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Brody Probes Synergistic Relationships Between Art and Science at Second Tau Beta Pi Dinner

Gabor Csanyi -- The Tech
Associate Provost Alan Brody

By Dali Jimnez
Staff Reporter

Associate Provost for the Arts delved into the synergy between science and the arts during his lecture, part of Tau Beta Pi's Leonardo da Vinci dinner series, Tuesday at Ashdown House.

The dinners are intended to catalyze conversation between lecturers and students. The series highlights speakers from a wide array of departments, spanning history to electrical engineering, and the dinners feature eclectic quisine.

Brody said the dinner series was "fabulous" especially in the way the evenings bring the "engineer more fully into the world."

Brody continued this theme with his lecture titled, "The role of arts in the education of the engineer, with comments on the relationship between the arts and technology in the new millennium."

In the same way that Albert Einstein allowed us to see light both as particles and waves, "Monet and Van Gogh made us see light in ways that we had never seen it before," Brody said.

Brody speaks of arts and science

Brody stressed the need to understand both science and the arts, and compared artistic and scientific processes. Whereas science begins with a hypothesis, art begins with a "what-if" generally stemming from the unconscious, he said.

It is a "child-like trust in our unconscious" that produces the "what-if" in art, Brody said. This is then used as a springboard for ideas.

Later, the rational mind takes over and converts it into something that makes sense, Brody said.

"Science applies the logical mind and then at a certain point, I think you know very well, the unconscious mind does come into play for the [scientists'] problems," Brody said. "The greatest discoveries have come about because of the interplay between the conscious and unconscious."

It is this interplay between the artist and scientist that the arts at MIT seeks to enhance. "I'm not here to make artists," Brody said, "but to make better engineers and scientists, and better human beings."

"At MIT, there is a community of students who are superb at manipulating their conscious minds and thinking in the most complex linearity," Brody added.

"But I've found that many of you don't really have an inroad into the richness of that world that could really free you to even a greater and larger and richer conscious mind," he said.

Students pleased with event

The students attending the dinner had a delightful experience.

"It was very interesting to sit in on a forum where there were both artists and scientists and engineers present," said Amy C. Richards G, who helped with publicizing the dinners. "I think [Brody] raised some important points and the parallels between the creative processes in the arts and science. I certainly never had thought of them as being analogous before."

"The conversation and interchange of ideas was quite lively.It's the type of thing that would make the Extropians happy," said Surya Ganguli G. "Although that definitely isn't the sole criteria of its worth."

"The food was excellent. I had a very tough time eating dinner at Networks the day after that," Ganguli said.

Next Tuesday's dinner will feature Professor John M. Edmond from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, and is titled "The chemistry of the big rivers of eastern Siberia, and politics thereof."