Last week, I joined some good folks from two of my favorite TLAs, PRC and MIT for a reception at the new gallery space at MIT's Center for Theoretical Physics, which was created in collaboration with the Photographic Resource Center. I found my way to building 6 and eventually to the spiffy new space where there would be an exhibition of photographs by John Chervinsky.
I had seen some of Chervinsky's work that featured chalkboards and allusions to scientific principles, so I knew it would be right at home in an MIT physics setting, but I did not expect that the space would include several large chalkboards in the common area, full of, sure enough, fancy physics equations. Actual chalk and slate boards, not glossy whiteboards, not fancy interactive printing wallboards from the MIT Media Lab. How quaintly low-tech for MIT.
At right, Time Machine by Chervinsky, Chervinsky (not me!) in front of a board of physics stuff at the MIT CTP, and Blackboard #11 by Meggan Gould, an artist featured in PRC's Northeast Exposure Online (NEO) this month. Click for more on each.
Physics and art, arguably poetry - where was Alan Lightman? PRC/CTP, please invite Prof. Lightman to the next event!
Back to black. Boards, that is. Talking with photographer and professor Robert Jaffe, I learned that these were no ordinary blackboards - MIT had these boards specially made with sound baffling to make the constant clacking of chalk less bothersome - and further, that physicists have a violent disdain for whiteboards, exactly why I'm not sure.
Myself, I have a different kind of MIT backgroud and a different feeling about whiteboards. When I went to business school at MIT's Sloan School of Management, I entered a world where would-be consultants and other future masters of the universe could barely hold a conversation without using either powerpoint or a whiteboard. I drank heavily of the kool-aid and inhaled deeply of the marker fumes and was converted. I can barely function in the office without my board and markers, and often think about installing some at home, possibly even in the smallest room. Plus, as someone who wears black a lot, I am always apprehensive around chalk and chalk dust.