Category Archives: art & science

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 !


Serge Haroche won the Nobel Prize !

+1 in my Nobel Prize Drawings Collection !

Serge Haroche's – met in Paris, 2010

The two cultures

I OCRed the manuscript of the famous “The Two Cultures”  lecture by R.C. Snow.
You can find an html version, or read the original version in a poorly-scanned pdf.

I like this text, because it gives an overview of the consequences of the forced choice you have to make, at some point, between hard (scientific) and soft (humanities) knowledge.
I don’t want to choose. I guess I’m a bit oldschool.

I think that one possible definition of our modern culture is that it is one in which nine-tenths of our intellectuals can’t read any poetry.  – Randall Jarrell

Here’s an extract of “The two cultures” :

The non-scientists have a rooted impression that the scientists are shallowly optimistic, unaware of man’s condition. On the other hand, the scientists believe that the literary intellectuals are totally lacking in foresight, peculiarly unconcerned with their brother men, in a deep sense anti-intellectual, anxious to restrict both art and thought to the existential moment. And so on.

Anyone with a mild talent for invective could produce plenty of this kind of subterranean back-chat. On each side there is some of it which is not entirely baseless. It is all destructive. Much of it rests on misinterpretations which are dangerous. I should like to deal with two of the most profound of these now, one on each side.