|The 30 Computers Sculpture Project|
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Photo by: Tvol, Timothy Vollmer, May 30, 2009
Published as: "Computer Virus Sculptures and the Science That Inspired Them," Leonardo, 47(3), 206-211. The MIT Press, June 10, 2014
The Origins of Computer Virus Sculptures
The idea for the Computer Virus sculpture series grew from fertile ground that had two critical ingredients: first, the early sculptures in the 30 Computers series were based on polyhedrons and second, they were given anthropomorphic names: Bones, Skin and Digital Womb. While trying to develop ideas of what to do with the remaining computer parts I began to search for other biological images. I was stunned and amazed when I found an image of an HIV virus in the shape of an icosahedron. This startling discovery led me into the world of microbiology and virology. The T4 bacteriophage, the adenovirus, rhinovirus and so many other viruses had icosahedral capsids; a polyhedron that I had come to know and appreciate. Inspired by these fascinating organisms and their polyhedral shapes, many of the remaining computer parts found their sculptural home as shown below.
The Structure of Biological Viruses
The term virus has been attributed to a Dutch microbiologist Martinus Beijerinck who is also known as the father of virology. While there are many shapes and structures to virsues, the scientists acknowledged to have identified the icosahedral structure are Caspar and Klug who presented their work at a 1962 symposia. .
Interestingly, during the late 1950s as their research began to take direction, they were influenced by Buckminster Fullers book and the concept of tensegrity structure. It should be noted that while this term is attributed to Fuller the original concept can also be traced to American sculptor Kenneth Snelson who built a sculpture exemplifying this concept in 1948. .
Based on Fullers influence Caspar and Klug developed the idea that virus shells were structured like geodesic domes. Subsequently they were able to demonstrate that the virus they were studying had icosahedral symmetry based on their observation that it had 5-fold symmetry and rotational symmetry called 532 symmetry by crystallographers. .
Casper and Klug also developed the idea of "self assembly" after considering the viral assembly process as a crystallization process. .
Similarities Between Biological Viruses and Computer Viruses: Self-Replication.
It was the self-assembly or self-replication characteristic of biological viruses that influenced University of Southern California doctoral candidate Fred Cohen He is the person who coined the term "computer virus" to describe a computer program that can "affect other computer programs by modifying them in such a way as to include a (possibly evolved) copy of itself." , .
The similarity between biological viruses and computer virus sculptures is based on the icosahedral and spherical structures of viruses. These similarities are shown in the side-by-side images below. Additional information about each virus and sculpture can be found by double clicking the respective images below.
Representations of Actual Biological Viruses and Sculptures of Viruses Using Computer Parts
Artomatic Photo Streams
Links to Virus Images and Information
Other Microbiology Sculptures and Related Artworks
 Morgan GJ, Comments from Gregory Morgan Available from: http://virologyhistory.wustl.edu/gregmorgan.htm. Accessed September 22, 2009.
 Jeffrey O. Kephart and Steve R. White, "Directed-Graph Epidemiological Models of Computer Viruses". Available from http://www.research.ibm.com/antivirus/SciPapers/Kephart/VIRIEEE/virieee.gopher.html
 Fred Cohen & Associates, Available at: http://all.net/, Accessed September 22, 2009.
 Wassenaar TM and Blaser MJ. "Contagion on the Internet". Emerg Infect Dis. 2002 Mar, cited September 22, 2009. Available from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol8no3/01-0286.htm
 Brian Krebs, "A Short History of Computer Viruses and Attacks" Washington Post online, Friday, February 14, 2003; Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50636-2002Jun26.html Accessed May 17, 2010.
 Gert Korthof, 2 Feb 2006, Similarities and Dissimilarities of Computer Viruses and Biological Viruses. Available from http://home.planet.nl/~gkorthof/korthof78.htm
 Morgan GJ. The Beauty of Symmetrical Design. PhD Dissertation in Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 2004.
 Morgan GJ. Historical Review: Viruses, crystals, and geodesic domes. Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 2003; 28(2): 86-90.
 Morgan GJ (2004) "Early Theories of Virus Structure". In: Cheng H, Hammar L(eds) Conformational proteomics of macromolecular architectures. World Scientific, Singapore, Chapter 4.
Virus (2013), The Chicago School of Media Theory
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