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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Math as art

I came across an article on the BBC website about the art of maths, which is well worth the two minutes or so it takes to play. The images are stunning (I particularly like the four dimensional picture in two dimensions), and the narration is quite interesting. As a photographer, I especially enjoyed the comparison of math as art to photography as an art. My own take is that both math and photography share the common artistic element of forcing the artist to determine how to best express what it is they're seeing. Two people can see the same thing, and still get very different photos, which is also a component of expressing math in an artistic manner.

That got me thinking about genomics as art as well. I'm aware of people who've made music out of DNA sequences, but not visual art. Oh, sure, you can mount a karyotype or electrophoresis image on your wall, and it's pretty, but I don't think genomics has realized the potential for expressing DNA form and function in a non-linear manner yet.

Still, it's obviously on it's way. Every time I go to a presentation, I see a few more "pretty" graphs. Or maybe I've just gone to too many seminars when a graph of the clustering of gene arrays starts to look like a Mondrian picture. Who knows... maybe ChIP-Seq will start looking like that too? (=



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely Circos by your own Martin Krzywinski gets pretty close to art when used creatively, as it has been... - see

Much better than Damien Hirst's famous dot paintings?

September 17, 2008 3:12:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Anthony said...

That's a very good point - I see Circos diagrams all the time, and they do a good job of representing the genome while being very aesthetically pleasing. I'm just so used to viewing them as science that I forgot they're also art at the same time.

Martin also does some fantastic photography which is worth checking out.

September 17, 2008 5:00:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps you like the latest NAR cover?

September 19, 2008 1:36:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Anthony said...

Hi anonymous #2,

Ironically, that's not quite what I had in mind. (Though, it is a nice illustration!) I was thinking more along the lines of the data from a ChIP-Seq experiment itself being converted into a form where it appears as art.

Our current images of ChIP-Seq are almost all exclusively produced on a linear representation of the chromosome, which has a lot of scientific merit, but very little artistic merit. I suppose once we start filling in the relationship between which sites are interacting with which combination of transcription factors, it'll become much more artistic - particularly if we ever move away from linear chromosome backbones.

September 19, 2008 9:08:00 AM PDT  

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