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Tagging Science Art

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Pssshhh!  This blog has been tagged for Cities month on Scientific American.

Street science-art. Yeah, the science is often incorrect or out of date.  The conceptually popular and wildly incorrect ‘Ascent of Man’ is popular with street artists. It interests me how much of this counter-cultural art movement in our public spaces addresses evolution over the other sciences. Will climate change street art be far behind?


Caveman by Banksy. Image source


Challenger. Image source


Unbelievably huge image. Click the image source to see the whole thing in its glory. The science is messed up but the image powerful. Image source - click it!


Another one by Banksy, the metaphor about cleaning up cave paintings comes through like a splash of cold water. I love this one. Image source


Anyone know what this is? Image source.

Banksy again. Image source.


I remembered this photo Kristjan Wager of the blog Pro-Science took a couple of years back. Image source.

Stephen Hawking. Image source.


"Evolution in violence" - from Tehran, by A1one. Image source.

Apparently this guy is somewhere in my old stomping grounds of east end Toronto. Image source.

Ah, here we go:


What does it say about the science in street art that so much of the science is outmoded and wrong, yet so clever in design and so well rendered?

Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite and is on Instagram. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Traumador the Tyrannosaur 6:48 am 08/17/2011

    The water blasting of the cave paintings is not outdated or bad science. It is such a brilliant commentary on (Western) society’s attitudes towards so many things…

    Never seen that one by Banksy, and I’m a fan. It is in my top 5 by him too. That is how powerful it is!

    Link to this
  2. 2. Glendon Mellow 7:30 am 08/17/2011

    Thanks Traumador!

    I didn’t mean to imply all of them were bad science – and I agree that one is a stellar piece of art by any standard. Beautiful and complicated colours to boot, which is something Banksy usually stays away from.

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  3. 3. Recovering LabRat 12:16 pm 08/17/2011

    Love it when art meets science because so much science is an art (biology, anyway).

    Looked up the molecule–it’s THC

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  4. 4. CM doran 1:10 pm 08/17/2011

    I loved them all, but I loved the water blaster the most. There are a lot of priceless cultural and art treasures that have been lost due to either neglect or cleansing…stories that become lost unless captured somehow. Thanks for showing some interesting city science/art.

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  5. 5. brynnscott 5:18 pm 08/17/2011

    At the Pittsburgh Museum of natural History there used to be an incredible mural of a T.Rex by Ottmar F. Von Fuehrer that, yes, was outdated by our current understanding of T.Rex physiology. From what I have read, the mural was destroyed when they redid their dinosaur exhibit. OK by all means redo the exhibit, but DESTROYED? You can’t use it to teach how scientific ideas change? It couldn’t have been moved next door, literally, to the Art Museum? I guess the outdated painting embarrassed some staff and so – bye bye art and history. Should we destroy the Pieta next? Mary’s proportions are unrealistic after all. Sorry just disgusted.

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  6. 6. Glendon Mellow 8:26 pm 08/17/2011

    Thanks R.LabRat! Where’d you look it up? Some place like Chemspider? And I am not surprised I guess at the molecule.

    Thanks CM Doran! Neglect, cleansing or intentional damage – that’s how we lose our cultural history.

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  7. 7. Kaleberg 12:30 pm 08/19/2011

    Why is some of the science out of date? Not everyone keeps up. In the early 90s, the Smithsonian still had an exhibit explaining that Venus’s atmosphere would exhibit internal refraction and let one see all around the planet. That theory had been debunked in the 80s. Let’s face it. It’s hard to keep up to date.

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  8. 8. Glendon Mellow 8:34 pm 08/19/2011

    Kaleberg, maybe I should have been more clear in the post. Some of the science is spot on. There’s a few things though that linger, and you’re absolutely right it is hard to keep up to date. I don’t mean to pick on street artists unfairly, because even if some ideas are a bit outdated, the cheekly wit is so biting the pieces work startling you and giving you a grim chuckle as they should.

    The biggest thing I noticed while looking up pieces for this post, is the amount is imagery riffing on the ‘ascent of man’ from ape to modern human. Humanity’s ancestral tree resembles more of a bush than a single, aligned branch. However: this outdated idea doesn’t just permeate street art. It’s still everywhere from geeky-chic t-shirts to respectable science blogs and magazines.

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