"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I am sure that most readers are already familiar with the 'Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind' often attributed to the Renaissance genius Leonardo da vinci.

Learning Chef & Braindancer Dilip Mukerjea calls Leonardo da vinci 'A Role Model for the New Millennium' in his wonderful book, 'Surfing the Intellect: Building Intellectual Capital for a Knowledge Economy'.

In fact, he even adds a brief history in his book about the polymath: anatomist, architect, artist, botanist, city planner, composer, costume set designer, engineer, instrument inventor, joke teller, mathematician, musician, philosopher, riddler, scientist, sculptor, storyteller, weapon designer, writer, all rolled into one.

To recap in a nut shell, the da vincian prinicples are given as follows:

1) Study the Science of Art;

2) Study the Art of Science;

3) Develop your Senses, especially How to See;

4) Realise that Everything connects to Everything Else;

However, what do they actually mean?

I like to share my personal perspectives on the self-imposed question, to be answered in three parts.

I will cover the first part in this post, which will deal with the first two da vincian principles. This will be followed by the second & third parts in two subsequent posts, tackling the remaining two da vincian principles respectively.

Frankly, science and art are not necessarily opposite. In fact, more than not, they are intertwined as well as interdependent.

Take an automobile, say the Volvo XC90 Sport, for example.

It's definitely a beautiful and powerful car, because I have test-driven one for a good friend.

It is undoubtedly created by the science of engineering. The 3.2 litre V6 turbocharged engine; the 6-speed automatic transmission; anti-skid, active stability, automatic levelling chassis & steering; preventive, protective as well as child safety features, are obviously the results of the scientific method.

But the aerodynamic exteriors, interior leather & panel styling, driver support including the power seat, climatic controls & high-performance audio systems are artistic contributions, at least from my perspective.

One can argue that all cars are about the same: they provide just transportation, at least from the scientific standpoint. But it's the artistic point of view that provides variations & distinctions for the ultimate driving experience.

Next, where science & art meets is in the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, known as origami.

As I understand from origami hobbyists, the goal of this art is to create a representation of an object using geometric folds and crease patterns, preferably without the use of gluing or cutting the paper, and using only one piece of paper.

In fact, origami only uses a small number of different folds, but they can be combined in a variety of ways to make intricate designs.

In a nut shell, as I look into an origami execution, it is obvious that the science of art and the art of science fall between the folds.

Between the folds not only demonstrates the wizardry of ancient masters of origami, it displays the elegance of the underlying mathematics in a way that connects with the heart and soul.

Next again, where science and art meets is in building design.

A simple example is our own 'Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay', sited within Singapore's civic district, just by Marina Bay at the mouth of the Singapore River. It is today one of the world's busiest arts centres.

From an engineering standpoint, it's quite a marvel.

No wonder, we call it affectionately, 'The Durian', reflecting nature's resources and artistic designs, which give rise to an architectural style that not only look great for us, but also make us feel great as Singaporeans.

With the 1,600-seat Concert Hall, plus acoustics by Russell Johnson, and the 2,000-seat theatre, which is an adaptation of traditional European opera houses in horseshoe form, it's certainly a great piece of art on its own, not only attracting over seven million visitors and presenting more than 1,800 performances last year.

Incidentally, for the uninitiated, performances in the theatre, dance & music are originally based on science.

Next again, where science and art meets is in the production of animation or action thriller movies for today's generations.

Just imagine today - I am sure there will be sheer agony - watching 'Transformers', with its story about an ancient struggle re-erupting on Earth between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, or 'Wall-E', one of the most cutest, lovable characters Pixar ever invented, using cinematographic technology of the fifties or sixties, & relying on painstaking human brush strokes.

Again, as an example, take the award-winning movie, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', now showing in Singapore, starring Brad Pitt & Cate Blanchett, based on a story of a very peculiar man who had started aging backwards with bizarre consequences.

For me, it is difficult to know exactly when or where computer graphics actually intervenes with heavy make-up to show that the character in the movie is going through the timeline of the aging backwards process, as the story unfolds through a diary read by the daughter of his love.

That's to say, the interplay of the science of art and the art of science is blurred in the movie. But it's a poignant love story, & Brad Pitt is definitely in his finest form.

Now, going back to the two key da vincian principles brought up earlier, I can well understand how Leonardo da vinci came to that conclusion, or to be more precise, forethought, which eventually propels us in a way to bring science and art together to yield technological innovations for our lives.

It was Leonardo da vinci who first ventured into oil paintings with the use of light, shadows, proportions & fine details, because of his broad outlook in embracing a wide range of natural sciences & mathematics, as he searched for the scientific rules governing both man and the universe. It was these rules which had ultimately provided the basis for his imaginative reconstruction of nature in great works, such as 'Mona Lisa' & 'The Last Supper'.

He believed that paintings should be considered a liberal art. According to him, it was based on mathematically derived perspective theory, which satisfied the primary sense of sight, as the paintings could achieve a sense or rather illusion of depth, thus drawing viewers into the paintings, wanting to reach or touch them.

Very interestingly, art conservators of today use the tools of modern science to examine & care for paintings of the past.

So, the science of art and the art of science are brought together to merge in a facility that is a cross between an art studio and a forensics laboratory, which helps to uncover secrets hidden in layers of paint.

For example, x'ray machines scan large art works for cracks; needles are used in biopsy fashion to pull tiny clips from paintings for examination under a microscope; infra-red cameras developed originally for night vision warfare look beneath surfaces to see the under-drawings that ancient masters used to plan and prepare their paintings.

To more or less conclude this post, I must point out that the science of art and the art of science have invariably played - and will continue to play - very vital roles in our human culture.

[to be continued in the Next Post, in which I will explore with readers how to leverage on the science of art and the art of science in the pursuit of personal mastery.]

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