Sometimes scientific investigation yields something more than meaningful insights into the world. Mathematical models in biology can be fascinating and aesthetically pleasing, and some computer games, apart from being very addictive, can educate people and advance research. Mathematical models and games are deeply interconnected, because in biology we often want to model using computers different types of “games” happening in nature – the competition for various resources (food, mating partners, etc.) being the obvious example.
In this article, we will examine a few notable biological games. The first two examples are not really games as we usually think of them – you don’t play, but rather watch what happens as the game plays itself! This is exactly how we think of life, where organisms live, evolve, and die without outside intervention. Games can help us see how complex patterns and behaviors emerge from a set of seemingly simple rules.
Imagine yourself lying in your bed, headphones in, just taking a break from the stresses of the outside world. You’re listening to your favorite song of all time – the song that just seems to completely take you away from all your current surroundings. What do you feel? Do you get the chills? Do you feel some inexplicable connection to the music, as if the rhythm of your body matches up to the rhythm of the song you are listening to? Does the music make your heart beat faster, or does it make you feel noticeably sadder, happier, or more excited? If you feel any of these sensations, then it could mean that your brain might be more unique than you think!
Sy Montgomery is a passionate writer with intimate knowledge of the octopus world. From quietly, desperately beautiful stories of a mother octopus caring for unfertilized eggs to tales of finding friendship and happiness from a joint love of octopuses, this book has (almost) everything an amateur lover of the sea could desire.
“Ever since I was very young, I’ve had the need to create,” she says, looking out the window of her car to the vast Californian landscape. Oakland-based artist Diane Heron has always seen the interconnectedness of art, life, and well-being. Recently, Diane was tested and diagnosed as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), she says suddenly her calling as an artist, makes sense in so many ways.
We’re so intimately dependent on bacteria, and the way that these beings inside of us exist can determine our health and hence our mind. You hear so much about the gut microbiome nowadays — people are beginning to pay more attention to eating fermented foods and it’s completely reasonable - fermentation is one of our most ancient and anthropologically important processes that has allowed us harness bacterial pre-digestion to gather nutrients from from vegetation and meats.
We interviewed Elizabeth Jameson, an artist who uses her art as a way to reclaim her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis from the scientific community, and Anthony Norcia, Ph.D, a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford, about the intersection of art and neuroscience that appears in three of Jameson’s vibrant paintings.
A thorough dig into psychosis literature (everything from the Schneiderian first-rank symptoms of schizophrenia, a set of symptoms recognized and used by physicians worldwide, to acts of madness in King Lear) reveals that one of the biggest challenges of understanding any type of mental illness, and psychosis in particular, is finding the ability to empathize.
The head of a rotting cow carcass lies pensively on the floor of an art museum exhibit, enclosed by a large glass casing. Despite the repulsive maggots and flies buzzing around its head, the cow fascinated Ricky Cordova (Bioengineering ‘18).
“It’s beautiful,” he said. “By making the mental leap to label something differently, [the artist] showed that something so commonplace can be a powerful symbol of the beauty of death … of the metamorphosis of materials after life leaves it.”
Gail Wight is an American artist whose work combines art with biology, neurology and technology. Her work explores the impact of life sciences on the human being. She is a professor in Art Practice and has been teaching art at Stanford since 2003.