Book Review: Seeing Science
A slack-jawed image of President Obama’s excitement over a marshmallow shooter doesn’t inherently have anything in common with a medical picture of anesthesia administered through a penis. But according to Seeing Science by Marvin Heiferman, they have an underlying similarity: neither could have happened without the influence of science.
Photography has played a vital role in communicating information to the masses. How would an everyday person understand how a doctor plans to fix their broken arm without an X-ray? How could an expecting mother know her baby’s gender without a picture from the sonogram?
Think about it, science is the reason you can FaceTime into a meeting or see how many likes your avocado toast gets on Instagram. Photography serves as a basis for science; an image of bacteria allows a researcher to understand where an experiment left off, or a picture can help a doctor close up the stomach of their patient. Without photos or images, brilliant minds could neither continue to build nor learn. But scientific images can be more than vehicles for information, they can be beautiful and moving.
The expanse of space is difficult to understand, considering the math terms and original Latin names for things; so beauty isn’t something that would be expected. But with a photograph, there is no math, no Latin, no old man with wiry hair in a lab coat trying to explain string theory. There is just the awe-inspiring image of a galaxy light-years away from us, and it doesn’t take a scientist to appreciate an image.
It’s that click. The image that scientists have been waiting for: a photo from the Hubble space telescope could be the crux to help them understand the complexities of space. As the image becomes clear, the dust cloud, spanning millions of miles, looks like a brush stroke across the page. This beautiful image makes it so that anyone can appreciate the scientific discovery.
You can find more information about Seeing Science: How Photography Reveals the Universe here.