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Science Materiality

Conceptualization, Materiality, Emotionality, Art




Just a fraction of the scientific knowledge produced in laboratories reaches a lay audience. Most of our communication with the public gets lost in translation because of the difficulties that science communication poses to scientists. Among other obstacles, differential exposure to scientific and critical thinking, discrepancies with social narratives, and communication training based on the deficit model add to a practice established on avoiding emotionality. In this context, effective communication requires the use of emotions, which are crucial to establishing trust. The practical translation of scientific information into materials that can convey emotions and feelings is then a critical new skill.


This workshop will discuss practical ways to translate science into materials to create an art concept based on scientific information. Using scientific journal articles, science popularization magazines, videos, sounds, artworks, and group discussions we will explore how to create an experience based on materials that will ultimately speak for us about science.




Conceptualize your science in an artistic metaphor using materials that convey emotions and feelings linked to that science.




- Familiarize yourself with the science conceptualization and translation of those concepts to materials.

- Practice divergent thinking by application of simile and materiality.

- Recognize that materials can be linked to emotions and feelings.

- Apply materiality to the creation of metaphors to explain scientific concepts.


Science Materiality: Science to Concept.

Goal: Learn scientific familiarization, de-jargonization, synthesis & conceptualization for communication.
Outcome: The creation of a MindMap and the creation of 100 word press release.

Science Materiality: Concepts to Materials.

Goal: Learn translation of concepts to materials by practicing divergent thinking.
Outcome: The development of Simile and the extraction of Materials.

Science Materiality: Emotive engagement through materiality and metaphor.

Goal: Recognize the emotive properties of materials and how they can be used to spark curiosity and wonder directed to scientific engagement.
Outcome: The Creation of a Metaphor and the outline of an Art Concept science-based.


There are three different themes to choose from for any of the workshops. Those themes are:

1. Music of the Spheres

2. The Primordial Sounds

3. The Minuscule Mystery

The first theme covers the discovery of new planets using the light from the star they orbit. The second theme is about the sounds used by marine animals and the disruption that human activity has created in this type of communication. The last theme focus on the dramatic decline of insect biomass and the threat that this represents for life on Earth.


We invite you to review the information and links under each theme before arrival to the workshop; it contains background information, a scientific abstract central to the workshop, and examples of fine art, articles, and materials to spark your creativity.


Science Materiality

Please choose a subject for the workshop

Music of the Spheres

Subject 1 - Music of the Spheres

(Galaxies, stars, planets and moon sounds)

Background Information

Do stars make sounds? 

TRAPPIST-1 Extra-Solar Planetary System 

Singing stars 

Scientific Abstract

Guillon et al - Temperate Earth-sized planets transiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star. Nature 533, page 222-227 (2016)

Star-like objects with effective temperatures of less than 2,700 kelvin are referred to as ‘ultracool dwarfs’. This heterogeneous group includes stars of extremely low mass as well as brown dwarfs (substellar objects not massive enough to sustain hydrogen fusion), and represents about 15 percent of the population of astronomical objects near the Sun. Core-accretion theory predicts that, given the small masses of these ultracool dwarfs, and the small sizes of their protoplanetary disks, there should be a large but hitherto undetected population of terrestrial planets orbiting them—ranging from metal-rich Mercury-sized planets to more hospitable volatile-rich Earth-sized planets. Here we report observations of three short-period Earth-sized planets transiting an ultracool dwarf star only 12 parsecs away. The inner two planets receive four times and two times the irradiation of Earth, respectively, placing them close to the inner edge of the habitable zone of the star. Our data suggest that 11 orbits remain possible for the third planet, the most likely resulting in irradiation significantly less than that received by Earth. The infrared brightness of the host star, combined with its Jupiter-like size, offers the possibility of thoroughly characterizing the components of this nearby planetary system.


To Inspire You


The Terminator by Laurence Suhner - Published in Nature 542, page 512 (2017)


Our Musical Universe | Matt Russo | TEDxUofT  

Spooky space sounds (Collection) 

Pulsar sounds 


Fine Art Articles

Stargazers: Intersections of Contemporary Art & Astronomy

Vintage Natural Science and Astronomy Illustrations Adorn Face Masks by Maria Popova

Celestial illustrations Fill a New Book Celebrating 19th Century Astronomer Maria Mitchell By Diana Sudyka

Colourful Basket Weaving Sculptures Transform Weather Data into Visual Art by Nathalie Miebach


The Primordial Sounds

Subject 2 - The Primordial Sounds

(Fish, marine mammals, underwater sounds)

Background Information

The Science of Sound // Marine Mammal Hearing // Hearing in Fishes

Discovery of Sound in the Sea

What do you hear underwater? by De Brandadere - Scientific American (2019)

Oceans are getting louder, posing potential threats to marine life, by Robins - New York Times (2019)

Scientific Abstract

Sprogis et al - Vessel noise levels drive behavioural responses of humpback whales with implications for whale-watching. eLife 9, page e56760 (2020)

Disturbance from whale-watching can cause significant behavioural changes with fitness consequences for targeted whale populations. However, the sensory stimuli triggering these responses are unknown, preventing effective mitigation. Here, we test the hypothesis that vessel noise level is a driver of disturbance, using humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) as a model species. We conducted controlled exposure experiments (n= 42) on resting mother-calf pairs on a resting ground off Australia, by simulating whale-watch scenarios with a research vessel (range 100 m, speed 1.5 knots) playing back vessel noise at control/low (124/148 dB), medium (160 dB) or high (172 dB) LF-weighted source levels (re 1 μPa RMS@1m). Compared to control/low treatments, during high noise playbacks the mother’s proportion of time resting decreased by 30%, respiration rate doubled and swim speed increased by 37%. We therefore conclude that vessel noise is an adequate driver of behavioural disturbance in whales and that regulations to mitigate the impact of whale-watching should include noise emission standards.


To Inspire You

Videos Audio Gallery Collection of Marine Animals and Sounds underwater.

Fine Art Articles

6 Artists Who Use Their Art to Promote Ocean Conservation.


The Minuscule Mystery

Subject 3 - The Minuscule Mystery

(Insects, extinction, anthropocene)

Background Information

An "Insect Apocalypse" Is Happening. Here's Why That's A Problem. | Random Thursday

Last year, 40% of honey-bee colonies in the US died. But bees aren't the only insects disappearing in unprecedented numbers.

Where have all the insects gone? by Gretchen Vogel - Science (2017)

Scientific Abstract

Seibold et al - Arthropod decline in grasslands and forests is associated with landscape-level drivers. Nature 574, page 671 (2019)

Recent reports of local extinctions of arthropod species1, and of massive declines in arthropod biomass2, point to land-use intensification as a major driver of decreasing biodiversity. However, to our knowledge, there are no multisite time series of arthropod occurrences across gradients of land-use intensity with which to confirm causal relationships. Moreover, it remains unclear which land-use types and arthropod groups are affected, and whether the observed declines in biomass and diversity are linked to one another. Here we analyse data from more than 1 million individual arthropods (about 2,700 species), from standardized inventories taken between 2008 and 2017 at 150 grassland and 140 forest sites in 3 regions of Germany. Overall gamma diversity in grasslands and forests decreased over time, indicating loss of species across sites and regions. In annually sampled grasslands, biomass, abundance and number of species declined by 67%, 78% and 34%, respectively. The decline was consistent across trophic levels and mainly affected rare species; its magnitude was independent of local land-use intensity. However, sites embedded in landscapes with a higher cover of agricultural land showed a stronger temporal decline. In 30 forest sites with annual inventories, biomass and species number—but not abundance—decreased by 41% and 36%, respectively. This was supported by analyses of all forest sites sampled in three-year intervals. The decline affected rare and abundant species, and trends differed across trophic levels. Our results show that there are widespread declines in arthropod biomass, abundance and the number of species across trophic levels. Arthropod declines in forests demonstrate that loss is not restricted to open habitats. Our results suggest that major drivers of arthropod decline act at larger spatial scales, and are (at least for grasslands) associated with agriculture at the landscape level. This implies that policies need to address the landscape scale to mitigate the negative effects of land-use practices.


To Inspire You


Insect Sounds Compilation (19 insects)

Understanding Insect Sounds: Nature's Orchestra 


Insect Art - Pinterest 


Fine Arts Articles

Antique Watches, Cameras, and Medical Equipment Morph Into Meticulous Steampunk Spiders

Vintage-Style Illustrations Merge Animals, Insects, and Botanics to Form Bizarre Hybrid Creatures 

Artist Bring Dead Bugs Back to Life as Otherworldly Insect Fairies

7 Pieces of Classical Music Inspired By Insects 



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