Spencer Finch: At the Intersection of Science and Art

Beauty and Scientific Method

The Day of Science and Art concluded with Finch’s lecture “Beauty and the Scientific Method.” In his talk to 150 faculty, students, and community members, he discussed how history’s greatest thinkers and inventors, such as Samuel Morse and Charles Darwin, were also artistic minds; he also showed how visual artists and poets such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe carried out their own empirical observations, just as scientists do today. Testing assumptions is a critical part of science and also drives Finch’s own work.

During the lecture, Finch demonstrated the importance of assumption testing by recreating Galileo’s famous refutation of Aristotle’s theory that if one object falls at a certain rate, two of the same objects tied together will fall at exactly twice that rate. Only instead of dropping cannon balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Finch dropped grapefruits from high on a ladder, conveying simultaneously the seriousness of purpose and the sense of fun that characterize his artistic work.

Finch wanted to illustrate the way that inspiration and knowledge in either science or art can come from unlikely places: “Especially as an artist, I’m sort of a scavenger, and so I get ideas and information from anywhere I can, and any opportunity to get out of the studio and meet scientists is just fun.”

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