The most exciting back-burner project I have is based around the interface between science and art. I’ve blogged on this for the performance of Why Scotland Why East Kilbride for Cryptic Nights at Glasgow’s CCA. On that stage science became part of the art. With the latest work art becomes part of the science.
I’m still collaborating with the composer of Why Scotland, Why East Kilbride, J. Simon van der Walt on a project we call the Amino Piano, which was ‘premiered’ this week at the SIPBS Annual Research Symposium. The concept is quite simple:
1) At an atomic level all chemicals vibrate (this might seem a bit weird but this short video shows these vibrations in a drug-protein complex).
2) We can measure these vibrations in the lab using infra-red spectroscopy.
To start with we have concentrated on amino acids, the molecules that are the building blocks of proteins, hence the final name of the project The Amino Piano. Its sounds a bit ‘off the wall’ but there are lots of advantages to this sort of technology: faster data processing, opportunities for teaching and engagement as well as helping visually impaired scientists.
My colleague Neil videoed my promo flash presentation at the main seminar, and for the actual conference I hacked one of the nearby SIPBS building monitors and let the passersby actually ‘play the piano’ by clicking icons of the amino acids. It got a few funny looks, but mainly encouraging conversations…I might even try for an engagement grant. You can hear sound samples of some amino acids here: ALANINE, GLYCINE, ISOLEUCINE, CYSTEINE. Although, I’ve hosted these mp3 sound files on my Uni webpages because wordpress can’t handle sound files 😦
Jpeg copies of the powerpoint slides we used during the poster session are here, we didn’t actually have a ‘poster’ as such, just an interactive demo.