Science needs art for its survival

There are clear indications of positive synergy between art and science. Science leads to perfection. Art brings into the fold of science the unexplainable world of magic. Science begins as philosophy and ends as art. Art boosts attention, cognition, working memory and reading fluency. Art improves learning; it combines major tools that mind uses to acquire, store and communicate. The tools are motor skills, perceptual representation and language. Imagination is essential for scientific creativity. To unravel our deepest questions we need to combine the bottom-up approach of science with the top-down approach of art.

Art, in association with science, can take us to the blind spots where we can't go alone. The well-known physicist, Niels Bohr, a lover of cubist paintings, once said, “We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry.” For him the invisible world of the electron was essentially a cubist world. He knew electrons could exist as either particles or waves, but he also knew that the form they took depended on how we look at them, and their nature was a consequence of our observation.

Art is qualitative, and is generally associated with emotions. Science is more quantitative than qualitative, and is generally associated with intelligence. Art looks for questions, while science seeks answers. Science is more like a 'monologue'. Art is more like a 'dialogue'. Both the artists as well as the scientists want to see beyond the obvious.

Both require imagination. Both look for a chance to think outside the box. Both get distracted by the blind alleys of complex social problems. Both want to come out of these blind alleys in their own ways. Both draw inspiration from their conscious and unconscious realms. Perhaps, practising science needs lot of knowledge and experimentation, while practising art needs lot of imagination and experience.

Artists and scientists make a good natural partnership. What about incoherence, imprecision, abstraction and contradiction that art delivers? That is precisely the point. Isn't incoherence an essential aspect of the human mind?

Don't we live in a world full of contradictions? The issue is how to make the 'two cultures' move forward? What kind of 'third culture' would close the gap between the scientists and the artists? Each side has something useful to offer to the other side. If they join hands, perhaps one day we will find answers of some of our yet unresolved deepest questions.

World is changing very fast. Collaboration among diverse disciplines is becoming the norm. More and more people are realising the importance of relatedness among unrelated things; the more unrelated the elements are, the more radical and innovative is the synthesis. The knowledge sharing is possible when basic values and understanding among the collaborators match. A conceptualist can collaborate with an experimentalist, but their roles and their approach to problem-solving are different. This is not to say that others' view should be accepted without critical examination, particularly when it comes from entirely diverse sources. In scientific activities, collaborators share and complement conceptual or experimental approaches. In the practice of art, personal taste, vision and style of expression matters. These deeper shared characteristics need better understanding.

There is so much truth in the beautiful observation of Murray Gellman. Let me quote, ”What is especially striking and remarkable is that in fundamental physics a beautiful or elegant theory is more likely to be right than a theory that is inelegant.”