Aimed at changing the sex
Of drosophila melanogaster

The zoology coed did squirm
At the lab quiz that ended the term.
When asked "What are tadpoles?",
(In the specimen bowls),
She wrote "They are elephant sperm."

A graduate student at Trinity
Computed the square of infinity
But it gave him the fidgets
To put down the digits,
So he dropped math and took up divinity.

There was a young lady of Wight
Who travelled at the speed of light
She travelled one day
In a relative way
And arrived the previous night.

A cautious young chemist named Mound
Was surprised (but not hurt) when he found
That A mixed with B
In the presence of C
Made a hole (ringed with dirt) in the ground.

I once gave a lady affection
By giving her my huge collection
Of dried butterflies
Bugs and moths from the skies
In return she gave me an infection!

Digging for fossils, old Ned
A geologist, sadly is dead
His shovel hit bone
"You leave that alone"
Said a dinosaur, biting his head!

Great minds have been known to recite,
Or in papers they publish, to write
That before time began
There occurred a Big Bang --
But the theory has never been quite

- L.M. 3-07-2008 9:32 am

Also when I googled for science limericks the name of one of the organizers of sciBar camp, Eva Amsen came up, so I think you should recite these to her.

- L.M. 3-07-2008 9:33 am

yay. head-biting dinosaur.
- sally mckay 3-07-2008 3:39 pm

oh my god i am in limerick heaven
- h evans (guest) 3-07-2008 8:21 pm

Perhaps Hannah, as limerick poet-laureate, could be prevailed upon to pen something for this most auspicious occasion.
- L.M. 3-07-2008 8:41 pm

this post is now the #1 google hit for "sciBar camp"
- joester (guest) 3-07-2008 10:33 pm

We proudly poison everything we touch.
- L.M. 3-07-2008 10:55 pm

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