Living Data: Align

Living Data: Align

2015 Conversations


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"It is because science grows out of the preoccupations and pressures of everyday life
that its discoveries have, in the end, to be accessible to all of us."
Lisa Jardine, 1999. Ingenious Pursuits:
Building the Scientific Revolution
p.8

Writer Carmel Birdshares something of her creative process as she reads from her collection of stories, My Hearts are Your Hearts, at Berkelouw Bookshop, Leichardt, Sydney, in July 2015.

Carmel's talk attracts my attention by the unexpectedly humorous light on global warming at the start of her story, 'He painted cupids on soup plates'. This is one of the two extracts she read to show how each of her stories in the collection has a different 'personality' and this one gets me thinking that humour is perhaps a most effective way for many people to take in the bleak reality of climate change, and other bleak realities.

All lines of longitude converge at the poles. The South pole is at 90 degrees south latitude. The island of Tasmania lies at 42 degrees south latitude and at 147 degrees east longitude. All things considered, this is not an ideal location for the smallish heart-shaped piece of land known as Tasmania named after the Dutch explorer who discovered it in 1642, the year the English civil war began, the year Isaac Newton was born, the year Galileo died. It would have done well to be islanded a few degrees further north. Perhaps somewhere around 30 degrees where it could bask in sunshine and perhaps grow breadfruit. Who knows? These days, now that the 21st century is well and truly here, with the rise of sea level and the rise of temperatures, degradation of agricultural land, disappearance of species, and floods of people across the planet seeking refuge, it probably doesn't need to move after all. But there it was in 1955 drifting in the chill of the Southern Ocean. And that is where the story of the man who painted cupids on soup plates has its centre, close by a town called Deloraine which was named for Sir William Deloraine, a character in 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel' by Sir Walter Scott, on the banks of the Meander River which was possibly named after a Meander in County Mayo.

Reflecting on this further makes me think that as an animator I take on the personalities of entities in stories I co-author with scientists. As I animate, I become Euphausia superba (Antarctic krill), the phytoplankton (tiny plants) they feed on, and the sea ice that expands and contracts like a breath around Antarctica, providing refuge for them and other species. In some curious way this helps me to identify with what's happening in the world and opens me up to taking in the science.