Quite a few people who work in the sciences lead double lives as artists. Leonardo da Vinci is a classic example. There are countless others.
Vice versa, quite a few artists find source material in the sciences. For writers, that may materialize as delight in the technical jargon of the sciences, or science phenomena as metaphors for life, or the work of scientists as mortar for building the atmosphere of a story or poem.
This crossover isn’t a matter of scientists and writers yearning to stretch themselves and use otherwise neglected parts of their brains. Scientists and writers have a great deal in common. We’re both question askers, for starters. We’re attracted to mystery, to the unknown. We spend great lengths of time pondering the big questions: What does it mean to be human? What is true? What is the nature of (fill in the blank)? As Albert Einstein put it, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
Scientists and writers are hyper-attentive, detail-orientated. Our work begins with and returns again and again to observation. We look for patterns, connections, anomalies. Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses—especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
The work of scientists and writers alike consists of endless experimentation, of trial and error. Scientists and writers know that failure is not only inevitable, but crucial. We learn from our failures. In science, there’s no such thing as proving anything true, only proving that something is untrue. One way of looking at a scientific theory is this: it is an idea that has been tested again and again but that scientists have failed to prove untrue.
Scientists and writers are both problem solvers. Problem-solving is partly a matter of drive and obsession. We work tirelessly on the same set of problems for great lengths of time, maybe forever. But problem-solving is also very much an act of imagination. Scientists and writers are dreamers. When we get stuck, it’s often our imaginations that eventually show us a way out. In the words of Marie Curie, “I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.”
Welcome to the Science Issue of Atticus Review.
“Apatosaurus,” Joel Hans: “There is a museum that gets tangled on her tongue. She doesn’t yet know the word for paleontologist or child but knows they will someday stare up at his bones in wonder.”
“Signal 99,” by Vivé Grifith: “You know how electricity moves from the generating plant to the high transmission lines to the substation, where the voltage is stepped down. At the substation they tell you, Keep your hands in your pockets.”
“Second Laws,” by Weston Cutter: “I’d seen no more dark than/ anybody else+had had/ no easier a time finding any/ scenario’s switch, was no better at casting/ the usual into that’s-it illumination.”
“Stellar Evolution,” by Jennifer Howard: “Orion’s body is made up of supergiants—Bellatrix and Rigel live terrifically far away—so he will stand the same, even after you’ve waited all that time; but he’ll hold his club lower, as if it’s taken him millennia to fake a whap, and his shield will split so he’s holding a divining rod.”
“Weather Authority,” by Laryssa Wirstiuk: “Over the past six months, she had covered the walls with print-outs of her favorite poems and glossy photos torn from her college meteorology textbooks: tubular clouds, water spouts, supercells.”
“Living with Rex,” by Katie Cortese: “I waited for him to come home from the museum where he posed all day for minimum wage, screwing up my courage so I could shout into his Kelly-green eye when it came even with the bedroom window. ‘We’re through,’ I said when I thought he was close enough for his tiny earholes to register my voice.”
“Freeing the Penis” and “Serum,” by Caren Beilin: “But here we have no pastures, and our room is sterile of the brethren of elk, mule, and deer. My assistant must prepare, horselessly, an idea. Even with a leech, and with alcoholic bath, you see, there will have to be, there must be, some cutting.”
“ASD: A Spectrum in the Rough,” by M. Nicole R. Wildhood: “’You have a heart tailored toward intimacy.’ Still, over seven years later, the most potent words spoken to me about me, those. I caught them in the plexus, somewhere between a centrifugal deck and a hug that had the angular strength of overcompensating lack of confidence. God, I wanted them to be true—who doesn’t want intimacy?—but I’ve got a black belt in insecurity. You have a heart tailored towards intimacy. A heart, maybe. A brain, not so much.”
“Man-made Humanity,” by Rudy Kousbroek and translated by Margaret Franzen: “’It’s basically impossible to talk to guinea pigs,’ he said. ‘It goes a bit more easily with rats.’ He lifted a rat out of one of the cages and deposited it in the Plexiglass space. The animal sniffed and looked about. The inventor turned the buttons and out came a man’s voice—a quite low, hoarse voice.”