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Wall tile, perforated metal screen at SOM Park Hotel

In architecture and design we have adopted new fabrication tools developed for the automobile, aerospace, medical and manufacturing industries, but construction technologies still lag behind what we are able to generate today with the current computer design technology. This is mainly due to the fact that most architects are not familiar with many of the new fabrication tools available nor the processes needed to build and specify these non-standard designs, and overall the industry is not prepared yet to fully cope with the non-traditional bidding, contracting and approval processes entailed.

Some consultant firms like designtoproduction, by Fabian Scheurer and Arnold Walz, have precisely emerged to mediate and help architects realize their designs. Integrated by specialists from various fields, desingtoproduction helps architects, engineers and manufactures to plan, detail, optimize, simplify and materialize their non-standard ideas through non-standard processes of fabrication. They worked with Zaha Hadid, for example, at the Hungerburg Funicular stations, where more than 25000 doubly curved and shaped glass profiles were cut from polyethylene boards with a controlled five-axis router. All of the geometry and fabrication data, including the sticker ID of each part, was automatically generated through their parametric 3d model.

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Patricia Brizzio
Huffington Post

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(Photo: Eshel Ben-Jacob)

This flower-like image is the work of Eshel Ben-Jacob, a professor of physics at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Working with colleagues at the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics at the University of California, San Diego, he wants to unravel what it is that makes bacteria so adept at survival by looking at pattern formation in complex dynamic systems alongside the molecular biology and biophysics of bacteria.

Ben-Jacob’s work is artificially coloured, but the pattern is produced by the bacteria responding to stresses put upon them. For example, by limiting the food source, the colony can be made to reorganise itself into long tendrils, increasing its surface area to find more nutrients.

New Scientist

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Yo-Yo Ma, with giant ants, honoring the biologist Edward O. Wilson, on backdrop, at Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday (Stephanie Berger)

The second annual World Science Festival, a five-day extravaganza of performances, debates, celebrations and demonstrations, including an all-day street fair on Sunday in Washington Square Park, began with a star-studded gala tribute to the Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson at Lincoln Center Wednesday night. Over the next three days the curious will have to make painful choices: attend an investigation of the effects of music on the brain with a performance by Bobby McFerrin, or join a quest for a long-lost mural by Leonardo Da Vinci at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Learn about the science behind “Battlestar Galactica” with actors from the show, or head to one of various panels of scientists and philosophers arguing about free will, alternate universes, science and religion, time and what it means to be human?

On Saturday there’s a chance to play naturalist, scouring a pair of New York parks under professional guidance in what Dr. Wilson calls a “BioBlitz” for flora, fauna and “all things crawly.” On Sunday you can get your hands in a variety of experiments at the street fair, including a “CSI”-style crime scene.

The festival is the brainchild of Brian Greene, a Columbia University physicist and mathematician and best-selling author, and his wife, Tracy Day, a former producer for ABC. They say they thought of the project after attending a science festival in Genoa, Italy, and being impressed by seeing science bubbling through the streets and cafes.

The idea is to mix up art, theater and music with the inevitable talking heads and professional interlocutors like Charlie Rose or Alan Alda, who can keep the discussion moving and down to earth, in order to entice an audience that didn’t know it was interested in science. Ms. Day likes to describe the strategy this way: “Bring them in for the art and have them leave with science.”

Last year more than 100,000 people stood in block-long lines to watch dancers reinterpret string theory, Oliver Sacks interpret his own failing eyesight, scientists debate quantum mechanics and what it means to be human. There were about 46 events, including a daylong street fair in Washington Square Park. In the end everything sold out, the organizers said.

“We learned that there is an untapped hunger in the public for a way into science.” said Dr. Greene, who recently sat down with Mr. Alda (who was accompanied by a ghost Twitterer), to discuss the festival.

Mr. Alda, perhaps best known as Hawkeye Pierce in “M*A*S*H,” is also longtime science buff and admits to wanting to be an inventor as a boy. Asked about the famous cultural divide between art and science he said that they are mutually reinforcing: “Art needs rigor, and science needs creativity.”

In a sort of smackdown between the two, art, represented by Mr. Alda, got the better of science, represented by Dr. Greene. Challenged to explain string theory, Mr. Alda produced a serviceable explanation: the smallest entities in nature are wriggling strings that take on different identities depending on how they vibrate. But Dr. Greene was stumped when asked to hum the theme song from “M*A*S*H.”

This year, because of the leaner economic climate, the festival offerings have been scaled back a bit to 40 events, including the street fair on Sunday in Washington Square Park. Ticket prices have also been reduced, Dr. Greene said. (Information on family activities: Spare Times, Page 24.)

The festival is sponsored by 18 organizations, including the Simons Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation.

One of the biggest differences this year, Dr. Greene said, was symbolized by Wednesday night’s gala in honor of Dr. Wilson. In addition to celebrating science, Dr. Greene explained, “we also need to celebrate great scientists — people who’ve profoundly changed our lives but are often barely known.”

He said that future editions of the festival would feature other scientists: “When kids look up to great scientists the way they do to great musicians and actors, civilization will jump to the next level.”

Dr. Wilson, an expert and lover of ants, certainly qualifies. He has spent his career taking seriously the notion that the behavior of creatures is just as much a part of nature as hair color or cholesterol counts and so founded the field known as sociobiology. For his troubles he has won two Pulitzer prizes and had a pitcher of water dumped on his head by political activists worried about the implications of his work for human societies.

Dr. Wilson’s imprint on this year’s festival extends beyond the opening gala and a dramatization of his life on Thursday by the actress Anna Deavere Smith. He will also be featured Friday night on a panel discussing what it means to be human. The topic this year will focus on altruism, a problem that has engaged many evolutionary biologists and philosophers over the years. On Sunday night Dr. Wilson will give a talk on his adventures “BioBlitzing” the world in search of new species.

On Wednesday, speaking at a rapturous reception after his birthday gala, Dr. Wilson called attention to what he called a lopsided emphasis in the current movement toward all things green on preserving the physical environment. More emphasis, he said, needs to be put on preserving the diverse forms of life on this planet, which are dying out at a shocking rate. If we devote ourselves to saving them, we will automatically fix the environment, he said.

“Species are dying,” he said, “while we stand here nattering.”

Dennis Overbye
New York Times

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She has been described as one of the most beautiful women of all time, with looks compared to those of Audrey Hepburn. Her image decorates thousands of tourist T- shirts and souvenirs.

Queen Nefertiti (c.1370 B.C.-1330 B.C.) is one of the most famous figures of the ancient world, and all because of a single work of art: a limestone bust owned by the museums of Berlin. Hers is one of the best-known faces in art, enjoying almost Mona Lisa status. Last week it was reported that two separate authors, the Swiss historian Henri Stierlin and Berlin-based Erdogan Ercivan, believe it is an early-20th-century work.

I must admit I wasn’t surprised. World famous though the bust is, it is an object about which I have long had niggling doubts. It does not, to use art-world jargon, seem “right.”

To my admittedly non-specialist eye, “Nefertiti” does not look much like any other ancient Egyptian sculpture. On the other hand, it does have an early 1900s feel: somewhere between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, just right for the moment it was first seen publicly, in 1924. Puzzlingly, one eye is missing, which apparently was never placed in the otherwise finished work.

Do such worries matter? After all, scientific tests support the authenticity of Nefertiti and the director of Berlin’s Egyptology Museum has dismissed Stierlin’s theories.

Perhaps they do. In 1985, after 14 months of technical investigation, the Getty Museum was convinced that a certain statue was an ancient Greek original from the 6th century B.C., and purchased it for $7 million. Then a series of scholars looked at it and immediately suspected it was a fake. The label now reads “Greek, about 530 B.C., or modern forgery.”

Sometimes, fakes get into prominent art-historical positions. One of the Vermeers forged by Han van Meegeren in the 1930s was regarded with such reverence that it was displayed behind a red rope to keep the crowds at bay at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

Van Meegeren’s Vermeers were both supposed to be extremely early works, of which they were the only examples — so there was nothing to compare them with. In a way, that’s true of Nefertiti too; an exceptional item from an aberrant period, the reign of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaton.

There is, too, a bit of mystery about the origin of Nefertiti (as there usually is with fakes). The sculpture is supposed to have been found in December 1912 by a team of German archaeologists at the site of the court sculptor’s workshop at Amarna on the Nile in Middle Egypt.

Under the agreement by which they worked, the Egyptian museum service had first pick of the Germans’ finds — but the Egyptian representative, a French archaeologist named Gustave Lefebvre, selected another piece, not Nefertiti.

The sculpture didn’t go on show with the other finds from the workshop in Berlin in 1913. When it was finally displayed in 1924, the Egyptian authorities called “foul” and demanded it back. There were suspicions that the bust had been hidden or covered with dirt so that Lefebvre didn’t see it properly.

Perhaps, however, it wasn’t there for him to see because it hadn’t yet been made.

Stierlin suggests it was produced as a copy by the archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt, and so admired by a German prince that it was embarrassing to admit it wasn’t original. According to the U.K. newspaper the Guardian, Ercivan thinks it was modeled on Borchardt’s wife.

If so, Frau Borchardt’s face is now one of the most celebrated in world history.

Martin Gayford
Bloomberg

Beauty is famously in the eye of the beholder; but it’s also in the beholder’s brain, and may work differently in the brains of men and women.

In men, images they consider to be beautiful appear to activate brain regions responsible for locating objects in absolute terms — x- and y-coordinates on a grid. Images considered beautiful by women do the same, but they also activate regions associated with relative location: above and behind, over and under. The difference could be the result of evolutionary pressures on our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

The findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are preliminary and based on a small number of people, but intriguing nonetheless.

“This the first study about neural activation in aesthetic tasks to include sex as a variable,” said study co-author Camilo Cela-Conde, an evolutionary anthropologist at Spain’s Universitat de les Illes Balears.

Earlier studies on sex-based cognitive differences have found that men seem to have a heightened sense of absolute location. Women, by contrast, are quicker to process relative values.

How these brain systems became tied to the perception of beauty, widely considered a defining human trait, is an evolutionary mystery. According to Cela-Conde, aesthetics may simply be a byproduct of other cognitive tasks.

Differences in cognitive tasks, however, may be less mysterious: For much of human history, men and women had different jobs. Their brains may thus have developed in subtly different ways.

“In current hunter-gatherer groups, men are in charge of hunting; meanwhile women collect,” said Cela-Conde. “If this is a scheme that can be extended to ancestors’ behavior, then we can think about a selective pressure to increase the capacity of spatial orientation in men, and the capacity to identify edible plants and tubers in women.”

In the study, 10 men and 10 women looked at images of modern and classic paintings, as well as photographs of landscapes, artifacts and urban scenes. The researchers recorded their reactions with a magnetoencephalograph, which monitors real-time neural activity by measuring magnetic fields generated by electrical currents in the brain.

The subjects varied as to what they considered beautiful, but brain patterns were consistent: coordinate-processing activation in both men and women, and category-processing in only women.

These differences do not seem to translate into differences in the actual experience of beauty. In earlier research, said Cela-Conde, both men and women describe beauty as being “original, interesting and pleasant.”

However, as the differences were expressed only in response to images the subjects found to be beautiful, they do not seem to reflect a general sex-based difference in perception.

As the brain regions involved are far more developed in humans than chimpanzees — our closest living relative — Cela-Conde’s team suspects that the differences are rooted in early hominid divisions between men and women.

Another possible explanation is language-based: Coordinate-reading brain systems are less activated by linguistic communication than categorical systems.

The differences observed in the study would then originate in another sex-based difference, albeit an arguable one: Women are especially talkative.

Brandon Keim
Wired

On one Friday this spring, 24 of the country’s most promising future physicians circled the limestone Bodhisattva as art instructor Alexa Miller posed a question: “What’s happening here?” The students initially observed that the figure was made of stone and appeared peaceful. But she pushed them further. “What do you see that makes you say that?” she asked…

Katz’s class is one of a growing number of art courses offered to medical students nationwide and aimed at improving their observation and diagnostic skills at a time when doctors are increasingly relying on CT scans, Maris, biopsies, and other technology to do their work, even though it is far more expensive – and sometimes unnecessary to pinpoint illnesses.

Nana Aqua Judah, who graduated from Harvard in June and is now an obstetrics and gynecology resident in Toronto, said the art class taught her to look more carefully at patients for clues. For example, if a young mother looks run down, it might indicate she’s too stressed to take a medication that requires five doses a day, leading Judah to prescribe a once- or twice-a-day drug. Besides, said Judah, who was taking six or seven classes at the time, “to me it seemed like a relief. We were going to an art gallery for a class.”

At tradition-minded Harvard, many faculty were skeptical about the idea of using art to make better doctors when Katz proposed the class five years ago, especially since the first- and second-year students who enroll are already overwhelmed with work. But Katz’s belief that physicians can improve their diagnostic skills by observing art was bolstered this month when he and his colleagues published a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showing that after completing the class, students’ ability to make accurate observations increased 38 percent. When shown artwork and photos of patients, students were more likely to notice features such as a patient’s eyes being asymmetrical or a tiny, healed sore on an index finger. Observations by a control group of students who did not take the class did not change.

“We’re trying to train students to not make assumptions about what they’re going to see, but to do deep looking. Our hope is that they will be able to do this when they look at patients,” said Katz, an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a former graphic designer. He said several studies show that doctors’ physical exam skills, which include observation and taking a medical history, as well as the hands-on examination, are declining.

The most difficult part of the class for the high-achieving Harvard students, Miller said, seems to be letting go of their urge to find the one right answer. The Bodhisattva, for example, can spark a wide range of emotions, as the statue is towering and imposing when seen from the front but then “almost disappears into space” when looked at from the side, Miller said. As she pushes students to look harder at the sculpture, using a technique called visual thinking strategies, students’ observations become more complex, and they notice that the Bodhisattva is powerful, but also small and poignant.
While diagnosing a medical condition involves reaching the right answer, often, to get there, doctors have to open their minds to myriad possibilities.

“When we get fixated on getting the right answer, we miss the diagnosis because it blocks the ability to think flexibly,” Miller said. “We want them to puzzle through things.”

Educators at other medical schools that offer art classes have similar goals. Weill Medical College of Cornell University has offered a noncredit art course in collaboration with the Frick Collection in New York City for eight years, while Yale Medical School runs an art observation course for medical students that is now a required class.

Students in the Harvard class study a wide range of original art, including oil paintings by Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and John Singer Sargent, and sculptures from Iran and India. Students have the option of drawing a nude model as well. Instructors draw exact parallels between some artworks and diagnosing illness; students, for example, study texture and pattern in Jackson Pollack’s abstract Number 10, and then return to the medical school to study how patterns in patients’ rashes can indicate specific conditions. But the course primarily trains students to look at what they’re seeing more carefully.

Dr. Robert Brown, a pulmonologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a course instructor, gets undressed above the waist to give his lecture on breathing muscles. Three patients enter the classroom, including a quadriplegic man who also is shirtless, a woman with muscular dystrophy, and a woman with a deformed spine. Afterward, students list what they saw. Brown wants them to notice that his upper rib cage moves outward while the paralyzed patient’s upper rib cage moves inward. Paralysis of the diaphragm is a diagnosis doctors often miss, he said, but inward movement of the belly while breathing is one sign.

If they look carefully “during the physical exam they can begin to put the pieces together,” he said.

While research into doctors’ physical exam skills is sparse, there is a consensus in medicine that those skills are waning. Some doctors believe medical schools are giving short shrift to the physical exam, but others believe these skills atrophy once doctors graduate and start practicing their specialty.

“When I’ve been to Africa and the Amazon and there are no CT scans and X-rays and it’s just you and a flashlight and a stethoscope and something to look into the patients’ ears, you have nothing to fall back on other than your clinical skills,” said Dr. Ronald Silvestri, a pulmonologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who runs Harvard’s doctor-patient course, which teaches the physical exam.

In the United States, he said, doctors turn more quickly to these widely available tests and tend to be very rushed when seeing patients. “If you have a 10-minute visit, how good an observer can you be?” While Silvestri believes the quality of care doesn’t suffer from the widespread use of diagnostic tests, he thinks the overall healthcare system does.

“It’s one reason that American medical care is so expensive,” he said.

But whether art classes will have a lasting impact remains an open question.

Students in the course run by Katz and Brigham neurologist Dr. Shahram Khoshbin were evaluated immediately after they took the course, not as practicing doctors, when they will face the threat of malpractice lawsuits for wrong diagnosis.

Liz Kowalczyk
Boston Globe

Art is a form of cognitive play with pattern. Just as communication exists in many species, even in bacteria, and human language derives from but redirects animal communication along many unforeseen new routes, so play exists in many species, but the unique cognitive play of human art redirects it in new ways and to new functions…

Committed to the cognitive niche, humans crave pattern because it can tell us so much. The more our minds can handle multiple patterns at multiple levels, the more successfully we can predict and act. We therefore have what physicist Edward Purcell calls an “avidity for pattern.” As Stephen Jay Gould notes: “The human mind delights in finding pattern. . . . No other habit of thought lies so deeply within the soul of a small creature trying to make sense of a complex world not constructed for it.” Extreme informational chaos, the absence of pattern, as in whiteout or dense fog, can even cause distress and loss of sensory function.

Art offers the opposite of chaos. It concentrates and plays with the world’s profusion of patterns, with its patterns of interrelated or intersecting patterns. Our perception of pattern and of deviation from it produces strong emotional reactions. Art engages us by appealing to our appetite for pattern at multiple levels, in producing or perceiving bodily movement, shapes, surfaces, or sounds, words or miniature worlds. Like play, art therefore provokes us to continue the activities it offers long enough and to resume them often enough to modify our neural circuitry over time.

Brian Boyd
The American Scholar

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Segment of a piece by El Anatsui at the De Young Museum

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Cat’s Eye nebula (NASA)

Change blindness [is] the frequent inability of our visual system to detect alterations to something staring us straight in the face. The changes needn’t be as modest as a switching of paint chips. At the same meeting…the audience failed to notice entire stories disappearing from buildings, or the fact that one poor chicken in a field of dancing cartoon hens had suddenly exploded. In an interview, Dr. Wolfe [of Harvard Medical School] also recalled a series of experiments in which pedestrians giving directions to a Cornell researcher posing as a lost tourist didn’t notice when, midway through the exchange, the sham tourist was replaced by another person altogether.

Beyond its entertainment value, symposium participants made clear, change blindness is a salient piece in the larger puzzle of visual attentiveness. What is the difference between seeing a scene casually and automatically, as in, you’re at the window and you glance outside at the same old streetscape and nothing registers, versus the focused seeing you’d do if you glanced outside and noticed a sign in the window of your favorite restaurant, and oh no, it’s going out of business because, let’s face it, you always have that Typhoid Mary effect on things. In both cases the same sensory information, the same photonic stream from the external world, is falling on the retinal tissue of your eyes, but the information is processed very differently from one eyeful to the next. What is that difference? At what stage in the complex circuitry of sight do attentiveness and awareness arise, and what happens to other objects in the visual field once a particular object has been designated worthy of a further despairing stare?

Visual attentiveness is born of limited resources. “The basic problem is that far more information lands on your eyes than you can possibly analyze and still end up with a reasonable sized brain,” Dr. Wolfe said. Hence, the brain has evolved mechanisms for combating data overload, allowing large rivers of data to pass along optical and cortical corridors almost entirely unassimilated, and peeling off selected data for a close, careful view. In deciding what to focus on, the brain essentially shines a spotlight from place to place, a rapid, sweeping search that takes in maybe 30 or 40 objects per second, the survey accompanied by a multitude of body movements of which we are barely aware: the darting of the eyes, the constant tiny twists of the torso and neck. We scan and sweep and perfunctorily police, until something sticks out and brings our bouncing cones to a halt.

The mechanisms that succeed in seizing our sightline fall into two basic classes: bottom up and top down. Bottom-up attentiveness originates with the stimulus, with something in our visual field that is the optical equivalent of a shout: a wildly waving hand, a bright red object against a green field. Bottom-up stimuli seem to head straight for the brainstem and are almost impossible to ignore, said Nancy Kanwisher, a vision researcher at M.I.T., and thus they are popular in Internet ads.

Top-down attentiveness, by comparison, is a volitional act, the decision by the viewer that an item, even in the absence of flapping parts or strobe lights, is nonetheless a sight to behold. When you are looking for a specific object — say, your black suitcase on a moving baggage carousel occupied largely by black suitcases — you apply a top-down approach, the bouncing searchlights configured to specific parameters, like a smallish, scuffed black suitcase with one broken wheel. Volitional attentiveness is much trickier to study than is a simple response to a stimulus, yet scientists have made progress through improved brain-scanning technology and the ability to measure the firing patterns of specific neurons or the synchronized firing of clusters of brain cells.

Recent studies with both macaques and humans indicate that attentiveness crackles through the brain along vast, multifocal, transcortical loops, leaping to life in regions at the back of the brain, in the primary visual cortex that engages with the world, proceeding forward into frontal lobes where higher cognitive analysis occurs, and then doubling back to the primary visual centers. En route, the initial signal is amplified, italicized and annotated, and so persuasively that the boosted signal seems to emanate from the object itself. The enhancer effect explains why, if you’ve ever looked at a crowd photo and had somebody point out the face of, say, a young Franklin Roosevelt or George Clooney in the throng, the celebrity’s image will leap out at you thereafter as though lighted from behind.

Whether lured into attentiveness by a bottom-up or top-down mechanism, scientists said, the results of change blindness studies and other experiments strongly suggest that the visual system can focus on only one or very few objects at a time, and that anything lying outside a given moment’s cone of interest gets short shrift. The brain, it seems, is a master at filling gaps and making do, of compiling a cohesive portrait of reality based on a flickering view.

“Our spotlight of attention is grabbing objects at such a fast rate that introspectively it feels like you’re recognizing many things at once,” Dr. Wolfe said. “But the reality is that you are only accurately representing the state of one or a few objects at any given moment.” As for the rest of our visual experience, he said, it has been aptly called “a grand illusion.” Sit back, relax and enjoy the movie called You.

Natalie Angier
New York Times

Over the past decade, two facts have become increasingly obvious – that our ever-increasing consumption is wrecking the planet, and that continually chasing more stuff, more food and more entertainment no longer makes us any happier. Instead, levels of stress, obesity and dissatisfaction are spiralling.

So why is our culture still chasing, consuming, striving ever harder, even though we know in our sophisticated minds that it’s an unrewarding route to eco-geddon? New scientific studies are helping to reveal why. It’s our primitive brains. These marvellous machines got us down from the trees and around the world, through ice ages, famines, plagues and disasters, into our unprecedented era of abundance. But they never had to evolve an instinct that said, “enough”.

Instead, our wiring constantly, subliminally urges us: “Want. More. Now.” Western civilisation wisely reined in this urge for thousands of years with an array of cultural conventions, from Aristotle’s Golden Mean (neither too much, nor too little) to the Edwardian table-saying: “I have reached an elegant sufficiency and anything additional would be superfluous.”

Consumer culture ditched all that, though, constructing instead an ever more sophisticated system for pinging our primitive desire circuits into overdrive. It got us to the point where we created everything we need as a basis for contentment. Now it’s rushing us past the tipping point, beyond which getting more makes life worse rather than better. And it’s making our brains respond more weirdly than ever.

Our old wiring may condemn us to keep striving ever harder until finally we precipitate our dissatisfied demise. But, instead, we could learn to practise the comfortable art of “enough” in this overstuffed world. There is a broad armoury of strategies we can adopt to proof our brains against the pressure to pursue and consume too much, to work too hard and to feel constantly inadequate and underprivileged. The most fundamental of these is knowledge: forewarned is forearmed.

The Times

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To Inuits in the late 1800s, a map was a piece of wood with carved gnarls and pocks representing the coastal inlets of Greenland.

To ancient Greeks and early Europeans, maps were flights of fancy and horror, showing beautiful beasts and savage humans of uncharted lands.

Eighteenth-century Buddhists saw maps as moral charts juxtaposing landscapes of men’s sensual desires and “infinite space.” New World colonizers used maps as tools of conquest and empire, distorting size and shape to serve their self-interest.

No matter the age, maps have always inspired that eternal human penchant for dreaming of far-off places, for locating oneself in the universe. As vessels of wishful thinking, they transform us into explorers lured by the mystery of the unknown, if not a lust to conquer it.

Pursuits and desires such as these are at the core of the Festival of Maps here, billed as the largest, most diverse cartographic exposition in U.S. history. “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World,” which is one part of the Chicago festival, will open in March at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Although computer and satellite technology seem to cast a cold, hard light on our physical realm, people still turn to maps to feed their imagination, festival organizers say — whether through collecting and studying ancient maps, using modern mapping technology in creative and interactive ways or making cartographically inspired art. Rather than distance us from cartography, technology has made mapping part of our everyday lives — in driving, in fashion, even in political protest.

“It turns out almost any man on the street you talk to says they love maps,” says Anna Siegler, who was hired to coordinate the festival by her friend Barry MacLean, one of the world’s top collectors, with more than 20,000 maps.

The love of maps is “this quietly held passion [that] people have,” says Siegler.

Kari Lydersen
Washington Post