Ginny Ruffner and Dr. Jim Heath Explore the Intersection of Art and Science

An artist and a scientist walk into a lecture hall …

It sounds like the setup to a joke, but it actually happened on January 19 at Town Hall Seattle. Renowned artist Ginny Ruffner and ISB President Dr. Jim Heath hosted an hour-long conversation focusing on the intersection of art and science. And while the discussion was quite real, it delivered a number of comical punchlines.

An overarching theme of the evening was creation.

“Each of us are interested in creation stories, but there’s a difference,” Heath said. “As a scientist, I tend to look for patterns … I try to look for the underlying physics behind those patterns, and if I understand that well enough, to control and go back in the laboratory and alter those patterns to show that you can do something that you can predict.”

Creativity in art and science is very similar, Ruffner said. It typically starts in the exact same way – by paying attention, asking questions, and then making up stories.

Ruffner pointed out differences between the two professions. One, artists have different questions, and two, scientists have to prove all their stories. “We (artists) don’t have to. It’s a great gig,” she said to laughter.  

Curiosity is what starts it all, Heath agreed.

Throughout the presentation, Heath and Ruffner dug into how they think about natural beauty, patterns and other phenomena, and how that is reflected in their respective professions. 

You can watch their conversation here, or by clicking play on the video at the top of this page.

ISB-Town Hall Seattle Science Series

ISB and Town Hall Seattle have put on a number of events focusing on a range of important topics. The art-and-science discussion was the series’ first in-person event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. ISB and Town Hall plan to have all future events in person to utilize the incredible, renovated space at Town Hall’s Capitol Hill location. 

The most recent ISB-Town Hall events looked at the state of the microbiome field, the new science of longevity, why we age (and why we don’t have to), the importance of getting kids outside, STEM policy and advocacy, the politics of immunization, mining sewage to track population health, creating new senses for humans, and more. 

We will continue creating compelling events. To make sure you know of upcoming conversations, please monitor our Events page, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for event updates.

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