Category Archives: art & science

Art and science (IX) – Neural networks

This is a continuation of a series of blog posts, written mostly in French, about arts and science

In the past few years, we’ve seen the emergence of Deep Neural Networks (DNN), and the latest developments are Generative Adverserial Networks (GAN), where the goal is to pit two neural networks against each other so that they find the best way to generate an object from a label or a simple drawing, or mimick the style of an artist.

The first ripple in the vast ocean of possibility was Deep Dream, though it wasn’t technically a GAN:

Now, things have evolved even more, and you can not only generate trippy videos, but also use neural network to emulate the style of an artist and generate from scratch content that is indeed appealing!

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Self-reference is cornerstone in Hofstadter’s Godel-Escher-Bach, a must read book for anyone interested in logic (and we shall rely logic in these days to stay sane.)

Here’s a bunch of examples of self-reference that I found interesting, curated just for you!

Barber’s paradox:

The barber is the “one who shaves all those, and those only, who do not shave themselves.” The question is, does the barber shave himself?

Self-referential figure (via xkcd):

Tupper’s formula that prints itself on a screen (via Brett Richardson) Continue reading

Beautiful SEM pictures

I had the chance to help my friend Sylvie to get scanning electron microscope pictures of the MRI contrast agent she synthesizes, and we collected gorgeous data thanks to my colleague Farhad.
He told me that he had TONS of failed experiments that still yielded great pictures…
We should start a journal of the failed experiments… art+science mag !:)


SEM picture that looks like an aerial view of Dog Island (Anguilla)…

I guess there is some wabi-sabi in science…

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A cool atom

Hi peeps,

Today, I had the chance to be there for a talk given by Steven Chu.
It was a strange talk, with two topics : superresolution imaging and climate change.
I didn’t really get the picture, but I made one :

Steven Chu and George Smoot

Two Nobel Prize winners in the same frame (Chu and Smoot), taken from an handheld smartphone.
And the lab director, Paul Alivisatos

As usual, I’ve asked him a for a drawing.
Since he did a lot of work on laser cooling, I asked him for a “cool atom” :


Steven Chu’s and Paul Alivisatos’s drawings

Since Paul Alivisatos was around, I also asked him for a contribution.
I thought a quantum dot would do the work !

check-out the other drawings I’ve collected here !

L’art et la science (VII) – Addendum

Cela fait longtemps que
1) je n’ai pas écrit en français
2) je n’ai pas ajouté de matériel nouveau sur l’Art et la Science.

Je vous propose de relancer la Z-Machine et de corriger tout cela dans ce post !


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Two new Nobel drawings ! (… and uncharted drawings)

I’ve been working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab for a year now, and I wanted to get drawings from the two Nobel prizes that are still active in the lab : George Smoot (N2006) and Saul Perlmutter (N2011).

They both proved very difficult to find, since they are often travelling. But today, the day before Thanksgiving, I was particularly in luck : I spotted these two guys at the cafeteria !

The time I came back to my office to grab my notebook, Saul Perlmutter was gone, but George Smoot was still here !
I asked him to draw me a picture of the Cosmic Microwave Background. Here’s the result :

Smoot's drawing

Smoot’s drawing

However, Saul Perlmutter had left. But… I knew where his office was. I went there; we talked a little bit.
A little earlier on, my friend Josquin told me that I would rather ask him a picture of a Supernova, probably easier to draw that the idea of universe expansion. Saul told me that this picture wouldn’t be personal, since his mind has been infused by the commonly accepted picture, and proposed to draw me a chart of the accelerating universe :

Perlmutter's drawing

Perlmutter’s drawing

There we go ! (You can check my collection of noble drawings here)

Last month, I had the occasion to attend Uncharted, advertised as the local SXSW, thanks to a scholarship.

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Artists and Nobels

When I read “Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (that I mentionned in this post), he mentioned the existence of, maintained by John Brockman, and the fact the he (DK) was asked by the latter to give his favorite equation.

It turns out that John Brockman has many wonderful connections and asked that same question to a whole bunch of great scientists.

Brockman’s self formula

Together with the Serpentine gallery, they curated the collection “What is your formula ».
This is astonishingly similar to what I try to do with the drawings I get when I encounter a Nobel prize, except that I actually get drawings, instead of formulas (and I’m almost sure my list is bigger than his !).

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Hook theory

I want to talk today about Hooktheory, a website/ebook that two of my colleagues at CXRO Chris and Ryan have founded and are currently developing.

They gave me the chance to visit the Berkeley Skydeck, a startup incubator where they share space with other innovative companies on the top floor of the Chase building, in Berkeley– a great view !

Berkeley Skydeck West

West view from the Berkeley Skydeck– located on the top floor of the Chase Building in Berkeley

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Bruce Alberts’s drawing

Yesterday, I went to a talk given at LBNL by Bruce Alberts on “Science and World’s Future“.

It was an interesting retrospective of the work done by Bruce Alberts all along his career, focused on public outreach (for those who do not know, he was the Editor-in-Chief of Science journal, the president of the US National Academy of Science for 12 years and the author of the bible in Molecular Cell Biology).

He explained his efforts in introducing “critical thinking” education in US schools, and gave some examples which I found very interesting, since I interested in science public outreach myself
–Eh, you know what ? I’m a tour guide for LBNL now !

Bruce Alberts's drawing

Bruce Alberts’s drawing

He was a obviously a good candidate for a drawing ! He is not a Nobel prize himself, but he was definitely a Nobel prize maker…
I’ve asked him to draw me a torch, since he ended his talk with a quote of Louis Pasteur :

Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.

It’s fun the he also quotes Pasteur, like Richard Hamming who quoted the pseudo-Randian :

Chance favors only the prepared mind.

Now that in Berkeley, I really need to get a drawing from George Smoot (building 50-5007, he was in the thesis committee of a friend of mine), Saul Perlmutter (building 50-5038; his daughter is the friend a of colleague;-) , the previous director of the lab and former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, the current director of the lab Paul Alivisatos (a Nobel-Prize-to-be ?), and maybe catch-up with Charles Townes, who’s old an often seen at the church in Berkeley, who was the first person I ever asked to draw me something and the only person who ever refused….


FDTD Simulations of interesting optical phenomena

I’ve made a series of FDTD simulations of optical phenomena using Meep.

I did these this during my thesis, to better understand some not-so-intuitive interaction of light and matter.

There are more to come later !