I will be STEAMing at Art in the Park

Looking at all the artists types who will be in this weekend’s Art in the Park in Boise and it’s clear that science has a big, especially historical, context in art creation.  A whole slew of scientific questions could arise after a quick gander around the exhibits.

  •  At what temperature does glass melt?
  • What ingredient when added to glaze will make it crackle when pottery is fired?
  • How long does it take paint to dry? Is this a ratio consistent with only water content or dependent upon chemical mixture?
  • In what type of geological formation is clay found?
  • What method dries flowers best for color preservation?
  • Which tree species make the best cutting boards and why don’t others work as well?
  • Is the silver in a ring pure or is it mixed with another element?  Why?
  • Why does some metal oxidate?
  • How many pounds of pressure does it take to bend a spoon? A knife?
  • What mathematical expression is used to create fractals?

Some artistic endeavors have changed so rapidly during recent years that the questions one generation would ask would completely baffle a younger generation.  Since I’m more familiar with it, I’ll use photography as an example.

  • It was, What chemical process and procedure will create images on a film strip after it has been exposed to light?
  • Is there a different chemical bath and wash for enlarged color prints than there is for black and white?
  • Now it’s, How many pixels will fit on a sensor chip?
  • What’s the computer algorithm that will intelligently fill in pixels as the print size in scaled up in Photoshop?
  • What are the storage space needs for RAW files compared to TIFF, JPEGS, or GIFs and does it matter if the original photo was taken by a 10 megapixel camera or by one with 21 megapixels?

At least some things haven’t changed in the slightest.  Like the physics of telephoto lenses vs. wide angle and how aperture settings effect depth of field or how shutter settings can freeze or blur moving images. Well, unless the kid you are expecting to ask and answer all these questions has a cell phone.

I’m going to send you to a photography site where you can see science of another kind.  The science of animal behavior.  Knowing not to pack up your tripod and head for the car when it seems like the wolves have disappeared for the day or of sitting in one spot waiting because that looks like a great place for a black bear to come down to drink.  Up early in the morning and late at night with the slanting sun at your back.  But is it all science?  Or is it art?  You be the judge.


PS – The photographer is a retired Idaho science and photography K-12 educator and he’s also my dad.  So I’ll be spending my weekend STEAMing in the park.  Hope to see you at there, stop by and say “Hi”, booth 252, over in the corner by the zoo and the river.