In the spirit of Christmas, a very interesting article on how artists who have portrayed Jesus, both during the crucifixion and often just general paintings of him, showed the left side of his face most often, and why that matters:
Fifteen hundred years ago, in the region that is modern-day Syria, a scribe drew a scene depicting the crucifixion of Christ. Before or after he conjured the mountains, the cross and the executioners, he drew Jesus’ face turned to the right, his left cheek toward the viewer.
Fast forward a thousand years to Europe and we find the German painter and politician Albrecht Altdorfer departing from convention by depicting the crucifixion of Christ on the shore of a river. When it came to Jesus’ face, however, Altdorfer was more conformist, painting his head turned to the right, left cheek towards the viewer.
These painters noticed, perhaps subconsciously, that the expression of emotion is more intense via the left side of the face, and therefore they chose to depict Jesus with that side of his face on display.
By making Jesus’ left-cheek prominent, crucifixion artists may have taken unknowing advantage of other facts from neuroscience too. With his head turned to the right, Jesus’ face will be processed mostly by the viewer’s right hemisphere – the side of the brain that is preferentially activated when interpreting emotion, especially negative emotion. There’s even research suggesting that turning the head to one side activates the brain hemisphere on the opposite side. “Since the left hemisphere mediates positive emotions and the right negative emotions, the rotation of Christ’s head during the crucifixion may have helped reduce his suffering,” write Acosta and her colleagues.
- Iconography (topjode.wordpress.com)
If you’re looking for something different to do this weekend, how about hearing a band of robots make beautiful music? Artist Chico MacMurtrie’s eclectic collection of robotic sculptures is now performing for the first time on the East Coast at a historic church in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The site-specific installation, fittingly called the Robotic Church, has taken over the former Norwegian Seaman’s Church with a collection of incredible sound-playing robotic sculptures, all made from recycled machine parts. Although reservations are required, the spectacular show is free and open to the public with three performance days throughout November.
Listening to music in and of itself is undeniably pleasurable. Unlike food or sex, music is not intrinsically valuable to the humankind; regardless of what Shakespeare may have lead you to believe, moonlight serenades are not required for survival of our species. Yet, how is music – something so intangible, so “useless”- capable of triggering such profound feelings of euphoria across cultures and generations since prehistoric times?
A few years ago, in an attempt to unravel the mystery, researchers from Montreal monitored the brain’s reward system of volunteers as they listened to music that gave them the “chills”. To visualize changes in the brain, researchers injected the volunteers with a radioactive ligand that binds to receptors of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that mediates the pleasurable effects of natural and drug rewards. As music gradually built up, edging closer and closer to the climax, dopamine flooded the right caudate nucleus, correlating with the listener’s experience of anticipation. At the moment of the “chills”, dopamine rushed out from the synapses of neurons in the right nucleus accumbens (NAc). This intangible mental “high” accompanied a measurable physical response – increased heart rate and sweating, rapid breathing, and a drop in skin temperature – all physical signs of emotional arousal.
It seems rather clear-cut that music feels good because it triggers a dopamine rush. Yet the story, like most of science, is not so simple. Dopamine is released during presentation of the reward, or (as learning occurs) in anticipation of reward. For a familiar piece of music, the theory fits our understanding of pleasure – we squirm at the edge of our seats, anticipating the chills; but how can dopamine release explain our appreciation for previously unheard music?
In a new series of experiments, the same researchers studied how the brain values a newly encountered piece of music. Using an iTunes-like interface, they first played for the volunteers a short clip of an unfamiliar song, and then asked them how much they’re willing to pay ($0, $0.99, $1.29, or $2) to buy the entire tune. Compared to relying on subjective rating, this design allowed researchers to put an objective number on the “value” of music.
Previous experience with critical thinking in the sciences (left brain) has been a common theme for perceived success in medicine. Sprinkled with these important traits and skills, it turns out that the value of a humanities background, emphasizing more “right brain” characteristics (including imagery, poetry and drawing) may actually hold greater value in the eyes of some experts.
Being accepted into medical school used to mean selecting time-honored disciplines such as biology or chemistry, taking a more traditional route as a “pre-med” to gain entrance. The goal was to be the most prepared for the onslaught of biochemistry, pharmacology, anatomy and science-related material that has traditionally permeated the first several years of medical school, prior to the transition to formal clerkships.
In the past two decades, however, with the advent of the problem based learning promoted through Harvard Medical School, along with an earlier exposure to seeing patients in various electives, the traditional pre-med student that admission committees use to seek out has begun to change.
As medical schools have become more innovative, and as their approach to training medical students has evolved–as evidenced by new and progressive schools such as the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University—having a strictly science-related background may not be the only way to increase the probability of gaining entrance.
Dr. Salvatore Mangione, Associate Professor of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, and a master of artistic expression and physical diagnosis feels that such alternative artistic and visual skills may enhance the ability of a student to excel in medical school and become a successful physician in practice. Dr. Mangione also serves as Director of the Physical Diagnosis Course as well as the History of Medicine Course at Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University.
In his view, medical students with a more diverse background, which could include artistic and visual skills may potentially hold an edge in today’s selection process.
It seems that students with more “right brain” qualities–related to imagery, visual and drawing skills–have begun to emerge as more successful in today’s digital, image-based world of medicine.
“More and more, the data are quite convincing that people that think in pictures may actually have greater innovation and greater creativity than people who think in words.” says Dr. Mangione.
- How Studying Art Improves Doctor Training (artofscience.wordpress.com)
- Can Studying Art Help Medical Students Become Better Doctors? (forbes.com)
- Fixing the Canadian Medical School System (strivingformed.wordpress.com)
Playing pop and rock music improves the performance of solar cells, according to new research from scientists at Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London.
The high frequencies and pitch found in pop and rock music cause vibrations that enhanced energy generation in solar cells containing a cluster of ‘nanorods’, leading to a 40 per cent increase in efficiency of the solar cells.
The study has implications for improving energy generation from sunlight, particularly for the development of new, lower cost, printed solar cells.
The researchers grew billions of tiny rods (nanorods) made from zinc oxide, then covered them with an active polymer to form a device that converts sunlight into electricity.
Using the special properties of the zinc oxide material, the team was able to show that sound levels as low as 75 decibels (equivalent to a typical roadside noise or a printer in an office) could significantly improve the solar cell performance.
"After investigating systems for converting vibrations into electricity this is a really exciting development that shows a similar set of physical properties can also enhance the performance of a photovoltaic," said Dr Steve Dunn, Reader in Nanoscale Materials from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science and co-author of the paper.
Scientists had previously shown that applying pressure or strain to zinc oxide materials could result in voltage outputs, known as the piezoelectric effect. However, the effect of these piezoelectric voltages on solar cell efficiency had not received significant attention before.
Aside from this being a really interesting finding about improving solar tech, this has got to be the best excuse ever for the solar engineers to turn up some Rolling Stones.
We often talk about how a speech is beautiful, or how speech rolls off the tongue or is stilted or too fast or too slow, but what does all that actually look like? You may have seen 2D visualizations of speech, but what about 3D? And have you ever seen a speech visualized?
French digital artist Gilles Azzaro has created a captivating way for you to realize this possibility. Azzaro’s piece, titled Barack Obama: Next Industrial Revolution, features a 3D-printed visualization of Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union Address, turning peaks in soundwaves into shining plastic. In this particular speech, Obama discusses the revolutionary effect 3D printing could potentially have on US manufacturing. Some have even claimed the format could yield a third Industrial Revolution.
Unveiled last week at the 3D Print Show in London, the installation adds another dimension to this 39 second long audio clip, creating a speech that engages its audience on multiple levels.
Even without witnessing Next Industrial Revolution in full effect, the structure itself is impressive. Featuring an over five foot long 3D printed waveform, the dark metallic piece attracts attention, regardless of the audio component. The form took about 350 hours over an eight-month period to finish, and was printed entirely on Azzaro’s desktop 3D printer. The sound wave is interestingly (and beautifully) placed on a wooden platform and encased within a glass tube, designed by Patrick Sarran.
See more images at The Creators Project.