Art Meets Science
Information on how to obtain your own Mars ring.
"Insight in the palm of your hand"
If you are interested in one of my existing designs, or would like to collaborate, please get in touch. If you have an idea you'd like to see realized, I am able to accept commissions depending on existing commitments. Please reach out!
I've always been interested in art that helps to bridge the gap between modern science and the general public. In my capacity as a scientist and science communicator, I was interviewed by Australian artist Lisa Roberts, PhD for her project on Living Data. Elsewhere on this site I talk about musical creativity, but in the visual medium, I have experimented with sketches, sculpture, and ceramics, though my main drive today is in 3D printing.
3D printing is an emerging technology. With centralized print shops and online stores such as Etsy, 'anyone' can access and market the current state-of-the-art. With modern metal laser sintering machines running at a million dollars apiece, I feel very fortunate to be able to use online subscription services such as Shapeways and i.Materialise to create physical versions of my digital models.
I have designed and printed dozens of different 3D models depicting a wide variety of science-inspired themes. For me, the primary attraction is the creation of a scale object or model that permits a (literally) tangible connection between esoteric science and the general public.
As an example, I 3D printed an engagement ring in silver that has a model on its surface of the Milky Way galaxy, sadly invisible in my home city of Los Angeles. When I showed it to a visually impaired friend of mine, they suddenly had a tactile connection to our astronomically large home galaxy at their fingertips.
While 3D printing allows the (non-trivial) creation of very detailed and mathematically precise shapes, it still carries with it inherent limitations. When designing a ring to depict the equatorial region of the planet Mars (with MOLA-derived data), I had to strike a balance between verisimilitude and available resolution in depth. A copy of this ring is sometimes worn by author Andy Weir (The Martian) and Caltech geobiologist Joe Kirschvink.
Other 3D printed art includes depictions of magnetic fields, musical progressions, random numbers, neurons, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, DNA, crystals, the Maillard reaction, knots, Mobius strip, truss structures, ceremonial wings, and the human brain.
One final example is an open ring representing a topographical model of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. From Yosemite to the Palisades, the Sierras are an iconic mountain range, preserved by a movement begun by John Muir, and generated by a still-developing geological process. The Sierras ring, in silver, provides a human-scale copy of this wonder of nature and a reminder of the utility of the USGS's data portal. A copy of this ring is sometimes worn by author Kim Stanley Robinson.