Adam NocekAug 17, 2022
The Animation of Biology
U Minnesota Press 2021
In Molecular Capture: The Animation of Biology (University of Minnesota Press, 2021), Adam Nocek, Assistant Professor in the Philosophy of Technology and Science and Technology Studies at Arizona State University, investigates the collusion between entertainment and scientific visualization in the case of molecular animation. “The very same tools that were invented to animate a character like Shrek or Nemo are now being applied to set in motion protein domains and cellular processes.” Opening with this quote by animator and scientist Gaël McGill, the book retraces the complex genealogy of molecular animation and analyses its pretension to scientific value. While the first half of the book deals with “molecular capture” as the cinematographic process of producing moving images of the molecular world, the second half thinks about that same “capture” as a form of governmental rationality, a kind of apparatus rendering life visible and available down to its most fundamental mechanisms. This discussion leads the author to consider the elusiveness of life and how the current codes of molecular animation are blurring the line between knowledge, data, speculation, and imagination. At the source of fascinating images, granting consumers with the impression of directly accessing the invisible processes defining life, molecular animation stands at the intersection of important questions relating to the history of scientific visualization, the evolving relationship between science and entertainment, and the production of biopolitical forms of governance.
Victor Monnin, Ph.D. is an historian of science specialized in the history of Earth sciences. He is also teaching French language and literature to undergraduates.