giovedì 1 marzo 2012

Meet my husband/12: Jonathon Keats and the Microbial Academy of Sciences

“Scientists keep trying to formulate a theory of everything, and all they get are headaches. Clearly we're overthinking things. Our brains are too complex to comprehend the underlying simplicity of the universe. Cyanobacteria are not burdened by all that gray matter.”
– Jonathon Keats

Bruce Sterling, in his Wired blog Beyond the Beyond, talks about "The latest Jonathon Keats emanation" saying that "*The guy’s CV is getting longer than his interventions."

The Microbial Academy of Sciences
In another Wired article, Microbial Academy of Sciences Turns Cyanobacteria Into Cosmonauts, writer Scott Thill interviews Mr. Keats about his Microbial Academy of Sciences, which will be open through April 14 as part of the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery’s Vast and Undetectable exhibit
"'Cyanobacteria are some of the oldest surviving organisms on Earth, successfully adapting to an ever-changing world for more than 3 billion years, while we’ve managed nearly to drive ourselves to extinction in a mere 200 millennia', the always amiable Keats told in an e-mail.
'But in all those eons, bacteria have never been given observatory access, to study the cosmos for themselves,' he added. 'Their experience of the universe has always only been at the scale of microns. My observatory is built to address that unfortunate oversight, providing the resources for colonies of bacteria to research a theory of everything, reconciling cosmic and quantum observations in their own bacterial way.' (...)
Keats' bacterial cosmologists search for a theory of everything.
'String theory and loop quantum gravity are both riddled with problems, Keats said, 'and they’re incredibly complicated, hardly in keeping with the ideal of most scientists: a theory of everything that can fit on a T-shirt.' (...) He’s created an array of petri dishes filled with brackish water taken from the San Francisco Bay and placed them atop a flat-screen monitor laid on its back, which pulses and glows with imagery supplied by the Hubble Space Telescope. After spending a few weeks in a petri dish, the organisms will be released into the environment from which they came, and replaced with others from different locations. 
(...) Keats’ excellently existential twist is that even if his cyanobacterial cosmonauts end up formulating a theory of everything, we may never know it. (...) 'I wouldn’t want to be bacteriocentric any more than I’d wish to be anthropocentric,' he said." 

The Wall Street Journal, in Rebecca Horne's article Bacteria Ponder the Heavens, describes San Francisco as being "the first city in the world to open a scientific institution exclusively for the benefit of single-cell organisms."

Scientific American calls the Microbial Academy of Sciences "Fantastic, provocative science-art", while Gizmodo is interested in Mr. Keats refusal to ask that the bacteria share their discoveries with us: "Of course, even if these magical bacteria ever figures out the answer to life. It's not like we can stroll up to them and go, 'Hey Backy, what's the answer to life?'. No matter says Keats! To him, as long as the universe is understood by something, it's all good by him. As ridiculous and hilarious and parodic Funny or Die video as this art project sounds, I'm totally rooting for the bacteria to figure it out and then band together and destroy humanity. Or something like that."

Jason Gots of Big Think, in Can Bacteria Solve the Mysteries of the Universe? writes that "Keats turns science and everyday reality inside out, making the Twilight Zone manifest. His experiments provoke laughter, debate, bewilderment, even outrage."
Morgan Clendaniel, on Co.Exist, quotes Keats' words: "Because cyanobacteria can perform photosynthesis, they’ll be able to detect patterns of starlight".
The San Francisco Bay Guardian states that "Keats’ piece comes closest to identifying the unknowable on both sides of the undetectability spectrum—from the unfathomable expanses of the cosmos, to the infinitesimal recesses of the micro-universe."

Discovery News, on the other hand, writes that "Keats has made a bit of a name for himself over the years as the agent provocateur behind various wacky exercises in multimedia performance art -- or, as the New Yorker prefers to think of him, a 'poet of ideas,'" while shows a gallery of images of Mr. Keats' "space-themed works, from a celestial observatory for microbes to an attempt to goad God into creating more universes".

You can find more articles in the Toronto Star, in Sampling Science, and in, and if you read Polish, there is also this one.

8 commenti:

  1. Già commentai a proposito di questo esperimento, quindi già sai cosa ne penso! Se fossi a SF sarei la prima della fila :)
    Pensa che una notte ho anche sognato di essere in città e che andavo a vedere alcune mostre di Mr Keats...

    1. :-DD Ne sta preparando una per New York in uno spazio che già da solo fa morir dal ridere. Tra un paio di settimane ve lo faccio vedere.

  2. Ti prego chiedigli se aveva in un angolino delka mente Douglas Adams, mentre creava l''accadema! La vengo a vedere!

    1. Non ci avevo pensato, però in effetti qualche mese fa mi sono divorata tutto DA in pochissimo tempo, e forse J è stato un po' ispirato dalle mie sonore sghignazzate.

  3. Avevo un amico geologo, convinto che le pietre vivessero una vita propria, ma tuo marito va oltre, Silvia :-)

    Va' che hai sposato un bel personaggio! Ho letto il post sul suo libro e so che lo devo ordinare, non appena riesco a sfoltire la pila che ho sul comodino.

    1. Sì, davvero un personaggio bizzarro! Adesso ne sta già studiando un'altra.
      Il suo libro (come faccio a dirlo senza evocare il conflitto d'interessi? Vabbè, lo evocherò, pazienza) è molto bello.

  4. L'idea dei "cyanobacterial cosmonauts" e' eccezionale!
    Fagli i miei complimenti.
    Chissa' se anche loro diranno che la risposta a tutto e' 42.

    1. 42! 42! Adoro quei libri, credo che siano la lettura che mi ha più fatto ridere in vita mia. Marvin the Paranoid Android sono io!
      Comunque gliel'ho richiesto, e conferma che può sicuramente citare Douglas Adams nel novero degli artisti che lo hanno influenzato. Anche lui apprezzerà il riferimento al 42.