What’s New in the World of Scientific Art?

As one might guess, some of the most exciting scientific art creations are based of of new  scientific discoveries. What’s happening in labs and field is often happening in the studios.

While people can often view science as unexciting and rather dry, paleontology (the study of ancient life forms), especially when it relates to dinosaurs, has a greater tendency to spark media and public interest than other fields. That’s easy to understand, as many childhoods (including my own) were filled with toy dinosaurs and films like Jurassic Park.

Paleontological artists (paleoartists) try to reconstruct what dinosaurs may have looked like in life based on scientific data. They play a critical role in delivering dinosaurs to the people. Their work is featured in countless books and museums. By compiling data and doing lots of careful speculation, they make images that we can learn from and be excited by. A dynamic scene featuring hunting velociraptors is certainly cool to look at, and while doing so, one might also learn that velociraptors had feathers and were only about 2m long, with nearly half of that length being tail. A trained scientist could recognized even more nuanced detail, such as the anatomy of the wrists and how the tail bends.

A paper published in Current Biology in September of last year describes a fantastic fossil find and its analysis. Scientists worked together with paleoartist Bob Nicholls to create  the most complete reconstruction of a dinosaur ever, right down to the true color of its skin.

The first video here is a great general overview of the creation. The second (for those who are curious) goes into some more detail about the reconstruction process and what the colors of the creature imply about how it lived. This is a fantastic example of how scientific art can bring long extinct things ‘back to life’ and inspire people of all ages.

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