Saturday 17 August 2013

Structure, Substructure, Superstructure

Cyril Stanley Smith (1903-1992) was a historian of science and quantitative metallurgist. 

One of his classic books is Search for Structure: Selected Essays on Science, Art and History (1981, ISBN 0-262-19191-1, MIT Press).

The object stands at the very point where the structures and properties of matter resulting from forces between atoms are in visible interaction with man's ideas and purposes. An artists work preserves a record of both - one in the outer form and decoration, the other in the texture and color and fine contours that result from the interpley of atomic, molecular and crystalline forces.
Below is an image from one of his papers: Structure, Substructure, Superstructure published in the Rev. Mod. Phys. 36, pp 524–532 in 1964. The paper begins as follows:

Anyone who works with the microscope for an intellectual or practical purpose will frequently pause for a moment of sheer enjoyment of the patterns that he sees, for they have much in common with formal art.

CAPTION: Raft of tiny uniform soap bubbles showing 'grain boundaries' where zones of differing orientation meet.