Category Archives: art & science

Art & Science (XI) – Resources in the Bay Area

Here’s a short list of Art & Science resources in the Bay Area.
It is not comprehensive, and I will augment it as I go!

In San Francisco

Grey Area (2665 Mission Street) is a space dedicated to art and technology (lots of VR and visual art.) The Exploratorium (Pier 15) has a lot of very neat experiments that do have an artistic component to them, while the  Cal Academy of Science (Golden Gate Park) sometimes run events based on art and technology.
For 2018-2019, the French Embassy is assembling a series of events around arts and science called After Tomorrow. There’s been events at the Cal Academy of Arts and Gray Area, but oftentimes they’re here to promote a French artist, rather than giving a systematic treatment of art and science.
There’s also Leonardo/ISAST (International Society for Art, Science and Technology), which is based in the Bay Area and organizes event, such as the LASER talks, The Convening (for their 50th birthday.)

At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

There is a large source of content at Berkeley Lab, especially given it’s the host of national user facilities:
the Advanced Light Source (x-ray imaging), the Molecular Foundry (electron microscopy), NERSC (computer simulations) and Joint Genome Institute (biology), each with over 1000 users per year from all over the world, and a rich history (including 12 Nobel Prize laureates). Over the past year I’ve tried to consolidate the material available. Here is some things you can find online:
I’ve been collecting data (art-at-lbl-gov goes straight to my mailbox,) and I have a bunch of scientific friends who are themselves artist, such as Sinead Griffin. I even ventured into this myself; the following picture was made by superimposing partially coherent light on atomic scale variations of a substrate seen with an x-ray microscope (a tribute to “Suprematist Composition: White on White” by Vladimir Malevich):

Incoherent on Coherent (Antoine Wojdyla, 2015)

I believe there are many cool things in tandem with BAM/PFA or SFMOMA, or even CalPerf: the music venue should try to get closer to what people are doing in the EECS department — and I believe the University of Michigan should do the same with UMS.
I’m not very familiar with what happens at UC Berkeley or Stanford in that field, apart from are a few independent events, such as this one. I would love to invite David Stork, Edward Tufte and others, and I’m sure that there are many ways to bring in other national labs, Bell Labs (Bell Labs researchers basically fled to national labs when things went down, but there seems to be a revival nowadays.)
And there’s of course some art on novel unusual media (silicon wafers or EUV photomasks) that could be used!

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

Wafer art

My father is an artist, and he recently spent a few weeks in Berkeley, where he had the chance to paint. Since painting on a canvas is boring, I thought he could try to paint on pieces of silicon wafer, which are the principal component for the fabrication of microprocessors, and indeed he did:

Silicone (Romain Wojdyla, 2017)

Le Monde Upside Down II (Romain Wojdyla, 2017)

I was able to salvage an EUV photomask from my lab, which is basically the gold master for engraving these microchips. These surface are extremely precise (down to the atomic level), yet the paint stuck:

Floating Point (Romain Wojdyla, 2017)

There’s also a swath of art in-silico, not too far from David Hockney’s iPad paintings.

Untitled (Romain Wojdyla, 2011)

Happy birthday dad!

(some of his artwork is available here:

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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