Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous of February 11, 2015

Exploring the Frontiers of Knowledge and Imagination, Fostering Interdisciplinary Networking
UC Berkeley, February 11, 2015
Soda Hall (corner of Hearst and LeRoy), Room 380
NOTE: Use the WEST entrance
Chaired by Piero Scaruffi

The LASERs are a national program of evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversation with an audience. See the program for the whole series. The event is free and open to everybody. Email me if you want to be added to the mailing list for the LASERs. Like previous evenings, the agenda includes some presentations of art/science projects, news from the audience, and time for casual socializing/networking. This event is kindly sponsored by the Minerva Foundation.
Where: UC Berkeley
Soda Hall, Room 380
Campus map
NOTE: Use the WEST-entrance of SODA Hall entering from Etcheverry Plaza.
What (the order of the speakers might change):
  • 7:00-7:25: Tami Spector (USF) on "The Molecular Elusive" The ways in which chemists represent the elusive and transient... Read more
  • 7:25-7:50: Jonathon Keats (Philosopher) on "A Dilettante's Guide to the Universe" How do you develop real estate using string theory? How can you improve a marriage with quantum mechanics?... Read more
  • 8:10-8:35: Birgitta Whaley (Berkeley Quantum Information and Computation Center) on "What role does Quantum Mechanics play in Biology? Advances in nanotechnology are driving the development of microscopic studies of biological phenomena... Read more
  • 8:35-9:00: Amanda Hughen (Visual Artist) on "Consumerism and cellular transformation" Magnifying, dissecting, and layering forms, words, and images found in the printed media... Read more
  • 9:00pm-9:30pm: Discussions, networking You can mingle with the speakers and the audience

See also...
  • Other LASER series
  • Leonardo ISAST
  • Art, Technology, Culture Colloquia
  • Other LASER series
  • ScienceSchmoozer
  • LAST Festival
    • Amanda Hughen has exhibited her work in museums and galleries internationally, including the Asian Art Museum (CA), the Berkeley Art Museum (CA), Danese (NY), Knoedler & Co. (NY), and White Columns (NY). She has been an artist-in-residence at the DeYoung Museum of Art (CA), the Headlands Center for the Arts (CA), and Yaddo (NY). Hughen received an MFA from UC Berkeley, where she was awarded a full Block Grant Fellowship and the Eisner Prize. Hughen/Starkweather (her collaboration with the artist Jennifer Starkweather) has been commissioned to create a permanent artwork on the glass exterior of the Union Square Central Subway station, which will open in 2017. She lives and works in San Francisco.
    • Acclaimed as a "poet of ideas" by The New Yorker and a "multimedia philosopher-prophet" by The Atlantic, Jonathon Keats is an experimental philosopher, artist, and writer based in the United States and Italy. Recently he opened the first restaurant for plants, serving gourmet sunlight to rose bushes at the Crocker Art Museum. He has also exhibited extraterrestrial abstract artwork at the Judah L. Magnes Museum, and attempted to genetically engineer God in collaboration with scientists at the University of California. Exhibited internationally, his projects have been documented by PBS, Reuters, and the BBC World Service, garnering favorable attention in periodicals ranging from Science to Flash Art to The Economist. He is most recently the author of "Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age", published by Oxford University Press in 2013 and "Virtual Words: Language on the Edge of Science and Technology", published by Oxford in 2011. His fiction includes "The Book of the Unknown", published by Random House, awarded the American Library Association's Sophie Brody Medal in 2010. He is represented by Modernism Gallery in San Francisco.
    • Piero Scaruffi is a cognitive scientist who has lectured in three continents and published several books on Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, the latest one being "The Nature of Consciousness" (2006). He pioneered Internet applications in the early 1980s and the use of the World-Wide Web for cultural purposes in the mid 1990s. His poetry has been awarded several national prizes in Italy and the USA. His latest book of poems and meditations is "Synthesis" (2009). As a music historian, he has published ten books, the latest ones being "A History of Rock and Dance Music" (2009) and "A History of Jazz Music" (2007). His latest book of history is "A History of Silicon Valley" (2011). The first volume of his free ebook "A Visual History of the Visual Arts" appeared in 2012. His latest book is "Demystifying Machine Intelligence" (2013). He has also written extensively about cinema and literature.
    • Tami Spector is a Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of San Francisco. Trained as a physical organic chemist, her scientific work has focused on fluorocarbons, strained ring organics, and the molecular dynamics and free energy calculations of biomolecules. She also has a strong interest in aesthetics and chemistry and has published and presented work on molecular and nano- aesthetics, the visual image of chemistry, and the relationship between chemistry and contemporary visual art. She is on the governing and editorial boards of Leonardo/ISAST, co-hosts the San Francisco based Leonardo Arts Sciences Evening Rendezvous' (LASERs), and serves as the co-editor of an on-going special section "Art and Atoms" for Leonardo Journal.
    • Birgitta Whaley was born in England and moved to the US following an undergraduate degree in Oxford University. She received her Ph. D. from the University of Chicago in 1984 and was appointed to the faculty at the University of Berkeley, California in 1986, where she is now Professor of Chemistry, Director of the Berkeley Quantum Information and Computation Center, and senior faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Fellow of the American Physical Society and former chair of the APS Division of Chemical Physics, her honors include Kennedy and Sloan Foundation fellowships, an Alexander von Humboldt research award, a Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science Professorship at Berkeley, and senior Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (2012-2013). Advisory activities include committees for the National Academy of Sciences, the scientific advisory board for the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. Her research is broadly focused on quantum information and quantum computation, control and simulation of complex quantum systems, and quantum effects in biological systems.

    Extended abstracts:

    How do you develop real estate using string theory? How can you improve a marriage with quantum mechanics? What might you learn about life by genetically engineering God? Jonathon Keats isn't really qualified to answer any of these questions, but he's done all of the above (or at least tried). In this talk, he'll discuss what a dilettante can achieve in an age of expertise, and what the combination of unrelated interests can reveal about ourselves and our world.

    This talk focuses on the ways in which chemists represent the elusive and transient, and the aesthetics of these representations. Chemistry by its very nature is a science of transformation; reactions begin with knowable starting materials and end with tangible products; yet, for chemists it is often the non-isolable molecular species that exist en route from these stable endpoints that are particularly fascinating. These immaterial unstable states can only be imagined through drawn or computationally rendered molecular depictions. How chemists map chemical instability into the legible domain of molecular representations and the associative aesthetics of such representations are my focus.


    For the past decade, artist Amanda Hughen has created visual representations of cellular transformation by layering fragmented imagery from architecture, biology, and consumer goods. Her work refers to the loaded gun theory of illness: genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger. In years of researching disease and cellular mutation for this project, and as the topic became more personal because of her own genetic makeup, she faced a huge amount of information on the subject in science journals and news media. Multiple articles on a similar topic often contained contradictions, redactions, and institutional agendas. Defeated by the limitations of scientific certainty and by the bias of news media, she has recently turned her gaze to mainstream media, namely, the newspaper of record: the New York Times. In her current series of work, Hughen magnifies, dissects, and layers forms, words, and images found in the printed pages of the New York Times as her search for answers takes a quixotic, absurdist turn.


    The discovery of Quantum mechanics immediately transformed both physics and chemistry; and questions were soon asked about its implications for biology. The first era of quantum biology focused on the structure and stability of biological entities like molecules. A second era began in the 1960s, with lasers allowing experiments on the very short time scales relevant to atomic and molecular motions. Today, we have novel nanoprobes of real living cells, and evidence for biological phenomena that may involve highly non-trivial quantum effects such as long-range coherence and entanglement. I shall review some of this history, and then describe studies of dynamical quantum effects in biological systems, discussing the diverse questions that these studies raise for our understanding of the biological world we inhabit.

    Photos and videos of this evening