Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous of March 9, 2015

Exploring the Frontiers of Knowledge and Imagination, Fostering Interdisciplinary Networking
San Francisco, March 9, 2015
c/o University of San Francisco
Fromm Hall - FR 115 - Berman Room
Chaired by Piero Scaruffi and Tami Spector

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.

Leonardo ISAST and USF invite you to a meeting of the Leonardo Art/Science community. The event is free and open to everybody. Like previous evenings, the agenda includes some presentations of art/science projects, news from the audience, and time for casual socializing/networking.
See below for location and agenda.
Email me if you want to be added to the mailing list for the LASERs.
See also...

  • 7:00-7:25: Indrani Baruah (Architect and Visual Artist) on "Cultural Re-Imaginations : Experiments in Creative Placemaking" Cultural Re-imaginations challenges the traditional boundaries between art/architecture, artist/artisan, crafts/arts, public/private and inside/outside... Read more
  • 7:25-7:50: Stephen Bailey (Lawrence Berkeley Labs) on "How to Make a 3D Map of the Universe (and Why?)" 5000 little robots will help position fiber optic cables so that we can observe 50 million objects in the universe... Read more
  • 7:50-8:10: BREAK. Before or after the break, anyone in the audience currently working within the intersections of art and science will have 30 seconds to share their work. Please present your work as a teaser so that those who are interested can seek you out during social time following the event.
  • 8:10-8:35: Weidong Yang (Kine-tech) on "Data insights through gestural interactive 3D visualization" A gestural interface for "flying" through 3D graphs... Read more
  • 8:35-9:00: Christine Metzger (California college of the Arts) on "Lights, Camera...Fiction?" How much science (mis)education do we get from movies?... Read more
  • 9:00pm-9:30pm: Discussions, networking You can mingle with the speakers and the audience

  • Stephen Bailey is a project scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he leads the software development efforts for current and future cosmology surveys making maps of the universe. He has over 25 years experience in big data, ranging from pre-web matchmaking to particle physics to cosmology. He enjoys converting raw data into useful data in order to study the history and fate of the universe.
  • Indrani Baruah is an architect, artist and cultural researcher, who works at the intersection of architecture, visual arts and cultural studies. She splits her time between India and the Bay Area. She completed her formal training in architecture from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and later from School of Architecture and Allied Arts, University of Oregon. She further went on to doing the U.C. Berkeley Programs in Art, ASUC Art Studios, and Painting and Art History from Merritt College, Oakland, California. Her recent participation in exhibitions include Berkeley Arts Center, California (2010), Gensler, San Francisco, California (2010), Venice Biennale of Architecture, 2012:13th Annual International Architectural Exhibition: Common Ground and INSERT 2014, IGNCA, New Delhi exhibition curated by Raqs Media Collective titled New Models on Common Ground: Re-imagining the Question of Cultural Infrastructure. She has been a recent speaker at the TEDx India series. Indrani received the Extending Arts Practice Grant from India Foundation for the Arts in 2012 and the Public Art Grant from Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art in 2013. Indrani has presented her work at Mohile Parikh Center, Mumbai, Stanford University, California and Institute for South Asia Studies (ISAS), University of California, Berkeley.
  • Christine Metzger is CCA's first tenure-track assistant professor of Earth and environmental science. Dr. Metzger is currently a co-principal investigator for a 3-year, interdisciplinary National Science Foundation grant: Exploring Science in the Studio, which funds continued efforts to embed scientists into the studio curriculum. She is also the developer of many interdisciplinary courses that bring science to arts and design students, such as Bad Science at the Movies which is an introductory geology class as seen via the lens of Hollywood disaster movies, and Life on Earth through Time, a history of four-billion years of life history that incorporates illustration and other creative work with science. In her research, Dr. Metzger is interested in using paleosols (ancient soils) as a proxy for understanding how landscapes and ecosystems respond to environmental changes. Dr. Metzger represented California College of the Arts at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 17, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2010. In the summers, Dr. Metzger is an instructor for Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth summer program, where she teaches a college-level Paleobiology course to academically gifted 12- to 16-year olds in a three-week residential program.
  • 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 "Intelligence is not Artificial" (2013). He has also written extensively about cinema and literature.
  • Weidong Yang has a Ph. D. in Physics and a M.S in Computer Science. He has also been practicing the art of photography and dancing. With experience in both science and art, he founded Kinetech Arts in 2013, a dance company that explores the boundary of applying science and technology in theatre performance. He founded Kineviz in 2014, developing solution in human data interface and 3D visualization.

Address and directions:

University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
SF, CA 94117
Fromm Hall - FR 115 - Berman Room

See the campus map and directions

Extended abstracts


How much science (mis)education do we get from movies? Bad Science at the Movies is a course taught at California College of the Arts that uses bad Hollywood disaster movies as a framework to learn about geology and as a springboard to debunk common myths in Earth and environmental science. From the implausible to the possible, films like The Core, Volcano, The Day After Tomorrow, and Jurassic Park captivate audiences but also defy basic scientific principles, flout the laws of physics, and often minimize the true scale of natural disasters. Using some back-of-envelope calculations, we can identify and examine these inconsistencies.


3D data visualization provides several advantages over 2D. It permits much greater information density; perspective and fluid changing of perspective; scale and keeping track of it; location and the relationship among many. The metaphor in 2D information display is that of zooming (map) and transporting (web). The metaphor in 3D is that of visiting and navigation, it resembles our experience of the physical world. In this presentation, we will demonstrate a project that visualizes and compares communication structures among different industries in 3D graphs. Those graphs are constructed from meta-data collected from actual usage on Box collaboration platform. A gestural interface for "flying" through data will also be demonstrated. This work was carried out as a client project for Box and was displayed at Boxworks conference 2015 at Moscone center, SF.


I will describe the process of making a 3D map of the universe and our scientific motivations for doing so. Using a relatively small telescope in New Mexico, every night the eBOSS project observes spectra of thousands of galaxies, stars, and quasars, and over the years we build up a 3D map of the locations and motions of millions of objects. Some of these objects are so distant that the light has been traveling to us for 12 billion years (for comparison, the Big Bang was 13.7 billion years ago). Our next generation project, DESI, will use a larger telescope and 5000 little robots to help position fiber optic cables on our focal plane so that we can observe 50 million objects to make a more complete map. We use these data to study the expansion of the universe and the underlying physics that describe it.

Incorporating concepts from visual arts, architecture, vernacular crafts and cultural studies, Cultural Re-imaginations has attempted to challenge the traditional boundaries between art/architecture, artist/artisan, crafts/arts, public/private and inside/outside. By operating in an interstitial space, the project explores new possibilities for thinking about, engaging, investigating and intervening in the urban public realm. The project has attempted to `create circumstances for unanticipated convergence of disciplines, ideas and people' by becoming a platform for collaborative work between bamboo artisans, boat-builders and diverse art and cultural practitioners. Indrani Baruah will share her ongoing cultural experiments in the public realm and the intuitive practice that has evolved over the years out of her interdisciplinary background. She will speak about the constantly evolving process, methodology and forms as manifested in her current experiments on the River Brahmaputra in Assam, India. Engaging with the ideas of `genius loci' and placemaking in the context of the city, the river and the `collective cultural journey', Cultural Re-imaginations has opened up different ways of encountering and experiencing the 'environment'. Indrani will discuss the evolving ideas, the thought-provoking initiatives launched and the challenges encountered in creating circumstances for participatory public art practice in the dynamic space of the river and the riverfront. Her continuing interests lie in the 'processes' and ╬¸╬§frameworks╬Ú╬¸ for thinking about working with communities and understanding the complexities of socially engaged art practice. The long-term vision of this practice is to become a catalyst for triggering a network of ideas, positive transformations and new models of collaborations.
Photos and videos of this evening