Richard Ernst (2013) - Widen Your Scope by Extracurricular Activities: My Example

Richard Ernst (2013)

Widen Your Scope by Extracurricular Activities: My Example

Richard Ernst (2013)

Widen Your Scope by Extracurricular Activities: My Example

Abstract

Some observers might think that fierce scientific competition borders on a rat race. According to Wikipedia: "A rat race is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel." Surely, this analogy gives a strongly distorted view of research. Nevertheless, we scientists and science teachers must ensure that not the slightest pretence of a rat race remains in the image of competitive science. In other words, all human values that are associated with curiosity, wisdom, and creativity shall be preserved and enhanced by research. One of the best means is to encourage the development of passions in fields as remote to the research subject as ever conceivable. Such projects help to balance one's own endeavours and prevent one-sidedness.

In my personal case it is nuclear magnetic resonance with its fascinating applications in chemistry, biology, and medicine, contrasted to the mysterious world of Tibetan Buddhist painting art that establishes the necessary balance and provides revealing insights into philosophy, psychology, and religion expressed by the beauty of superb artworks. In both fields, symbolic and metaphoric languages have been developed to describe features that are difficult to express in mathematical formulae or in words.

It was a surprise to me that science is useful, after all, also for the analysis of artworks, to understand their historical context, for example by the analysis of the chemical pigments used for painting by methods such as Raman spectroscopy. Pigments contain rich information on painting history and also on the geographical provenience of paintings. It is gratifying to experience how the two ends of the thread match; indeed science and art have much in common.

R.R.Ernst, "In situ Raman microscopy applied to large Central Asian paintings", J. Raman Spectrosc. 2010, 41, 275-287.

R.R.Ernst, "A chemist remains a chemist", Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 2013, 52, 61-67.

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