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Exposing and Understanding The Science Behind Beauty

At the intersection of science and art is wonder.

  • Ever been to an art gallery and wondered how the colors arranged in certain ways gave you a sense of beauty? Or ever had goosebumps while listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony? Beauty or emotions you feel from culture need not be separate from science, a logical and systematic study and understanding of the natural world. In fact, there are many natural phenomena at play in culture. Paintings cannot be separated from optics, the study of light. Music, delivered to the human ear by vibrations of air molecules, cannot be understood without good knowledge of wave dynamics. More recently “information” has come to the forefront of understanding culture, as creative ideas and inspirations spread from artist to artist via networks of knowledge. During this course we will learn the scientific principles behind cultural masterpieces that make us humans, humans.
  • This course is designed for undergraduate students of KAIST interested science in action way beyond the lab—in fact, in galleries and music halls. We’ll even visit some galleries!

“Reptiles” by M. C. Escher. Lithograph, 1943.






Course Contents

  • Introduction: Culture and Science.

    • History of Science
    • Did culture influence science?
    • Science as Foundation of Culture Technology
  • Physical Principles and Culture

    • Theory of waves I: the human retina and color or, where did paintings come from?
    • Theory of waves II: the human ear and sound or, what’s the melody you’re hearing?
  • Computation and Algorithms for Culture

    • Data and Network Science for Culture
    • Algorithms in Culture Technology
  • Indulge (for those of you above the legal drinking age): Science and History of Beer

    • Beer is the world’s oldest safe drink for all ages (not just the era, but human!)
    • Beer? Lager? Ale? India Pale Ale? Porter? … and why Korean beers taste all alike.
    • The thermodynamics of beer for your gedanken (or betrunken) brewing pleasure.
  • NEW for 2017! Simple mathematics and stochastic algorithms for pattern generation

    • We are going to use Wolfram Mathematica®, a powerful interactive computation software. KAIST students can download the latest version (for Mac, Linux, or Windows) from KAIST SW download.
    • Mandelbrot fractals
    • Turing’s morphogenesis and reaction—diffusion
    • More is different: millions of random numbers for 72 designs.
  • Excursion to Art Galleries (Time and Opportunity Permitting)


Recommended Readings

  • Geometry and the Visual Arts (Dover Books on Mathematics) by Dan Pedoe
  • Art and Science by Eliane Strogberg
  • Science and Music (Dover Books on Music) by Sir James H. Jeans
  • Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws: Minutes from an Infinite Paradise (Dover Books of Physics) by Manfred Schroeder


More Information

  • Venue: Nam June Paik Hall at N25.
  • Class Hours: Mon, Wed 14:30-15:45
    • Office Hours: by appointment with me at N25-3230
  • Graduate Student Instructor: Gyuhyeon Jeon
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