Friday, April 22, 2011

The Beauty of Diagrams

BBC documentary spotlighting key diagrams through history. But this show about graphic representation isn't narrated by an artist or a designer, but the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

In this programme he looks at the visualisation of mathematical data, and in this case how something which may be seen as quite theoretical can give rise to an iconic diagram which fired the imagination of the public. It's not that the science behind the DNA was uninteresting but, as du Sautoy claims, the visualisation of the double helix has immediate appeal ("an attractive, marketable shape"). It was Crick's classically trained artist wife who translated the original diagram into the now famous diagram which first appeared in Nature magazine in 1953 and unwittingly led to a globally recognised and also commercialised diagram. In this process du Sautoy asks: does it enhance the understanding or, with its iconic status does it leave a vague idea of the 'essence' of life on us. Do we know what it really means? Or do we not even see past the structure...this DNA diagram illustrates 'life'. Is it overused? Is it over sold?

Programme was first shown on BBC Four, 8:30PM Thu, 16 Dec 2010.

It's also worth checking out du Sautoy's visually engaging (if annoyingly noisy) website too:

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