MIT Media Lab and MIT Museum – Ramón y Cajal

I have only recently heard about the MIT Media Lab although it is as old as me. The Media Lab was born in 1985 to “combine a vision of a digital future with a new style of creative invention”. It started to set up what was seen as radical for that time: “open computer gardens, personal computing on every desk and a multimedia network to every room”. Since then it has created numerous disruptive technologies in different fields, from electronics to entertainment, fashion to healthcare, etc. by promoting a collaborative and an interdisciplinary culture inside the research community.

Some examples that are dear to me include: the Communitive Biotechnology initiative, which includes the development of low-cost enabling hardware and experiments in the interface of art and biology; and the Open Ocean initiative in which researchers work at the intersection of science, technology, society, and art to set up new ways to understand the ocean and empower people to explore and make better changes.

The Media Lab has not only a broad research agenda but also a degree-granting Program in Media Arts and Sciences. The website is amazing and it is an incredible source of news, from videos to talks, projects to summits and much moreIt was there that I learned about the MIT Museum and its current exhibition “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal”.

From the exhibition “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal” at the MIT Museum. “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal” was developed by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota with the CSIC’s Cajal Institute, Madrid, Spain.

The exhibition presents the drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience and also an extraordinary artist. As the museum nicely illustrates: “his drawings of the brain were not only beautiful but also astounding in their capacity to illustrate and understand the details of brain structure and function.” Learn more about the exhibition on the museum’s website and if you have the opportunity (I don’t!) please go visit the exhibition until the 31st of December 2018. 

Ramon y Cajal was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1906 and, in spite of time, his work continues to captivate and stimulate modern neuroscientists and artists. One particular artwork that I love (already from 2010) was made by the neuroscientist Pablo Garcia Lopez, who was inspired by Ramón y Cajal’s beautiful metaphors:

“Like the entomologist in search of colorful butterflies, my attention has chased in the gardens of the grey matter cells with delicate and elegant shapes, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose beating of wings one day reveal to us the secrets of the mind.” (Ramón y Cajal, 1901).”

Mixed Media Artwork by Pablo Garcia Lopez. For more work from this artist visit his website: https://www.pablogarcialopez.com

Inspired by this quote, Pablo Garcia Lopez created this amazing mixed media artwork by playing with neuroscience, that he so well knows, and mixing the image of a brain positron emission tomography (PET) scan with the colorful butterflies that Ramón y Cajal was talking.

For more work from this sci-artist visit his website: https://www.pablogarcialopez.com

Compound Interest

Compound Interest is an impressive collection of graphics that take a closer look at the chemical compounds we come across in our daily life. Answering questions such as “Why does smoking meat change its flavor?” and “What causes the bitterness and dry sensation in red wine?”, Andy Brunning,  a chemistry teacher by day and the mastermind behind Compound Interest by night, sparks not only the curiosity of his students but also of an audience beyond the classroom – Brunning has more than 17 000 followers on Twitter and 227 000 Facebook likes.

While attempting to inspire his students with visually appealing posters, Brunning found that there was not so much choice on the internet. He, therefore, started to create his first infographics for his class and later posted them on the Internet for others to download. Over the past three years, he published his first book Why Does Asparagus Make Your Wee Smell? And 57 Other Curious Food and Drink Questions and his work has been featured on websites including The Guardian, Huffington Post and Smithsonian.

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to http://compoundchem.com. All the graphics are free to download for educational purposes.

VIZBI 2017 – Visualizing Biological Data

As data volume grows rapidly and is becoming more and more complex, visualization tools are becoming increasingly important in life sciences. Therefore it is essential to bring together researchers, medical illustrators and graphic designers to address how to use computational visualization in a large spectrum of biological research areas. This is exactly what the VIZBI initiative does – VIZBI 2017, the 8th international meeting on ‘Visualizing Biological Data’ –  will be held 14-16 June 2017 at the Charles Perkins Centre in Sydney, Australia.

           Poster by Sean O’Donoghue & James Procter (Garvan Institute and University of Dundee)

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The Book of Circles

Manuel Lima is a data designer & the founder of Visual Complexity, a resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. He speaks frequently at seminars, schools, and festivals around the world about the field of Information Visualization.

Following the popular “The Book of Trees” (about the history of tree diagrams) and “Visual Complexity” (about the representation of networked information), Manuel Lima brings us now a new book called “The Book of Circles”, a compendium of 300+ detailed and colorful images of circles from around the world that date from thousands of years ago up to the present day. You can read more about it here or buy the book here.

Information is beautiful

The mission of  Information is Beautiful is to turn complex data sets into beautiful graphics & diagrams that could help reveal hidden connections and patterns. By distilling the world’s data, they expect to help people better understand the world they live in and make more informed decisions.

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