The Art of Science: A reflection on how even human bodies can be works of art.

It’s early in the morning, and the children are just getting settled in at summer camp, sitting in rows in the middle of a room that’s empty except for a fold-up table and a few plastic chairs.  The room is warm and humid, it being the middle of summer and having just rained the night before, but the breeze coming through the open window feels nice and gently moves their hair as they look up bewildered at what’s sitting on the table in front of them: a clear jar, measuring cups and various containers full of liquids and powders. 

The children watch in stilled wonder as their counselor combines Vitamin C with water, iodine, hydrogen peroxide and laundry starch slowly and carefully.  When everything’s combined in the jar, their counselor tells them to keep their eyes out for any changes. At first, the liquid is cloudy, but clear, and the children don’t see what the big deal is.  But then, the solution turns a light green. Then yellow. Then orange. Then red. Then finally, a dark, inky blue that settles calmly in the jar. They had never imagined that a science experiment could be so beautiful. 

There is a common misconception that art and science are completely separate from one another, or perhaps even complete opposites.  On the surface, it may appear to be that way with science tending to lean more on data, and art more on expression. However, I believe that there’s much more overlap between the two fields than meets the eye. 

I am an English major, and as such, there is no reason for me whatsoever to take an Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) class.  But I did. And when I mention it in conversation, I’m always met with questions like, “Couldn’t you have taken something easier?” or “Aren’t you studying English?” or, most commonly, “Why?” 

There is a logical explanation as to why I decided to take A&P.  Simply put, it’s a prerequisite for most, if not all, graduate occupational therapy programs, and at the time I registered for the course, I was planning on studying occupational therapy after graduation.  Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity of humans, and I wanted to learn more about what makes our bodies work. 

The most important thing I took away from A&P is that our bodies are works of art.  Studying what makes us up is a work of art. Art is detailed and nuanced and seeks to know why.  Why people act the way they act and look the way they look. Why grass grows and flowers bloom and water flows.  Why when some things interact, there’s a reaction and change, sometimes violent, often small, and when others interact, there’s stasis.  It’s in asking “Why?” that we are all artists. It’s in asking “Why?” that we are also all scientists. 

The art of science is looking at the big picture while focusing on details, observing the world and wanting to understand it fully, challenging others’ ideas and not being afraid to delve into the unknown.  It’s turning unrelated materials into something extraordinary, like a rainbow reaction that changes before your awestruck eyes.

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