“The Golden Ratio:  An Astonishing Number”

Speaker:  Mario Livio, PhD

The number 1.618…, known as “The Golden Ratio,” has fascinated and obsessed mathematicians, scientists, philosophers and artists since antiquity.  Some even considered it to be divine. Astrophysicist, Dr. Mario Livio, will describe the incredible history of this number from antiquity to the present day, and its appearances (true and false) in a variety of natural phenomena, in the arts, and in human-created artifacts.  The talk will encompass a wide range of topics, from botany to physics and from the visual arts and architecture to music.  Dan Brown, author of  “Angels and Demons”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Lost Symbols”, and others, says that “Livio unveils the history of the remarkable number phi (pronounced ”fee”) in such a way that math buffs and math-phobes alike can celebrate the wonder. Be forewarned: You will never again look at a pyramid, a pine cone, or a Picasso in the same light…”

“Visual Literacy:  The Art of Seeing”

Speaker: Lisa Passaglia Bauman, PhD

High prices for art, antiques, and collectibles encourage the creation and sale of fakes and forgeries, while the passionate desire to acquire rare and important works blinds buyers to the need to question their authenticity.  Scientific analysis – in conjunction with provenance and connoisseurship – is an important tool to aid in identifying whether art, antiques, and collectibles are genuine or fake. Though scientific testing alone cannot prove authenticity, it can often disprove it through the positive identification of materials that are inconsistent with a purposed date of manufacture, method of manufacture, or known working methods of an artist or craftsman. Through case studies from Winterthur Museum and other partner institutions, this presentation will highlight how materials analysis with state-of-the-art instrumentation provides a more informed understanding of a work of art.

“Human Curiosity”

Speaker:  Mario Livio, PhD

The ability to ask “why?” makes us uniquely human. Curiosity drives basic scientific research, is the engine behind creativity in all disciplines from technology to the arts, is a necessary ingredient in education, and is a facilitating tool in every form of storytelling that delights rather than bores. Dr. Livio will survey and interpret cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience that aims at exploring and understanding the origin and mechanisms of human curiosity.  

“The Record Player and the Sea:  Art as a Way of Knowing”

Speaker: Walter Kitundu, MacArthur Fellow

Walter Kitundu will discuss past, present, and future projects, and how the search for artistic understanding shares much in common with scientific inquiry.  He asserts that “imagination is a form of investigation, and scientific practice can be a form of expression. Both fields rely on engaging with the unknown.”   Mr. Kitundu will share how his eclectic art practice is expanded through science and careful observation of the natural world.  Turntables were a central focus of his early creative work and provided a path into performance, composition, sculpture and installation, as well as education, bird-watching, photography, and biological field research. Mr. Kitundu is currently a visiting professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is extending his practice into large scale public art installations.

Concluding Remarks

Speaker:  David A. Smith, PhD

Finding the essence of each talk, relating them in interesting ways, and sharing relevant points is not an easy task, but one that Dr. Smith does with ease.  It is always enlightening, entertaining, and often intriguing to hear the connections he makes and the lessons he shares.