Sunday, November 11, 2007

The book, Seen/Unseen, by Martin Kemp, has been a great source of information in the process of researching my graduation project.

The journey to the "unseen" or interior of the human body began with modern technologies of the 20th and 21st centuries. The invention of the camera and the subsequent discovery of x-radiography by William Rontgen in 1895, was the technology used for imaging unseen worlds of the interior - the micro view.

The expansion of the use of a variety of rays that lie immediately outside the invisible spectrum has resulted in the common use of medical scans such as cat-scans and ultrasounds as methods of seeing a world that otherwise would be invisible to the human eye. For example, the ability to utilize the electron microscope allows one to see the beauty of cellular structures.

Martin Kemp can be considered a "historian of the visual". He has examined the progress in science and of x-ray photography, and how that led to the 3-dimensional models of such structures of the DNA molecule. He notes that technological machines, or our use of them, allows us to "see" the world of the DNA molecule. Even then, it required a certain act of genius by Crick and Watson (theorists) in 1953, who produced a 3-dimensional model of the double helix. Prior to that it was just a mathematical theory. Crick and Watson turned the mathematical model into a visual representation. Here is where science meets art.

Kemp writes that we can no more "see" a molecule than we can "see" what an insect sees through its multi-faceted eye. The most we can do is to take the data from a particular machine (example: x-ray or electron photography) and use it to construct a visual reality that we can comprehend.

The great advances in electron photography at the molecular level are the result of being able to process large amounts of raw data in high speed computers, and then render a visual image of the "unseen".

It is through this range of technologies that I am exploring my own cellular structures. I will be using a more modest form of imaging by using a high-powered microscope to view the composition of my blood. I am able to view a part of me that would otherwise be "unseen".

One last comment on Martin Kemp's exploration of the Hubble Telescope - The Hubble Telescope looks into the macro world - the universe. The telescope was named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble, whose work in the 1920's came to be known as the "Hubble Constant". It is the scientific theory that: "the proportional relationship of the distances between clusters of galaxies and their speeds, and proposed a constant - for the rate at which they are moving away from each other". (Seen/Unseen, p. 241). The telescope is suspended in orbit enabling it to provide us with images of distant planets, without the distortion that occurs from the earth's atmosphere.

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