Re: [-empyre-] 'new media' -> future

The Voices in my Head tell me that on 1/10/04 2:27 PM, Jim Andrews at wrote:

> Henry said:
>> I think that a unification of Science and Art is a waste of time. The two
>> are fundamentally different and answer different questions. At the same
>> time, I think that the dialogue between the two cultural forces will grow
>> and grow exponentially over time, as they do share a number of needs.
> it used to be that physics was the great exemplar of the application of
> mathematics. physics is of course still strong, but with computers being as
> ubiquitous and significant as they are now, the mathematics of computer
> science is gaining greater prominence.

I think there's a big difference between computer science and programming.

Computer science, by my definitions, which are not followed by anyone I
know, is the science of computers. It combines physics, materials science,
math, number theory, all kinds of crap to make these things work faster and
better. Also, endeavours in robotics and AI would also qualify as computer

However, most Programming is, by my way of thinking, not a science. Nor is
it engineering.

Structural Engineering: that's engineering : tensile strengths of standard
corten needed in an 80 storey structure? there's math you look up some
basics in a book, do the calc and bingo: you get a number.

Physics? That's a Science. Here's a theory. Test it. Results. Conformance?

Or: Get a LOT of energy and put it right >< here. See what happens. Make
theories to explain resuts.

Programming to me is more a form of extremely logical literature. Like a
novel, there's a skeleton of the plot, and then everything is fleshed out
based on some fundamentals. Sometimes as you write, the writing takes you
places, and you end up with a very different beast. This is especially true
with much fiction and badly planned software... But there is no real science
of programming. If there were, there would be more laws, testable and
falsifiable theories and hypotheses, and there's precious little of that in
programming other than "Thou shalt not divide by zero" and "thou shalt not
do A>B>C>A logic loops." Although the loop can be used if it is internal to
a function that is externally haltable.

Hence, I don't really see programming as a real Science. This doesn't
devalue programming, but it does put it into a different arena of human
endeavour and work.

I've worked with lots and lots and lots of programmers who have made some of
the most advanced video, multimedia, and audio software in the world. The
good ones follow good practices, like a good writer, of grammar, syntax,
sentence structure, detail (esp. clear comments for the code), etc. I've
also known some people who disregard those practices and they make programs
that work, but bog forbid anyone else unravel the spaghetti, the twisted
loopy story they tell in their code. And when it came time to rev the
product, it could take some top programming analysts months and sometimes
years to unravel. that's not Science. that's literature.

I also tend to claim philosophy as an art, as part of literature, as well.

It might be *really boring* literature, but literature nonetheless.
> i picked up quite a good book on game theory a while ago. that looks
> interesting but it's very hard to read, all math. well written, though.

Many years ago I read "Quantum electro dynamics" by Richard Feynman. In it
he said (and I'll quote/paraphrase as best I can from memory)

"This book has some math in it, and some of it is very complex. When you
come to the math, and you don't understand it, do what I do : skip to the
next paragraph."

That made me VERY happy, to know that even Feynman (one of my all time
heroes) would just "skip to the next paragraph." *sniff* that's beautiful...

> my work is primarily in the arts as an artist. but it is exciting to note
> that i seem eventually to drag in all the math i ever learned in order to do
> the art i make.

Same here. 

> etc. the english students i studied with, well, some of them are (snip)
> the odd poet.

odd poet is redundant.

> the odd scholar.


> but none i know of whose work straddles the
> arts and sciences.

> Frédéric Durieu, an artist-programmer, said "...the aim of all this is to
> create poetry. So, I like to speak about algorithmic poetry. A poem is a
> text that procures you poetry if you read it. The code I'm trying to write
> is a text that procures you poetry if a computer reads it for you...." (
> ). The particular
> piece he talks about in that interview is called "Oeil Complex" which turns
> out to involve imaginary functions, functions of a complex variable.

Exactly, per above notion that programming is literature.

> The point of all this, Henry, is that math and the sciences arise quite
> naturally in the work of programmer-artists.

I disagree, because from my perspective, they were never really doing
science to begin with... therefore, it is not a far stretch to make
programming | art, because programming is a kind of art, and not a science.

I don't think you'll ever see much "quantum mechanics | art", except in the
sense that the material notations of quantum physic research being re-framed
or re-contextualised as art. Not that it's impossible, just unlikely.

> I wish that, when I was young
> and studying math and english

I'm always studying math and english because I suck at both. Although I do
have the English thing nailed a bit better than the math thing.

>, there had been more crossover between them.
> Significant crossover. Not incidental or occassional, but a kind of
> crossover that could result from the sort of field Nick and Noah are
> contemplating, trying to foster.

Agreed : It is the conversation and working together of the two disciplines
that will bear much fruit in the 21st century. From a naive sense (viz
Schlain's Art and Physics) to much more intensive and pro-active
sensibilities, such as what you are describing, and Nick is discussing.

> To do art and science at the same time is
> very fulfilling, I find. It raises the purpose of the science,

Exactly: it gives How a Why.

> Art and science are, ideally, toward the benefit and delight of humanity.
> The cultures of science could really use more connection with the cultures
> of art. I don't mean art as cheerleader in science. I mean significant
> connection. So that real mathematical problems, say, arise out of the
> attempt to build a work of art, say. I don't mean art simply as 'humanizer'
> of science, either, though that could be an important role. Take the work of
> Giordanno Bruno, say, and have it come from a culture in which science and
> art are fruitfully combined.

I like that. A nice vision of some possible Art. Thank you.


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