Rhinos, Rhizomes and The Ideal Scientist

Despite the absurdity of this connection, the moment I laid my eyes on these rhinos scattered randomly all over Sydney, my immediate thought was that of the rhizome. I discovered these cute and colourful works of art while on walkabout from Hyde Park to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Royal Botanic Gardens and ultimately Circular Quay. These rhinos were commissioned by Taronga Zoo and in spite of the “Please do not climb on it as this could result in injury” sign, countless tourists were unable to resist picking up their little kids and taking happy snaps of them riding this out-of-place creature. I myself was insanely jealous of those children, that I possessed an adult body and my best efforts in capturing the moment would only amount to a pathetic selfie.

Rhinos1

Looking at these images again now, the less absurd my original connection with the rhizome becomes. Just as “a rhizome can break away, exist on its own and lead the researcher toward another site of thinking” (St Pierre, 1997a:405 cited in Nye, 2008:28-29), these urban rhinos are separated from their tribes, have attained independence and are occupying new places outside their natural habitats. As a pilot scholar/nomadic researcher, I am then drawn to this rhino/rhizome representation of myself, struggling to de-territorialise space and refusing to settle on a permanent home. I prefer to live on the fold or on the slash while constantly seeking new ‘lines of flight’.

Rhinos2

A student of both the sciences and the arts, my identity is blurry. As a mathematician I use the language of logic and the rules of probability and statistics to reveal certain scientific ‘truths’. The problem with mathematics however is that its beauty and elegance are often hidden under many layers of abstraction that it can no longer be understood by most people, let alone be admired or appreciated. Despite the many miraculous gifts it has brought humanity, mathematics (especially pure mathematics) will remain an elusive mystery beyond intellectual grasp. While understanding the scientific laws of nature is my primary endeavour and one which I will ultimately strive for, I am also blessed with an artistic and creative side. This part of me was reawakened by the Get Published community of practice and is now flourishing, thanks to my sisters at Booloominbah.

Rhinos3

Two months later, my imagination is in full bloom and I have an overwhelming urge to reconcile the left and right hemispheres of my brain. I wish to transcend disciplinary boundaries, exercise my mind muscles analytically and creatively, and play the notes of science and the arts in harmony, to uncover ‘threshold concepts’ and explain any ‘troublesome knowledge’ that may arise as a consequence (Meyer and Land, 2003). By mapping the contours of each discipline’s landscape methodically and artistically, I strive to be the ideal scientist that Edward O. Wilson describes in his book, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998).

“[He] thinks like a poet and works like a bookkeeper, and I suppose if gifted with a full quiver, he also writes like a journalist.”

Finally, Bertrand Russell summed it up well when he said this about the study of mathematics.

“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty–a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.”

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