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What is the point of art–science collaborations?

By James Dacey

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CERN has recently announced that it will be opening its doors to artists to come into the lab. Artists working in different art forms will have the opportunity to take up a funded residency of up to three months where they will come into the lab and work alongside CERN researchers. The artists will then produce works based on their experiences to be exhibited at CERN and other locations. In the same statement, CERN revealed that details of a separate residency scheme, coupling scientists with dance and performance artists, will be unveiled in November.

We are interested to know what you think of this kind of scheme. In the latest poll on the Physics World Facebook page, we ask the following question: Which of these statements best describes your opinion of art–science collaborations?

a) I love them, they’re fantastic
b) Hmm, some are great, some are not
c) They can be ok but often I don’t ‘get’ the point
d) Who cares? They’re a total waste of time

Take part by visiting our Facebook page. And please feel free to post a comment on the poll to describe your personal experiences of art–science collaborations.

In last week’s poll we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the publication of Rutherford’s seminal paper on the structure of the atom. Rutherford was an industrious researcher who many remarkable contributions to science, including three discoveries that revolutionized our view of matter. So we asked people to choose which of Rutherford’s discoveries they think was the greatest:

a) That atoms are not always stable (his Nobel-prize-winning work on radioactivity)
b) The atoms have the majority of their mass concentrated in a nucleus
c) The world’s first alchemy (converting nitrogen into oxygen)

The results were fairly conclusive with 76% of respondents believing that Rutherford’s discovery of the atomic nucleus was indeed his greatest contribution to science. 17% opted for his work on radioactivity and just 7% went for his later work on transmutation. The general sentiment was captured nicely in this comment from one of the respondents, Pradeep Sharma, who said: “Rutherford’s most important discovery is undoubtedly the nucleus of the atom. He is one of the rare breed of scientists who did his most important work after getting the Nobel prize.”

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