Like many people with a split personality I get into crazy things. I have been a scientist all my life and am now 74. I have also been an artist, focusing on watercolor. I even won a prize in a city wide art contest for grammar school kids in Chicago way back when. The links between art and science are stronger than most people think. For instance the Illinois institute of Technology where I enrolled in Civil Engineering as an undergraduate has an interesting connection with the Bauhaus. My title involves global warming so I promise you that if you stay with me here I will get there. I would not be writing this diary if I did not think I have a new slant on the topic. Read on below and see what you think.
First of all the Bauhaus:
The Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar. In spite of its name, and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus did not have an architecture department during the first years of its existence. Nonetheless it was founded with the idea of creating a 'total' work of art in which all arts, including architecture would eventually be brought together. The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design. The Bauhaus had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.
The school existed in three German cities (Weimar from 1919 to 1925, Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and Berlin from 1932 to 1933), under three different architect-directors: Walter Gropius from 1919 to 1928, Hannes Meyer from 1928 to 1930 and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1930 until 1933, when the school was closed by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi regime.
The changes of venue and leadership resulted in a constant shifting of focus, technique, instructors, and politics. For instance: the pottery shop was discontinued when the school moved from Weimar to Dessau, even though it had been an important revenue source; when Mies van der Rohe took over the school in 1930, he transformed it into a private school, and would not allow any supporters of Hannes Meyer to attend it.
Anyone familiar with my Alma mater is familiar with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for many reasons. One good one is that he designed so many of the newer buildings on the campus. (So what if they were intended to be air conditioned and the school decided to leave that part out. Glass and steel that's the deal!) Here's what happened:
In the late 1930s, Mies van der Rohe re-settled in Chicago, enjoyed the sponsorship of the influential Philip Johnson, and became one of the pre-eminent architects in the world. Moholy-Nagy also went to Chicago and founded the New Bauhaus school under the sponsorship of industrialist and philanthropist Walter Paepcke. This school became the Institute of Design, part of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Printmaker and painter Werner Drewes was also largely responsible for bringing the Bauhaus aesthetic to America and taught at both Columbia University and Washington University in St. Louis. Herbert Bayer, sponsored by Paepcke, moved to Aspen, Colorado in support of Paepcke's Aspen projects at the Aspen Institute. In 1953, Max Bill, together with Inge Aicher-Scholl and Otl Aicher, founded the Ulm School of Design (German: Hochschule für Gestaltung - HfG Ulm) in Ulm, Germany, a design school in the tradition of the Bauhaus. The school is notable for its inclusion of semiotics as a field of study. The school closed in 1968, but the ′Ulm Model′ concept continues to influence international design education.
One of the main objectives of the Bauhaus was to unify art, craft, and technology. The machine was considered a positive element, and therefore industrial and product design were important components. Vorkurs ("initial" or "preliminary course") was taught; this is the modern day "Basic Design" course that has become one of the key foundational courses offered in architectural and design schools across the globe. There was no teaching of history in the school because everything was supposed to be designed and created according to first principles rather than by following precedent.
Did you get that one sentence:
One of the main objectives of the Bauhaus was to unify art, craft, and technology.
I will only mention that this is not too far from ideas spawned at the University of Chicago by Robert Maynard Hutchins a number of decades earlier.
So if all this history does nothing else it establishes a reason for my own personal madness. We will now flash forward to the 1960s and delve into another marriage of technology, science and art that is also a way of gaining insight into some basic aspects of the global system we are worried about.
While I was teaching at Harvard Medical School, one of the brightest Biophysics graduate students I have ever met gave me a present. It was a Kalliroscope. I assume every reader is not familiar with this device so I'll give you a description:
Kalliroscope is an art device/technique based on rheoscopic fluids invented by artist Paul Matisse.
Paul Matisse (born 1933) is an artist and inventor. He is known especially for his public art installations, many of which are interactive. He is also inventor of the Kalliroscope
In 1954, Matisse graduated from Harvard, where he once lived in Eliot House (Another set of coincidences: Eliot House is one of twelve residential houses for upperclassmen at Harvard University. Opened in 1931, the house was named after Charles William Eliot, who served as president of the university for forty years... with Stephen Joyce. Stephen James Joyce is the grandson of James Joyce and the controversial executor of Joyce's estate. He was born in France, the son of James Joyce's son Giorgio, and Helen Joyce née Kastor. Stephen attended Harvard University, graduating in 1958..., grandson of James Joyce I'll skip the explanation of who he is., and Sadruddin Aga Khan, a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad)
After college he briefly studied at Harvard's Graduate School of Design before working in product development for Arthur D. Little.
In 1962 he set off on his own, manufacturing Kalliroscopes.
He currently resides in a former Baptist church in Groton, Massachusetts
He is the stepson of artist Marcel Duchamp(Marcel Duchamp was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Duchamp's output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art...) and grandson of French painter Henri Matisse
So that's the background. These things (Kalliroscopes) are neat. When the fluid in them is stationary they are a solid color. (Mine was blue) When the fluid is set in motion the flow lines become a lighter blue. The thing was in a 3/4" thick rectangular box about 3" by 5". Matissse had a little spinner that fit into the bottom of the box and it allowed you to spin it on a table top creating fantastic patterns.
The fluid is a rheoscopic fluid meaning that it has the characteristic of showing flow lines when it moves.
If you heated a part of it the fluid would flow so the idea of standing it near a lamp to get heat from the bulb was a psychedelic thing in the '60s.
I used it in a special way in teaching. I'd go to class with it inside my shirt so it got warm. Then I set it on a table and poured ice water on top. It spontaneously generated the famous Benard cells which look like a honey comb. Hexagonal cells of flowing fluid. Self organization in a simple fluid!
That brings us to global warming finally. The hexagonal cells were created by the warm, less dense, fluid at the bottom of the device moving up while the cooler, more dense, fluid moved downward. Good old gravity at work!
What is striking about this is the fact that if you do not perturb the system and keep it vibration free these flow cells make a hexagonal, honeycomb pattern!
Of course in my demonstrations to students we had no such vibration free environment and the system is very sensitive to initial conditions so that the pattern that formed was never the same twice!
This is a very simple system when compared with the layer of atmosphere around the earth yet certain parallels do exist. Convection cells and, in extreme conditions, tornadoes and hurricanes form to get rid of the heat induced instabilities. The system is quasi-stable over long, long periods of time. An important contributor to that stability is the action of the biosphere to gobble up heat energy that otherwise would be released back into the atmosphere and then space enhancing this convective discharge. Satellite measurements of the heat loss above a rain forest at the equator can be surprising in that the situation looks very much like that at the polar caps(Into the Cool).
The bottom line message is one most scientific fundamentalists won't like. If you try to find a hard core explanation with equations, etc. for the simple Benard phenomenon, you won't. It does not exist. Oh you can fill pages with hydrodynamic equations describing the cells once they have formed but we can not predict them nor tell how they form.
I write this diary because I am as troubled as anyone about the failure of science to convince people long ago that we are doing ourselves in. I am also troubled by the "science and technology can solve any problem" mentality among us. Yes we could put a man on the moon when we set our minds to it. Where is the analogy? It does not exist. Time is growing short I suspect. How much more foolishness are we going to have to cut through before we understand the limits of our understanding? I am a bitter old man some of our local democrats told me. I wish that were all that is to it. I think we have our heads deep in the sand. Are we really sophisticated lemmings? I wonder.