Thursday, April 21, 2011

Art and Science

John Maeda's artilce On Meaningful Observation that I wrote about earlier got me to thinking when I starting playing with the Books Ngram Viewer. How are art and science written about in English? And, how about the makeup of STEM and IDEA that he talked about?

OK I know I'm already addicted to the Books Ngram Viewer. If you are a concept or word person, beware. It is extremely addictive. It's so easy to ask it questions...

One of the wrtiers about the Books Ngram Viewer commented that he thought the tool was going to raise more questions than answer them. So far I agree with that. Everyime I've used it to answer a question, it's raised several more.

Here's the result of the comparison between art and science. I was surprised by the result given the present priority allocated science of late. it shows that the two are coming togehter up to 2000, but art has had more mentions than science over the 200 year history.

There are three questions that immediately jump to my mind upon viewing the graphic:
  1. Why are they cyclical? Both shows cycles of about 20 years in the 1800s, and slow down to about 40 years near 2000. What would cause the cycles?
  2. Why are the cycles slowing down? Isn't everything we do now speeding up? We're all interconnected electronically.
  3. Why are the cycles of art and science synchronized? Aren't they the opposites of one another - protagonists in the struggle for the control over our minds?
STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. What's the pattern of usage for these words?

It came as a surprise to me how modern the word technology is. It really didn't get started until the 1960s. Since that's when I graduated from college, I've always known and used the word. It's now used just about as frequently as science, and in many cases probably used interchangeably, although they are vastly different concepts. What caused the little blip in the early 1900s in technology?*

Mathematics was mentioned more in the 1800s, but engineering now surpasses mathematics in usage. But neither come close to science and technology.

On the art side we have IDEA - intuition, design, emotion and art. What's their usage pattern?

Mentions of art have been declining over the past 200 years and are now surpassed by design. That doesn't surprise me as I seem to be very aware of a design movement in the Western world. What caused the design peak in the early 1800s?

Emotion and intuition don't seem to get mentioned much at all. This surprises me because the combination of those two concepts probably drive most of human activities. Is it just our dirty laundry that we don't want to write about?

*Note: Looking at some of the titles of books published in that time suggests that it was the time period of the development of the technologies of natural and man made materials. But I did not draw a comparison sample from other time periods.

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