Sunday, February 25, 2024

Scientists and the Public: About One Bridge

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Science & Society, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution, Wildlife, Nature, Art & Environment, Nature of Science, History of Science.

Ed Hessler

Microscopy Today (March 2023) in its Pioneers feature focuses its microscope on Levon Biss who is "best known for his macrophotography of first, insects, and most recently, seeds."

Writer Cameron Varano Casasanta is a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the US Department of Defense chose an interesting way to describe Biss asking, often indirectly whether he is any or all of the following.

-- a microscopist 

-- a pioneer 

-- a scientist

-- an explorer of nature

-- a bridge to the public about the wonder of science

-- one who erases the boundary between art and science

For each she provides some evidence and her conclusion--yes, to all of the above leaving the door open to others to draw their own conclusions which is one of the main reasons I cite her work. You may have different views on one or all of the questions. Fine, but include the evidence for your claim. The references and links below provide some sources to use in reaching a decision.

Dr. Casasanta has an extensive section on Biss's construction of his photographic system, including one time when he showed "his rig to a room full of scientists at a notable microscope company."  They offered a collaboration and loaned Biss "a state-of-the-art microscope" and an engineer to train him in its use.  You can read about  those results.

References and Links

Casasanta 's essay.

Casasanta on LinkedIn.

Levon Biss's Website

Casasanta's essay includes a reference and link to the website "Microsculpture - The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss" and I repeat it.
This story reminded me of an observation that the late Harvard evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould made about science after McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, where Judge William Overton ruled, on January 5, that Arkansas Act 590 was unconstitutional.

Here is one account from the Arkansas Times by Guy Lancaster, May 31, 2019.
"[S]cience is the pursuit of understanding reality, and in that, science is not so different from other pursuits of ours. Harvard University biologist Stephen Jay Gould, who testified in the McLean trial, recounted later how, when he returned to his hotel room in preparation to leave Little Rock, he encountered a plumber looking for the source of a water leak that had caused the ceiling in the room below to collapse. Said plumber gave the biologist “a fascinating disquisition on how a professional traces the pathways of water through hotel pipes and walls” that “was perfectly logical and mechanistic.” However, when Gould asked the plumber his opinion on the trial across the street, “he confessed his staunch creationism, including his firm belief in the miracle of Noah’s flood.” Apparently, the plumber did not recognize the fact that the principles underlying his own work — tracing effects back to causes — also served as the foundation of evolutionary biology."

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