I was very interested in Jennifer’s proposal to examine mental illness in art, particularly depression and how treatments like SSRIs can affect creativity and artistic output. There is a huge link between mental illness and art. Some of the most well known artists, from Jackson Pollock to Paul Gauguin to Joan Miro, were said to suffer from depression (“Artists and Depression”, “Miro Offers Case in Point of Creativity’s Link to Depression”).
We rely on our memory for pretty much everything in our lives. We use it to remember how to get to work or school; we use it to drive; we use it to make connections to others. However, our memory is an imperfect mechanism. There are several ways that our memory can fail us. The most commonly considered memory failure is forgetting. While this happens to virtually everyone, there are several people for who forgetting becomes pathological, such as with the various forms of dementia.
I chose to read “The Biopolitics of Human Genetics Research and Its Application” by Fatimah Jackson and Sherie McDonald this week. This article discusses how human genetics research is being used to trace ancestry and how this kind of information can be misinterpreted and misconstrued. The authors particularly focus on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) used to provide African Americans with information about their ancestry. While it may seem exciting to be able to learn where your family came from, there are a number of issues with using mtDNA to show ancestry.
I was very interested in Anna’s presentation about integrating virtual reality into fitness. I don’t know much about virtual reality other than that machines like Oculus Rift are becoming more and more accessible and integrated into many different fields. I know from personal experience that I find it much more appealing to workout if I am attending some kind of class. That way I know that I am getting a well-balanced workout and it becomes much easier to push myself to work hard, compared to when I go to the gym alone and try to figure out what to do.
This week in class we learned and experienced the piece Brainstorming, which uses EEG waves to control the color of the lights within an octopus crown. It examines how the brain waves of two people facing each other change and if they can become synced, creating the same color in each crown. I thought it was very interesting to try and get people’s brainwaves to be in sync and wondered if by performing some sort of task together, it would reveal either how people think differently in collaborative situations or how people think the same when working together.
When most people think of pigs, they think of messy and muddy, or they think of bacon, but they don’t also realize that pigs are incredibly common in biomedical research. In class, we discussed the use of pig heart valves in heart transplants. When human patients need a new heart valve, they can choose between using a mechanical valve or a tissue valve, which likely comes from a pig or cow donor. While the mechanical valves are more durable, they do require the use of blood thinner medications, which tissue valves do not require.
Nature and I have never been close friends. While I prefer to appreciate nature from behind a TV screen and narrated by David Attenborough, there is no denying that we rely heavily on the environment for food, water, and breathable air. Humans have had an enormous impact on the Earth as we exploit it for food and fuel, threatening many species through destruction of their habitat and pollution. While there are still people who deny it, the climate of our planet is changing and we must take action to prevent our planet from becoming inhospitable.
As I have come to realize over the past couple weeks, the intersection of biotechnology and art is a flourishing field that is capable of bringing attention to many important ethical and scientific issues, as well as philosophical questions of what life is exactly. One rapidly developing field is artificial life and artificial intelligence, which look to replicate biological systems and cognitive processes in machines.
When I enrolled in this class, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I didn’t know exactly what bioart was, and mostly pictured things like colorfully imaged brain scans or crystallized protein. I thought of things like Rosalind Franklin’s first images of DNA structure.