Hubble Space Telescope Images
In the nineteenth century, poetry and science were “kindred thrones” which possess the “power to lift the mind above the stir of earth and win it from low-thoughted care,” in the words of William Hamilton spoken during a lecture at Trinity College, Dublin in 1832. Poetry can certainly be considered art, but by the late 19th century art and science had gone their separate ways. Science adopted the language of mathematics, not art, to explain living things and the universe itself.
Since then few books have tried to bridge the divide. The most successful recent exception is The Age of Insight by Nobel laureate Eric Kandel at Columbia University. In that 2012 book, he looks back to Vienna in 1900 and how the leaders in science, medicine and art began a revolution of how we think about the human mind.
In her 2012 book, Picturing the Cosmos, Elizabeth Kessler of Stanford University tries to apply artistic interpretations to the images “generated” by the Hubble Space Telescope. I use the word generated loosely, as the images that have captured the public imagination are actually carefully crafted by the Hubble Heritage Project. They reveal not what the human eye would see if it could capture enough light through a telescope to actually look at a distant nebula or galaxy, but what the expert photo manipulators find is most aesthetically pleasing.