Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and the editors of Synthetic Aesthetics pulled no punches when they launched their new book at a “Friday late” at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. A couple of audience members interrupted to bemoan the sheer abstractness of the enterprise. Why couldn’t the panel explain what synthetic biologists actually did? A rather unfair criticism of an event that scattered living biological materials across every floor of the museum. The task of explaining where beauty sits in the world of synthetic biology fell to Drew Endy, assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, California. Endy explained how, when synthetic biology began, its self-styled “engineers” treated living things as wayward and overcomplicated machines, in need of radical simplification. Now, researchers are learning to appreciate and harness biological complexity. “Ford’s original Model T motor car was simple, in engineering terms, but it was hell to operate. A Tesla is complicated but a pleasure to drive.” Standards of beauty are fuzzy, personal and intuitive. They inspire real conversations. So I imagine talking about beauty in design is useful for a discipline that’s constantly struggling with its own hype, never mind other people’s panic.
Here’s a long chat with Neil Denny about Wolves (and an hour out of your life you’ll never get back) http://www.littleatoms.com/sounds/Little_Atoms_313_Simon_Ings_Jude_Rogers.mp3
I’m off to north Wales on St David’s Day to take part in this year’s Scifiweekender. It’s being held at the Hafan y Mor Holiday Park near Pwllheli and will probably look something like this
though given the weather it could end up looking like this
and will add a chilly authenticity to Simon’s exploration of Soviet cinema, space exploration, and all things Klushantsev.
Saturday’s RAILWAY TO THE STARS is, a celebration of Russia’s spirit of exploration through Russian film. I’ll also bring along some off-prints of Arc to give people a flavour of what we’re up to.
The 2013 Scifiweekender runs from 1 to 3 March. Call the ticket hotline on 08700 110034.
From 12-14 October 2012, the Kontraste Festival – curated by Sonic Acts – reverberates across Krems, a pretty town on the Danube famous for its art galleries, staggeringly good white wine, and one of the world’s best preserved panopticon prisons. On Saturday I’ll be discussing how, adapted as we are to a rich visual world, we will have to learn to tolerate the limited colour palette and visual monotony of the rest of the universe. This is one of the more left-field contributions; for the most part the weekend is filled with a wild assortment of scientifically literate sound artists Playing with Our Brains. This sort of thing:
There’s also a film programme, like this:
with a touch of this:
If you can’t make it up the Danube, there’s always the book.
On Tuesday 22 November at 7.30pm I’ll be joined by Doug Millard, Senior Curator of ICT & Space Technology at London’s Science Museum, to trace Russia’s centuries-old obsession with flight. Discover how Russia’s pilots, parachutists and pioneers won the space race at Pushkin House, 5a Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2TA