This is by far the most ridiculous question a Comment o’ the Week winner has submitted for an Afternoon Inquisition. Most people see the word limit in the contact form and think, “Right, so I’ll keep it short.” But no, not this week’s winner. Kimberly Chapman went above and beyond to figure out a way to send in a massive post, which ordinarily I would chop up because it’s a pain in the ass to format these, but you know what? She’s just so god damned entertaining. Here’s her question:
I came to this website via the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, which I began listening to a few weeks ago. I’m working on a giant cake for this year’s Austin cake show (http://thattakesthecake.org/), and I like to have interesting podcasts on while I work. I was caught up with my regular science/geeky/newsy podcasts so I went looking through iTunes for links to ones I already like, and somehow on a path of NPR nerdiness I ended up at SGU.
How apropos to listen to a skeptic take on UFOs, aliens, and all things interplanetary while working on a science-fiction themed cake! It brings me great joy to hear news of real astronomical discoveries along with mockery of downright ridiculous claims of the paranormal while making tiny orange suspenders for the little fondant Leeloo Dallas, or piping the finishing touches on the Slurm machine (“It’s Highly Addictive!”).
This isn’t the first time I’ve had art meet science radio. Years ago while everyone else in the ceramics lab made typical angst-dripping sculptures, I was making Klein bottles. I will never forget the day I
heard Neil deGrasse Tyson tell “Living On Earth” host Steve Curwin about letting his toddler daughter deliberately spill milk because she was clearly studying fluid dynamics. There I was smoothing the
surface of a Klein bottle and hearing a story of exactly the scientific-minded parent I wanted to be.
Not long after that, I finally got pregnant and knitted a “Baby’s First DNA Model” (and you can too with the free pattern here: http://kimberlychapman.com/crafts/knit-patterns-dna.html ), which came out of experimentation in knitting and wondering what happens if you take stitches away from one side of a tube and add them back on the other side. I hypothesized that they’d cancel each other out, and my husband hypothesized that it would twist. I tried it and he was right. I had the fun of experimentation and a great nerdy gift for my baby.
My favourite creations all seem to come back to science and geekdom. I’m an artsy type, but even though I let my head soar, my feet remain grounded in science. If you don’t understand some basic principles of physics, you can’t build sound structures out of clay, cake, yarn, or anything else. If you aren’t willing to experiment and see the value in a negative result, you will remain a slave to other people’s patterns and templates. All the feel-good, woo-woo philosophies in the world won’t stop your cake from collapsing under its own weight or help you figure out how many stitches you need to cast on to get the right size of sleeve.
What art or craft do you create with the help of science? What experiments have you done in your hobbies to push the boundaries of that area? How has your love of science inspired you in artistic ways?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.