Science, art, societal support debated by UH physics professors

October 14, 2004

HOUSTON, Oct. 14, 2004 - Three University of Houston physicists will examine the relationship between science and art during a panel discussion held noon to 1 p.m., Friday, Oct. 15, at the Negative Space Art Gallery.

"Art Meets Science" is a series of events at the gallery, which displays the work of emerging contemporary artists, such as Lillian Warren and Pamela Reaves, who draw their inspiration from images generated by scientific research. The next gathering - "Art, Science and Society" - is free to the public, with no registration required.

This discussion on the intersection of the sciences and the arts and the debate on how and if the arts and science should be supported by society will feature a panel of three UH physics professors. Gemunu Gunaratne, professor and associate chairman of UH's physics department, will be joined by fellow physics colleagues Simon Moss, professor and M.D. Anderson Chair of Physics, and George Reiter, professor of physics. All three are faculty in the College of Natural Science and Mathematics at UH.

"My expertise within physics is in the study of chaotic motions and pattern formation," Gunaratne said. "I am currently attempting to use ideas from this field to study bone strength and to develop new diagnostic tools for osteoporosis. As a panelist, the kinds of issues I would like to raise and discuss include whether or not the development of ideas in science can be thought of as art and government's support of the arts and sciences."

Reiter is a theoretical condensed matter physicist and is currently developing techniques to extract information about atomic structure of molecules from scattering data, as well as using ideas from physics through complexity theory to develop models of economic systems and obtain new information about these systems. Moss' research is on scattering and amorphous materials, also known as disordered materials. His research in this area involves characterizing the structure of these solids by using light scattering, and he will discuss waves, particles and art.

"I plan to discuss how both science and art were transformed in the early 1900s, in both cases with a revolution in our understanding of the nature of light," Moss said. "The quantum theory and pointillism are good examples. Even today, the subject of quantum theory continues to confound people, but I promise to keep it simple."

This 'scattering' concept in physics seems to be reflected in the works of the artists spearheading the "Art Meets Science" lecture series. While Warren's current paintings draw upon imagery from the worlds of computer science and bioscience, as well as the world of art, exploring different kinds of order and the different faces of reality, Reaves modifies images from scientific research in a complex, diversified process.

"I am fascinated by the interwoven complexity of our search to understand the 'how' and the 'why' of things," Warren said. "Of the many different paths for exploring our internal and external universe, science and technology seduce me, as do painting, poetry and meditation. These are all linked in a way I cannot define but that I experience."

WHO: UH Physicists Collaborating with Contemporary Artists

WHAT: "Art, Science and Society" Debate

WHEN: Noon to 1 p.m., Friday, Oct. 15

WHERE: Negative Space Art Gallery
68 Yale (at Washington)

Call 713-869-1603 for directions.
For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at

To receive UH science news via e-mail, visit

University of Houston

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