What makes something beautiful?

We know beauty when we see it. A snowy Himalayan landscape, a Tchaikovsky symphony, or a Bernini sculpture can all inspire a deep sense of wonder and emotional pleasure within us. To a more or less degree, we tend to equate this feeling with the experience of beauty. If we find something beautiful, our emotional and…

Why study (or draw) a fruit fly?

A few years ago, I had never imagined that I would spend several hours of my winter holidays sketching the central nervous system and muscle plan of a fruit fly. Perhaps you feel share the same thought—why would anyone looking for artistic inspiration turn to the fruit fly? If you want to showcase an animal subject, it may…

String Theory and the Multiverse—Do we share our universe?

*This essay aims to summarize how seriously the concept of a multiverse should be taken, based off of theoretical, mathematical, and experimental evidence. As we as humans accumulate vast amounts of information through science, we will surely come across some surprises; it is important to know how to rationally come to terms with new knowledge that challenges the way we…

Energy, the brain, and Thanksgiving

Humans do a lot of things that no other species does. It is not difficult to come up with examples for these uniquely human things either: we create sculptures, drawing, and paintings; we establish professional sports teams; we have businesses and governments; we compose music; and we study how Nature works. No other species on Earth…

Hippolytus and the psychology of fanatics

Around 2400 years ago, the celebrated Greek playwright Euripides produced several dramatic tragedies, which we moderns continue to enthusiastically study today. Medea is perhaps the most famous of his plays, telling the story of how the sorceress Medea exacts a brutal revenge on her husband, Jason, who left her for a new wife. In addition to witnessing how Medea viciously calculates her revenge, we also are…

Thinking about Thinking

Nikola Tesla writes in his autobiography, My Inventions:  It is absolutely immaterial to me whether I run by turbine in thought or test it in my shop. I even note if it is out of balance. There is no difference whatever, the results are the same. In this way, I am able to rapidly develop and…

Sketch of New York City

One observation from making this: New York city architecture seems to be dominated by rectangles, layered in often repetitive, simple ways that collectively make a breathtaking sight. It was sometimes hard to restrain myself from adorning the buildings with the European-style design I usually do and sticking with the repetitive rectangular shapes. (Notice I had almost no self control…

The immortality of stories

Why are humans so devotedly enthralled by stories? If one non-biological interest has remained constant throughout recorded history and across cultures, it may be our captivation with stories. Consider the oldest recorded story we know of: Aeschylus’ Orestia, a trilogy that recounts the tragic homecoming of Agamemnon from Greece after the Trojan war. This trilogy has survived since the 450s BCE! That is, 4,500 years…

Sketch of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is my favorite city to sketch. I get to use the most creativity when sketching this city because each building has its own idiosyncratic character, which somehow does not look like an over-elaborate mess when placed next to all the other buildings. For many European cities, you have to obey certain architectural schemes and shapes…

Comparing elegance in physics and neuroscience

“The soul is awestricken and shudders at the sight of the beautiful, for it feels that something is evoked in it that was not imparted to it from without by the senses, but has always already laid down there in the deeply unconscious region.” These words by Plato in the Phaedrus attempt to explain how…

Change, Ovid, and Nature

“Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.” Everything changes, nothing perishes.         – Ovid, Metamorphoses

Stargazing—a wonder from science and art

“All other animals look downward; Man, Alone, erect, can raise his face towards Heaven.” – Ovid, Metamorphoses —“The Creation” Ovid was a Roman poet who wrote one masterpiece of a text called the Metamorphoses. You may also recognize this title because Franz Kafka, a German author, wrote a similar sounding work called the Metamorphosis. (Although the themes explored…

Sketch of three birds on a branch

This is the finished version of a sketch of birds I started some weeks ago, showing three songbirds perched together on a tree branch. The leftmost bird is a blue winged warbler, the middle is a zebra finch, and the rightmost is of an imaginary design. (I am sure that in the diversity of birds, this particular…

Synapses, Science, and Aesthetics

Capturing images  of Nature is a powerful method of scientific inquiry. The purpose of imaging is not to awaken the inner photographer in each scientist, but rather to derive some insight about the structure and biological function of a given object of study. For example, you can use X-ray crystallography to find out the structure…

Considerations for quantum consciousness

We humans have developed a variety of ways to explore our own nature. Literature, art, and philosophy are particularly well-known ways of doing so. As less conventional examples, we can understand ourselves through scientific means: physics and neuroscience let us understand the physical nature of reality, behavior, and the mind. I think that the most intellectually stimulating…

Mobilization, science and art

Today has been an emotionally challenging day for many Americans. It’s been difficult to keep a productive routine going while trying to cope with the election results. One of the many negative implications I’ve been considering is how a Trump presidency would affect science. In the morning, I had a very pessimistic outlook on this, as I anticipated worst-case…

Fate and determinism: scientific perspectives

Free will is one of the most stimulating topics of human exploration. This is not surprising of course, because, as humans, we’d love to figure out how much control we have in determining the outcomes of our lives. Art and literature have offered a wealth of approaches to the issue of free will. In particular, the Greeks developed this theme in…