Three Listeners Tell Us About Their Science-Inspired Art

For Universe of Art’s first birthday, three listeners share their science-inspired poems, sound art, and collages.

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One year ago, we launched Universe Of Art. And to our surprise, a lot of listeners have written in since the start of the podcast, telling us about the science-inspired art they’ve made in their spare time. And in this episode, we’re featuring three of those listeners and their art.

Three people measure the side of a sidewalk and write poetry along its edge.
A moment from the making of Confluence. Credit: Todd Gilens

Our first artist is Todd Gilens, a visual artist and designer who collaborated with the city of Reno, Nevada, to create a mile-long poem, called “Confluence,” printed on the city’s sidewalks along the Truckee River. He was interested in how water shapes landscapes, and how urban architecture can mirror those natural processes. He later found the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, a University of California field station near Mammoth Lakes, and spent several field seasons with them to learn about stream ecology.

Then, we meet Craig Colorusso, a punk rock guitarist-turned-sound artist who creates public sculptures and experiences that enhance visitors’ connection to nature. Two of his projects, Sun Boxes and The Bridges At Coler, use solar panels to play reflective, calming music he composed. “You have this idea where you are in nature and you are listening to something that is powered by nature,” he says. “I think that’s perfect.”

And then we talk to a listener who prefers to go by Chris, who was an engineer and avid artist who made mosaics and crocheted before developing Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). It’s a debilitating condition characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be improved by rest, and can also include brain fog, pain, and dizziness. Chris’ condition is considered severe, and caused her to lose the use of her hands, and thus her preferred art mediums.

A glowing octopus swimming in a moody, geometric deep sea scene
Chris’s fractal art.

However, she could still use her left hand with a rollerball mouse and realized that she could use programs like Chaotica to create fractals that she adds to collages in Photoshop, resulting in colorful and psychedelic images. “They’re just beautiful and I’m doing art again and I’m so happy about it,” she says.


Universe of Art is hosted and produced by D. Peterschmidt, who also wrote the music. Our show art was illustrated by Abelle Hayford. Support for Science Friday’s science and arts coverage comes from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

Do you have science-inspired art you’d like to share with us for a future episode? Send us an email or a voice memo to universe@sciencefriday.com.

Meet the Writer

About D. Peterschmidt

D. Peterschmidt is a producer, host of the podcast Universe of Art, and composes music for Science Friday’s podcasts. Their D&D character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

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