Science, Art, and Carl Sagan

What happens when you mix Carl Sagan, profound ideas from science, illustration, and video/music remix techniques? Magical things.

Recently I came across a video, created as a thesis project at Sheridan College. In it, student Adam Winnik used animation to bring part of Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot to video life. It made me wonder how others had enhanced Sagan’s words, and a video hunt ensued. Here are three of the things I found.

First, enjoy the animated Pale Blue Dot.

Pale Blue Dot – Animation from Ehdubya on Vimeo.

Next, you might like to see how the same words can come to life differently through the use of beautiful space photography.

  Finally, smile while you watch Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Bill Nye and others are sampled and combined by John D. Boswell’s Symphony of Science into something new and wonderful. (If you have time, check out more videos at the Symphony site. Such fun!)

Watching these videos made me thing about Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein’s research that suggests highly creative scientists often enjoy working in the arts, and vice versa. Creative artists often have scientific hobbies. And yet in schools, science and the arts are light years apart. It is interesting to think about how we could change that by asking students to create projects in the arts that make important science concepts come to life.

Perhaps they’ll be inspired by the videos above. But you could start with some thing smaller. Students could take a passage from science writingand illustrate it through a poster, online bulletin board, prezi, or video. If your textbook is like many, it might not lend itself directly to illustration. Students could take a section from their text and “translate” it into more interesting, but still accurate text (just like Carl Sagan) and then illustrate that. The project would require scientific literacy as well as science content for students to be successful. In fact, it sounds just like this Common Core standard on scientific literacy.

Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Science literacy, science content, the arts and creativity all in one project, what more could we ask?. I’d sure love to see what happens when you try it!

Root-Bernstein, R. & Root-Bernstein, M. (2004). Artistic scientists and scientific artists: The link between polymathy and creativity. In R.J. Sternberg, E.L. Grigorenko, & J. L. Singer (Eds.), Creativity: From potential to reality (pp. 127-151). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

5 thoughts on “Science, Art, and Carl Sagan

  1. The Symphony of Science video is so worthy of being played. It is just as beautiful to me as a symphony by Sibelius, Bantock, Vaughan Williams or indeed the music of Barber.
    I integrated art with science when I was teaching Year 4. We were studying the Solar System and the children had to make a model. Not the ubiquitous, store bought, solar system model kit. They were to choose a planet and make a 3D model of it showing its internal structure. I was amazed at the artistic and creative work that resulted.


    • P.S. Claude, don’t forget I’m hoping you and/or your colleagues will write some suggestions for a creative Australian summer before your school year ends. It will give the rest of us something to dream about while we are shivering through our winter!


  2. I recently saw a documentary online featuring Richard Feynman called, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. Richard touches on art and science early on in the documentary and talks about artists and scientists seeing beauty – they both do in different ways. It was fascinating to hear how he thinks and works which is rather creative. He also talks about teaching and how to do it – well he doesn’t really know how because everyone is different and they need different strategies. What he says is quite true in fact. I hope anyone reading this can get a chance to have a look at it.
    Here is the URL:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s