Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Why Constable's Rainbow May Carry a Hidden Message

A mystery surrounding one of John Constable's most emotionally-charged landscapes may finally have been solved – by a meteorologist.

I always enjoy writing about art and science, and this feature for BBC Britain was particularly fun. Who knew that Constable was really into rainbow science? That rainbows are a bit like sun dials? And that Constable was plagued by self-doubt and never felt anything he painted was quite good enough?

I also liked this quote from Professor Thornes, the meteorologist, on Constable's passion for science, which will probably resonate with a lot of artists (and scientists):

“Constable said we see nothing truly until we understand it. And the rainbow is a case in point. You don't see a rainbow properly until you understand how it's formed."

Friday, 13 January 2017

Populism Explained (by a Neuroscientist)

I interviewed Dr. Molly Crockett, a behavioural psychologist, on the destructive, addictive urge to punish - a phenomenon known as "costly punishment" - and how it's linked to the rise of populism. The bad news is that each act of retribution makes it more likely that the person will do it again... that's the addictive part.

Also, "one speculation is that this destructive impulse to punish may be even stronger when people are under chronic stress, for example during an economic recession."

Obviously her research doesn't fully explain why people voted for Brexit and Trump, but it offers some interesting new angles. Here's another quote:

"Populist messaging has been very effective in channelling retributive impulses into votes. Around the world populist movements are wreaking economic destruction and social turmoil in the name of moral principles. That may be the story people are telling themselves and others, but it's likely not the only motive."