The Connection Between Art and Science

The Connection Between Art and Science

by April 10, 2015

Artists have long been inspired by science and innovation. The typical reference point for this stems from the Renaissance when artists explored perspective, anatomy, and kinetics in new and innovative ways. This particular art movement emphasized the idea that artists often think like scientists, but it is important to note that scientists are equally inspired by art.


For instance, astronauts exemplify the idea that a scientific mind can be fostered by art. These people offer views of the world that no other group can offer. Alan Bean began painting scenes of space almost as soon as he returned to Earth. Neil Armstrong took photographs from the moon during the Apollo 11 Mission that had a surprisingly artistic composition. Yes, NASA needed documentation, but Armstrong’s photos were honed and looked as though  they were taken by a photographic eye.

The latest, and possibly one of the widest reaching, artistic integrations of space exploration with artistic expression comes from Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield. He was not the first astronaut to bring a musical instrument with him to space, but through his YouTube video series, he quickly became known for his spacey guitar riffs as well as his scientific intelligence.

Hadfield started to broadcast his video series, “An Astronaut’s Guide”, to help educate the public about life on the International Space Station. Often he would answer questions proposed by school children, but he would also play his guitar for the camera. Through these videos, he became virally popular for his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

He later went on in interviews to describe the experience of relearning the guitar in zero gravity. Hadfield informed the public that strings don’t work the same way in space as they do on Earth, and stated that his hands often felt clunky. To be able to play such a complicated song in that sort of environment was, no doubt an artistic achievement.

Through his video communication with both school children and his YouTube audience, Hadfield raised the cultural awareness of both art and science. When asked about his approach to arts and education, he replied, “It’s funny that we say arts and sciences as if they’re different things, as if the two have never met each other, but they don’t know that they’re separate. How could anything be more scientific and mathematical than music? Look at a musical score. Think of what harmony is or tempo and timing and volume and vibrato. All of that is scientific and mathematical, yet we do it almost exclusively for the beauty of it.” 

Science and innovation are not separate from artistic exploration or achievement, they are one and the same. To truly inspire future generations to innovate and explore, Hadfield used the entire vocabulary available to him — artistic expression as well as scientific curiosity. Speaking to school children and the curious viewing public, Hadfield made a reach into the cultural zeitgeist to assure that future generations aspire to achieve the same level of balanced exploration.

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