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Planet Earth

Beauty and the brain

Not Exactly Rocket ScienceBy Ed YongOctober 6, 2011 4:58 PM


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I've got a feature in today's Eureka (the science supplement of the Times) about how feelings of beauty manifest in the brain, and how scientists are trying to objectively measure something that's inherently subjective. The piece focuses on Semir Zeki from UCL. I had a great morning walking around London's National Gallery with the man, staring at Cezannes and Botticellis, and talking about neuroscience, art and everything in between. It's very easy to caricature scientists who work on such topics as cold reductionists, but in spending time with Zeki, I was struck at how intensely he cares for the art that he investigates. He visits the National Gallery regularly, has financially sponsored several of its paintings, and gets sad when it closes for Christmas. He quoted philosphers and poets more often than he did other scientists. He has exhibited his own works. I started off writing a piece about the neuroscience of beauty and half of it morphed into a piece about an art-loving scientist who studies beauty. Anyway, I hope you like it. Times subscribers can read the online version. For everyone else, here's a link to Scribd - you can download a PDF from there.

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