The intersection of art and science

Sergio Sister, 1969, Ecoline, oiled crayon, pencil and felt-tip pen, 29,5 x 44 cm
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Two books that combine art and science in a clear and elegant way

Science popularization literature was invented in the XNUMXth century, and little by little conquered a space in bookstores – when there were bookstores – and catalogues. Amid much mystification, authors such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins or Stephen Jay Gould have become classics of the genre, whether explaining modern physics or Darwin's legacy. The most frowning academy still sees this type of literature with distrust, but the growing number of science dissemination courses, theses and seminars on the subject shows an opening for the desirable dialogue between science and society.

One of the most fascinating tools to promote this approach is art. It is no coincidence that many artists, from different areas, became interested in science, and vice versa. One of them is the writer, director and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière.

Famous for his partnership with Buñuel, which yielded masterpieces such as the ghost of freedom, the afternoon beauty e The dark object of desire, Carriére also wrote unforgettable screenplays for Andrzej Wajda (Danton – The process of revolution), Philip Kaufman (The unbearable lightness of being) and several French directors, such as Rappeneau (Cyrano de Bergerac). Perhaps his greatest achievement was adapting the Indian epic poem Mahabharata for the cinema, which yielded a film of almost five hours in duration, directed by the Englishman Peter Brook.

Carrière was also director of the main French film school, and declares himself passionate about modern Physics. He even wrote a work of fiction about Einstein, but his great popular science book is called Conversations about the Invisible (Brasiliense, 1988), and which has long deserved a new edition.

It is a long, detailed and tasty conversation with two physicists, Jean Aldouze and Michel Cassé, about relativity, the origin of the universe, microphysics, astrophysics and quantum physics. The result of weekly conversations where subjects are naturally linked with literary, pictorial and, of course, cinematographic references, the book discusses the most impenetrable concepts of modern physics, which Carrière considered the Great Science of the XNUMXth century, in a clear and elegant way.

Also in the field of Physics, it is worth knowing another author, the Argentine Alberto Rojo. A professor at Oakland University in Michigan, he has published several books on quantum physics and popular science. Porteño by birth, he maintained a journalistic column for a long time in the newspaper La Argentina review, where he debugged the clear, direct writing, without unnecessary frills. To complete, the guy is a musician. Guitarist with recorded records played with Mercedes Soza and Charly Garcia, composed popular and symphonic pieces.

Rojo has written a fascinating book called Borges and quantum mechanics, published in Brazil by Unicamp, still in catalogue. It is a collection of articles that investigate the intersection between art and science. The central thesis is that, in human history, several scientific discoveries were intuited or anticipated by writers, painters, musicians and poets. And he unravels a wonderful series of examples, which begins with Homer, goes through Shakespeare and ends with – of course – Jorge Luís Borges.

For Rojo, the famous short story “Garden of Forking Paths” is a perfect literary translation of the universe proposed by quantum physics. Borges would have been the first to enunciate an alternative to linear time: cyclical times, multiple times, relative spaces, the Aleph of space-time. The curious thing is that Borges himself, interviewed by Rojo, declared that he didn't understand a single speck of physics. Upon receiving a brief explanation of the parallel worlds that became possible after quantum physics, he thoughtfully replied, “How creative physicists are!”

Rojo belongs to that rare breed of scientist who has an artist's soul. He worships Leonardo da Vinci – a major model – and skillfully sews together quotations from Poe, Cortazar, Calvino, Einstein, Van Gogh, Dante, HGWells, Otavio Paz and even the Bible, without losing rigor. His main merit, as a writer, is not appearing pedantic or professorial, following the same enlightened path as Jean-Claude Carrière.

Two admirable writers who, starting from opposite poles, find themselves in the full realization of combining art and science in an accessible and pleasurable way.

*Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

 

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