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"The Art of Science" Guide & Resources

Is art a science? Is science an art? The Art of Science gives you a chance to explore these questions and more. This episode of Frontiers looks at the ways these two fields overlap and influence each other, and how computers are challenging our conventional ideas about art, while changing the very nature of everyday experience. Join host Alan Alda on a visit with a German-born glassblower and listen to the ethereal sounds of a glass harmonica, first invented by Ben Franklin in 1761. You'll also meet a digital version of Alan Alda, watch a robot that paints, hear The Brain Opera and see the restoration of a masterpiece.

Here are the topics and running times of stories on this show and a brief description of related activities you'll find in this online teaching guide.

  • Big Picture -- Science and Art with daVinci and Franklin, in a PDF format.

  • Ben Franklin's Harmonica (running time: 10:47) -- Inspired by the sound of musical glasses he heard in Europe, Franklin invented a mechanical version of the glass harmonica. A 20th-century glassblower brings new life to Franklin's instrument. Activities: See and Touch Sound; The Sounds of Music; Franklin's Inspiration (singing wine glasses).

  • Alan 2.0 (running time 13:48) -- Special effects companies produce the first digital character for a speaking part. Meet Alan 2.0. Activities: Low-tech Movie Magic; Make a Phenakistiscope (spinning disc).

  • Aaron the Artist (running time: 10:07) -- An abstract painter programmed the first robot to conceive and create paintings. And the robot even cleans up when it's finished! Activities: Make a Painting Pendulum; Brainstorming about art and computers.

  • Brain Music (running time 6:26) -- The Brain Opera, created by MIT's Tod Machover, combines technology and music in an interactive musical event that features hyperinstruments and audience contributions. Activity: Music and the Mind -- Use homemade instruments to make your own version of The Brain Opera.

  • Returned to Glory (running time: 11:27) -- Artisans used a combination of chemistry and archaeology to restore an American masterpiece created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Activities: Alchemy Lab -- Make "gold" and "silver" pennies; Plaster Activities.

  • Viewer Challenge -- After you watch The Art of Science, test your viewing skills with ten questions about the show!

  • Transcript from The Art of Science

  • Related Sites for The Art of Science


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.