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SciArt of the Day: What’s Under the Hood?

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

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Dynastidae Beetle by Mike P. Libby

Dynastidae Beetle by Mike P. Libby of Insect Lab

Artist Mike Libby of Insect Lab Studio creates these one-of-a-kind sculptures using insects and antique pocket watch parts. Playing upon our perception of insects as somewhat robotic, Libby “lifts the hood” so we can see what really makes these bugs tick.

Insect Lab Studios

Mike P. Libby Portfolio (including a series – miniature satellites, full scale tridents, and a human skull all made entirely from debris found on beaches and a current piece involving one vinyl record that is an homage to the failed challenger mission)

Insect Lab Studios on Facebook

Mike Libby on Facebook

Mike Libby on Twitter

Every day in September, we’re bringing you new science-art of the day. How would these images be useful for science communication? STEM education? Enticing people to learn more about science? Do they inspire you or frustrate you? Let us know below!

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her 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. geojellyroll 10:43 am 09/11/2012

    No idea what this has to do with science.

    An insect is a living organism…what makes it ‘tick’ is beyond the grasp of the author of this article? Hint..the natural world is much more amazing (and beautiful) than metal cogs.

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  2. 2. 12:52 pm 09/11/2012

    Geojellyroll, I’m glad you commented. Art doesn’t always speak to everyone, and I would certainly never argue that this work is pure science. Hence the label “science-art.”

    Art is a subjective experience and each person takes from it what they will depending on their life experiences. I can tell you what I see in Libby’s sculpture that makes me put it in the category of science-art and not just art, but depending on your life experiences, you may or may not agree.

    What does this have to do with science?
    –I see a long tradition of collecting and mounting specimens for display and study. Walk some of the older halls of any natural history museum and I guarantee you’ll see rows of colorful mounted beetles and butterflies reminiscent of this work.

    –I see a meticulous dissection that illuminates the anatomy of the hardened, shell-like wings and how they relate to and protect the softer rear wings.

    –And, as I referenced in my short blurb, I see commentary on how insects differ from us in how they move, how they interact with their world, and how they’re built.

    Aside from it being funny to think about lifting up the insect’s rear and finding a bunch of gears (which would explain where we get the feeling that insects are somewhat robotic), it’s surprising – it reminds us that biology is spectacularly complex. It inspires me to keep observing and learning, to continue to be curious, and to never, ever stop asking questions.

    There are many ways to understand our world; science is one, art is another, humor yet another. I find Libby’s work hilarious, thought-provoking, science-related and therefore valuable. You may or may not, and that’s your prerogative. But I’m curious: How do you like it now?!

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