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Sep - Martin Krzywinski

Speaker: Martin Krzywinski

Talk Title: “The quality of quantity”

Event Details


Thursday, September 15, 2016 6:00pm

Affiliation: Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, British Columbia Cancer Agency

Web-site: Martin Krzywinski

Twitter: @MKrzywinski


“The great tragedy of science–the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.” wrote Huxley, in a statement that is as much about how science works as about the irrepressible optimism required to practice it. But even greater is the tragedy of obfuscating facts with impenetrable figures and demoting their natural beauty by florid visuals. The issue isn’t one of pure aesthetics—lack of clarity, precision and conciseness in science communication slows our efforts to move forward. In the field of disease research, this has fateful impact on lives.

We want to get the visuals right—or at least, better—not just for the sake of communication but also to stir emotion and curiosity. Art gives us access to the quality of quantity by exposing the beauty and depth of highly technical knowledge, normally only accessible to specialists [1]. Milestones in scientific discovery may be inevitable but our personal reaction to the world they describe is not. Art allows us to find ourselves in the science.

Using examples from my work and science-related art projects, I will make the case for a greater role of art in science, as a form of communication, education and inspiration and starting interesting conversations.

[1] Euler’s identity eiΠ=–1 is either beautiful or gibberish, depending on your education.


Martin Krzywinski is known for his work in bioinformatics and data visualization. He created the Circos graph to display genomic data sets in a way that revealed their inner structure and served as a visually stunning emblem of the new field. His information graphics have appeared in the New York Times, Wired, Scientific American and covers of numerous books and scientific journals. Krzywinski’s work has set a new standard for the presentation of scientific results and established design as a tool of discovery in the research process itself.

Please note:

Trainees are invited to meet with the VanBUG speaker for open discussion of both science and career paths. This takes place 4:30-5:30pm in either the Boardroom or Lunchroom on the ground floor of the BCCRC

Recommended Readings

Introductory Speaker: Dr. Emma Griffiths (Postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Fiona Brinkman’s Lab, SFU)

Title: “Context is Everything: Integrating Genomics, Epidemiological and Clinical Data using GenEpiO”

Webcast Link:

(This technology is brought to you by Compute Canada and WestGrid with support from PHSA Telehealth)