10th May 2010
Honestly all I knew about this competition was that it had something to do with biology and it was the memory of how much I used to love biology back in the tenth grade that motivated me to take it up. Also, there's a bit of a science fiction fan inside me!
We started work today. The majority of us being purely Art students came with the little knowledge that high school biology provides. We learned that we have missed out on a lot of details and that there is a sea of information out there that we need to know in order to fully and effectively exercise our creative skills.
Although I love biology I realised that I remember very little of what I had been taught, so I asked myself, how much do I remember? Though it seemed like a lot, the group discussion made me realise that it was hardly anything; most of what I remembered was either jumbled up with something else or was too vague and flimsy, and there was also quiet a lot of stuff that came out of no where...spontaneous generation? ha!...figments of my imagination!
We spoke about each of our perceptions on biology, a system, cells, DNA, genes and proteins, genetic splicing and what genetic engineering is all about. The theories on the origin of life and from where or how living cells came into existence, especially with so much diversity was another thing we discussed. Every theory makes sense in its own way, even with Pasteur's simple experiment to disprove the theory of spontaneous generation, no one can explain how the first cells, if there is a first that is, came into existence. As Karthik pointed out our brains are practically hardwired with the theory of cause and reaction, it is only natural that we assume that everything has an origin, things can't just pop out of nowhere. I personally believe that we don't know enough to disregard or discard seemingly irrational theories. Anything is possible.
The bbc documentary on cells gave us substantial insight into the history of the discovery of the cell and about the invention of the microscope; about Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and the other pioneers who planted major landmarks in the world of science.
We were also constantly trying to make sense of how we can contribute our skills as artists and designers to this world. When we started to learn about what genetic engineers did and about gene splicing and gene sequencing, it made sense, it's all an art; a gene sequence is like a colour, mixing different sequences would produce different results, i.e. different colours, the way you compose them on a canvas is the art. Once you get a hang of how to make the different colours, you can compose it anyway you like.
11th May 2010
I got my kiddie microscope to class today, it isn't too bad, magnifies up to 600x. We placed a droplet of muddy water on the slide and we were able to see what looked like little translucent worms, but we weren't sure if it was just the dust and scratches on the lens or if it was in the water. Then we tried placing a thin piece of sliced leaf and saw the pores on its surface. We tried making a microscope using an old Logitech webcam, it was interesting to know that all we had to do after dismantling the webcam was invert the lens! This made me realise that there's a lot of old stuff in all our homes which we could play around with and create new things; recycle and rebuild for some other purposes.
Then we watched videos on the Mendelian theory, how he observed and theorised the process of genetic inheritance using the pea plants, we were given examples of how this works in human beings. We learned about genomes, chromosomes and genes, a chromosome is sort of like a complex pack of genes. A gene in itself contains strands of DNA, which in turn contain pairs of bases-ATs and CGs.
For me, the coolest part was that Mendel was a monk and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was an apprentice to a cloth merchant; and both of them are now seen as the forefathers of today’s Science. Growing up in a time when the Arts and the Sciences were perceived as immiscible (for the most part), it was empowering and reassuring to learn that just about anyone could be the next person to go down in history for discovering or coming up with an idea that could prove to be invaluable to the world.
17th May 2010
Apart from watching more videos about genetics, our task today was to create an imaginary creature. It could be absolutely useless and whimsical. These kinds of assignments are my personal favourite!
I've thought about this many times (although not in this context).Ever since I was little I remember imagining creatures; watching cartoons and TV shows with things that you wouldn't really see living on your planet makes you wonder and makes you dream about your own little (or really huge) creatures. Recently while watching Avatar I was constantly imagining things and I was really excited to do this exercise.
So my creature would be something that floats or flies. I wanted it to be translucent with a slight portion of its insides visible to us on the outside, I wanted it to be roughly the size of a medium sized bubble or a tennis ball. I wanted it to be a wobbly sphere.
Now, I didn't want my creature to be completely useless, since we are in great need of air purifiers, especially in big cities like Bangalore, why not create something that fed on the pollutants. Every time the pollution increased in the atmosphere these little creatures start sprouting out. It's their source of nutrition. I decided to name it Purgcaelum. It's latin for purify air (purg and caelum respectively).
I found that Nitrogen oxides are major pollutants, so I wanted Purgcaelum to be able to turn the nitrogen oxides into ammonia that could be helpful to plants. I wanted it to perform the role of nitrogen fixing bacteria! I'm not sure about how scientifically possible this task is though...
We're also doing a living art piece. Using any medium of portrayal, we're going to take a living thing and study it's pattern of growth or behaviour. As against cruelty towards living things as I am, I decided to study fireflies to see how I could control their behaviour (I will let them free ofcourse). Finding them around where I live however, is very difficult. I'm not even sure if it's their habitat.
After a lot of research, I found that sadly fireflies all around the world are endangered. Well, seeing a firefly in itself was a huge deal for me as a kid, forget catching one. I haven't seen one in years. It's extrememly sad. We should save them.