Duchamp and Poincaré Renew an Old Acquaintance

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Science  26 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5445, pp. 1668-1669
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5445.1668

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What did the groundbreaking modernist painter Marcel Duchamp learn from Henri Poincaré, the father of chaos? Historians of art and science, along with mathematicians and postmodern theorists, debated the question from 5 to 7 November at a conference organized by Rhonda Roland Shearer, a New York City-based artist, and her husband, Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould (who is also the president of AAAS, which publishes Science). Shearer and her colleagues have gathered evidence that Poincarean ideas lurk behind several of the artist's most famous works--and as a result, these works are not what they appear to be.