Science and art meet in 'Experiment Marathon'

[ Fri. Oct. 12. 2007 ]

The favourite "formula for the 21st century" of leading scientists is to take centre stage at an encounter tomorrow between the arts and sciences in London.

At the Serpentine Gallery the mathematical expressions favoured by the likes of evolutionary biologist Prof Richard Dawkins, cognitive scientist Prof Steven Pinker and genome sequencer Craig Venter will be on show at a weekend "Experiment Marathon" to blur the boundaries of art and science.

Venter, head of the J Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, examines the connection between the ratio of the elements of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus with life, and how this links with the letters of the genetic alphabet that nature used to spell out genes.

Pinker of Harvard University works out the potential number of thoughts we can have and Prof Dawkins underlines the power of Darwin's ideas about evolution.

John Brockman, a New York based literary agent and publisher of the web site, which is devoted to science.

He was inspired to do the project by an earlier visit to the gallery, when he saw the walls of the office of his friend, the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, were covered with single pages of size A4 paper on which artists, writers, scientists had responded to his question: "What Is Your Formula?" Now he has collected around 100 of them for the exhibition.

"Among the pieces he had collected were formulas by quantum physicist David Deutsch, artist and musician Brian Eno, architect Rem Koolhaas, and fractal mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot," said Brockman.

He will also include contributions from the likes of Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees, cosmologists Jana Levin and Lisa Randall, and many more of the 100 leading figures who replied.

Brockman will also lead a session that includes psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University who will test the claim 'Do women have more empathy than men?' among a huge variety of experiments exploring perception, artificial intelligence, the body and language, which will take place in and around the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

The Marathon starts with a session convened by renowned scientists Prof Israel Rosenfield of the City University of New York, and Dr Luc Steels of Sony Robotics Lab, looking into the brain's interpretation of reality, artificial intelligence and out-of-body experiences; "We are doing colour, robotics and sound to show how the brain functions," said Prof Rosenfield.

Angela Sirigu presents the famous Phantom Limb experiment, in which amputees continue to experience the presence of a lost body part; and Prof Olaf Blanke from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne shows how a confused mind can generate an out of body feeling.

Pedro Reyes brings his Three Way Kissing Booth for "a public experiment on the permutations of male and female desire" while Tim Etchells of Forced Entertainment stages a 24-hour, online writing event, passing a cumulative piece of writing from time zone to time zone.

The experiment follows a similar event last October, which featured interviews with leading cultural figures including Gilbert and George, Zaha Hadid, Damien Hirst and the Doris Lessing, who is now a Nobel laureate.