Week 3 - Lunar New Year, Kombucha, Mycelium, Plasma

Tuesday

We began by learning about exciting projects that celebrated the rabbit for the Lunar New Year. We watched a Zoom recording of a meeting where each artist or scientist shared their art-science collaborative work exploring topics like genetics, animals, culture, and the relationship between animals and humans as pets, companions, experimental projects, and food.

 

Next, we visited a botanical garden to celebrate the New Year and learn about various foods. One snack we tried was made of sesame seeds and cooked with honey, which is a traditional dessert consumed during the New Year in Korea. During the tour, we also saw some turtles resting on the shores of a pond.

In addition to the botanical garden tour, we learned about the cultures and traditions surrounding the animals related to the Lunar New Year. We also learned about the health benefits of kombucha, which includes a high level of probiotics, antioxidants, and aiding digestion and elimination of toxins in the body.

Thursday

Before the field trip, the professor gave a lecture on mushrooms, fungi, and mycelium. During the presentation, I saw a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) for the first time. I was initially surprised by its textured appearance and funky smell, but later I was fascinated by the creation process.

I was amazed by mycelium and its crucial role in the environment. Mycelium is a network of underground fungi that supports and connects plants in the ecosystem, acting as a communication system for the exchange of nutrients and information. This network can stretch for miles underground and is a delicate balance between death and life, feeding off dead matter but also supporting new growth. Understanding and protecting this balance is vital for the survival of many species and the health of our planet.

We also learned about artists using microbiomes to create art in various forms, such as sculptures, fabric, clothing, and shoes. Anastasia Pistofidou, co-founder of the Fabricademy in Barcelona, spoke about the importance of using recycled materials for printing textiles and their potential for reuse.

One piece of artwork that stood out to me was Lara Campos's grass dress. This work explores growing a garment with an organism and highlights the connection between humans and nature. This innovative and environmentally-conscious approach to fashion shows a deep respect for natural resources.

After the lecture, we visited the Plasma Research Lab in Westwood and were given a tour by a scientist. I was shocked to learn that all chips, including those in our phones, are made from plasma.

The plasma machine in the lab was impressive, surrounded by purple and yellow magnets containing the plasma. I learned that gas is injected on one side and pumped out due to crystal formation. The machine had probes to measure magnetic fields and pro-rings to seal it from air.

The scientist informed us that plasma is created every three seconds, which was mind-blowing. I never realized the crucial role plasma plays in our daily lives and technology. This experience provided a great opportunity to see science in action and understand the importance of plasma research.

 

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the knowledge and creativity showcased in class on Tuesday. I gained a greater appreciation for the connection between humans and nature, as well as the potential for artists to use science and technology to create meaningful and beautiful works of art. This day was a reminder of the importance of embracing new ideas and perspectives beyond our everyday experiences.