Einstein walks the line

Einstein recognized the fine line between the subjects of art and science. Insight in his fields of mathematics and astrophysics were born of intuition and imagination.

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge…All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe in intuition and inspiration…. At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.”

Method of expression seems to be the line between the subjects. Science is the result of experience portrayed in “the language of logic”, whereas art communicated experiences via “forms whose constructions are not accessible to the conscious mind but are recognized intuitively…” Einstein himself was an artist and a scientist, working intuitively but expressing himself logically. How so? He used images to solve problems initially and later contrived the words to suit the explanation. Indeed, during one conference in 1959, he explained to another scholar that “he never thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations, but in images, feelings, and even musical architectures.” He even claims that “[n]o scientist thinks in equations.” Bold, eh?

Einstein would often take refuge in music, and he even claims that his thoughts were structured in musical architectures.

[the above was from this article]

A few more tidbits from Albert Einstein:

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

The last quote here is one that strikes me as illustrating the most basic connection between art and science: what happens when a person faces the unknown, the mysterious. Curiosity and drive for discovery inevitably carry both artist and scientist to that unsettling state of looking out at the abyss of “not yet known.” It is here where artists and scientist can learn from each other when it comes to actually taking that next step.

If a scientist hops along the stepping-stones of logic and reaches the known end, what is he to do then? There is a “leap of faith” to be taken, a gut feeling to follow…intuition and creativity must take a brief leading role in order to advance the sciences. Otherwise, the scientist would stand there at the sidewalk’s end, looking out the darkness of potential, and we probably wouldn’t have irrigated agriculture or the iPod.

Artists could use a little logic in their leaps to the unknown, into creation of the never-before-been-realized-in-the-world. After all, communication remains an essential factor in the arts. It doesn’t matter if that Art is meant to express emotion, reveal a state of mind, explain an idea, or communicate an experience: the artist should (I think) be able to lead people along a coherent path. Without logic, the audience is abandoned, and not in a good way. The audience is abandoned from the work without a connection with the work in the first place, and that “abandonment” isn’t really a loss at all. For instance, if a random man walks up, insists you call him “Daddy”, then leaves, you would cry him a river, proclaiming that you now know what it’s like to have paternal abandonment issues. That’s just silly.

So, science and art? If you ask me, they’re long-lost siblings. Twins, most likely.


3 responses to “Einstein walks the line

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