WEEKLY

THE BEAUTY OF CHEMISTRY
化學之美

於世人眼中,藝術世界是由美感與情感構成的,科學世界是平淡無奇而缺乏美感的。客觀的化學與主觀的藝術,像是一枚硬幣的不同側面,難以相遇。然而當兩者交織在一起後,卻是一片奇幻森林,大放異彩。中國科學可視化藝術家梁琰結合科學顯微影像與藝術創作,與團隊以微距攝影與顯微攝影拍攝化學反應過程,於2014年製作《美麗化學》震撼國際。而於2017年攜手攝影師朱文婷開始製作一系列《重現化學》影片,帶領世界探索微觀世界,展示科學之美。

一大片玫瑰紅「花海」,其實是鋅在琉酸銅溶液中置換出的銅;白色結晶體的「樹枝」,其實是鋅在硝酸溶液中置換出的鉛。點開影片,映入眼簾的盡是使人神迷心醉的極美畫面。充滿後現代氣息的影像,均是顯微鏡底下各式各樣的化學反應。80後的梁琰熱愛科學,也熱愛攝影,更自學專業軟件以進行圖型繪製。於清華大學完成化學系學士及碩士課程後,便於美國明尼蘇達大學繼續攻讀博士學位,其後結識了兩位於當學科學可視化領域的專家Felice Frankel和Janet Iwasa,因而踏上科學可視化專業的道路。以4K超高清拍攝及顯微拍攝,捕捉化學反應過程,2014年更以《美麗化學》影片獲得美國科學視像化Vizzies競賽的專家之選獎,成為首隊榮獲此獎項的中國團隊。

在《美麗化學》的影片內,全是大眾從未目賭過的景像。在拍攝與實驗過程中,他更找到了名為「比色皿」的裝置,可最大程度地保証視覺上的還原效果。這些美輪美奐的景象,因而呈現出化學最原始的美,不曾添加特效,亦不額外處理顏色,只微調了一下曝光的效果。及後,他創立《美麗科學》公司,這位熱衷於攝影的化學家告知大眾,化學不再局限於字母與公式,微觀世界裡實際蘊藏著巨大的美。《美麗化學》的背後,是希望以化學的美,燃起大眾對化學的興趣。

2017年2月,《美麗科學》與中國化學會開始合作《重現化學》系列製作,由畢業於清華美院視覺傳達設計系的朱文婷擔任攝影師,系列至今推出了15條影片,朱文婷負責了其中7條影片的實驗、拍攝與剪輯。最新影片《The Arctic》甫推出即引起大眾關注,一顆顆鹽的結晶體逐漸繁衍成滿屏潔淨眼球的純白雪花,隨時間推進不停轉換成各種迷人絢麗的圖案,美得使人驚詫,她希望藉此影片讓大眾看到冰雪的美,喚醒世界對北極冰融化的關注。短短三分鐘的影片,背後是七個月的企望,數百次的實驗與觀察。作為美術專業的學生,她對「美」是執著的,心目中對「美」亦有自己的一套定義,然而加入《重現化學》的團隊後,她對「美」的認知擴大了。一般藝術創作都是藝術家主導的,藝術家可隨心創作,使作品達至心目中最完美的模樣,可化學之美總是出乎意料的。

化學攝影,在攝影前先要有化學,化學就是要做實驗的。要有好的作品,首要是把實驗做好。在拍攝過程中,大部分實驗須嚴格控制濃度,微小的偏差也會對結果造成很大影響,實驗中的偶爾性正正是化學的美,這種美藏匿於微小的濃度差異之中,摒棄了特效與調色,簡單而樸素。長期拍攝同一組理應是沉悶的,但朱文婷卻說每次實驗總有驚喜,濃度差異帶來的變化使微觀世界存在著無窮無盡的可能性,一切探索與發現都是無邊際的。科學攝影所存在的不穩定,使她開始接受並欣賞事物的原始樣貌。有時候化學反應達不到預期效果,或未能捕捉到最稱心的畫面,她便會妥協,告訴自己,這便是它原本的樣子,是最純粹的美。

社會上,也許因專業學習的不同,使我們對某上專業領域敬而遠之,但有時候只要放下偏見,善於接納,就能發掘出新事物,體會箇中之美。科學為藝術提供了無限可能性,藝術又拉近了科學與大眾的距離。我們並不需為兩者劃清界線,它們是讓大眾認識世界的不同方式,皆是人類創造力的化身。

圖片來源:《重現化學 Envisioning Chemistry》網站
撰文:許佩琳
美術:王曉澄

In the eyes of the public, art is the expression of human creative skill and imagination, while science is the study of nature based on evidence. The subjective value of art and the objectivity in science are often two sides of the same coin, seemingly different yet closely related to each other. The conflict between subjectivity and objectivity will dissolve once they meet each other. Yan Liang, a Scientific Visualisation designer from China, blends chemistry and art to show that art indeed clicks with science. By using macro lens and microscope, the visually compelling views of chemical reaction is presented to the world. In 2014, the series of ‘Beautiful Chemistry’ stunned the world, and in 2017 the stunning sequel entitled ‘Envisioning Chemistry’ was created, letting the world perceive the unseen, and to unveil the beauty of science.

Browsing the website of ‘Envisioning Chemistry’, we must be astonished by the glittering stacks of sparkle, the breathtaking bright shooting stars, the beautiful and extraordinary flames and some other extremely stunning images and videos. All of these exhilaratingly beautiful images are indeed chemical reactions captured by special lenses in 4K Ultra HD. The series of ‘Beautiful Chemistry’ was shot by Yan Liang, a chemist who is fascinated by the world of art and photography. Liang got his bachelor and master degrees in Chemistry from Tsing Hua University, and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. In his spare time, he developed an interest in computer graphics and even published a book on image editing software Photoshop with his classmates. He was greatly influenced by Felice Frankel and Janet Iwasa, professionals in the realm of science and visualisation, while he was studying in the US, and started to immerse himself in the world of scientific visualisation. ‘Beautiful Chemistry’, a series of 4K Ultra HD films capturing the beauty of chemical chain reactions, were shot by Liang and his team in 2014. The series even won the Expert’s Choice award in 2014-15 Vizzies Visualisation Challenge organized by National Science Foundation and Popular Science magazine, being the first-ever Chinese team to win the award.

‘Beautiful Chemistry’ reveals the beauty of chemical reactions like never before, and brings the fascinating world of microscopic chemical reactions to life. A cuvette device made of optical glass is used as the container in order to make the glassware ‘invisible’, which greatly reduced the distraction posed by the glassware in the filming process. Liang and his colleagues tried to capture a purely objective record of chemical reactions, thus they neither added any special effects to the videos nor changed the colors of the images to make it more beautiful, in the hope of holding true to the purest chemical reactions. In 2014, as the author, photographer and scientific visualisation director, he led a small team to found a company called’ Beauty of Science’, trying to make chemistry more engaging to the general public, and hoping that the projects will attract new scientists to the field ultimately.

In 2017, ‘Envisioning Chemistry’, a collaborative endeavor between the ‘Beauty of Science’ and the ‘Chinese Chemical Society’, was initiated. With Wenting Zhu, graduated from the Academy of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University, as the photographer, he aims to adopt a more artistic approach to the filming. The series has released fifteen videos, and Zhu was responsible for the experiments, filming and editing processes of seven of them. The newly released video named ‘The Arctic’, a project which began in 2018 and lasted for approximately seven months, has gone viral. The incredible crystallization processes of different salts showcase the beauty of chemistry, and the title of the film coms from the icy sensation of the Arctic, reminding viewers the stunning beauty of the ice world and the importance of protecting our earth. As a student majoring in art, Zhu had her own definition of beauty, while her perspective towards ‘beauty’ has been changed perceptibly after joining the team. She started to appreciate the beauty of originality, realizing that the most beautiful moment needs no filter at all.

Small scales experiments have to be carried out before shooting the best possible images, and before those experiments, research on potential reactions and selection of feasible plans are indispensable. Zhu has to conduct numerous experiments to make sure the reactions are worth filming, and to make sure she get the perfect images after that. The interactive process is not humdrum at all, as something unexpected could happen all the time, ended up getting some extra beautiful shots. To Zhu, the reactions of each element is unique and full of interesting transformation.

Nowadays in our society, people might be reluctant to try or learn new things as knowledges are often spitted into relatively small and separate subjects, and people tend to go in-depth with specifics in one subject. Yet, we will miss out many fantastic things that surround us if we do not open to new ideas and knowledges. Our culture has drawn an artificial line between science and art, while they are in fact much closely related to each other than we think. Science creates unlimited possibilities for art, and art is a powerful media for communicating science to the general public. There’s no need to draw a clear line in between as they are just different ways for us to discover the beauty of our world.

Photo: Website of Envisioning Chemistry
Text: Natalie Hui
Art: Agnes Wong

ISSUE #239

THE BEAUTY OF CHEMISTRY

 

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