BBQ vs. Liquid Nitrogen – Farid Shirinfar

Geographical division of UCLA into south and north campus eases the analysis and amplifies the effects of their corresponding culture.  South campus houses science related and the engineering school while art, humanities and social sciences are all located in the north campus.  A direct consequence of this division is congestion of one culture in each part of the campus; a clear difference in ethnological and social nature of these two campuses can be easily detected.


Walking in Boelter Hall, UCLA’s engineering school, it’s nearly impossible to miss the many technical posters presenting projects aimed at lowering emission of cars, water pollution, computer network topologies, micro- and nano- fabrication of sensors and transistors, and many more.  All these posters share one aspect and that is the quantification of different properties and application of mathematical models to describe those phenomena.  On the other hand, the Sculpture Garden presents the beauty-oriented ghost of north campus.  There, there are no numbers or conclusions but figures and shapes. 

Clearly scientists and engineers heavily rely on math and advanced tools.  As a result, their daily activities are leaned more toward math, and their time is mostly spent in labs.  The more time they spend on math and technology, the more common it becomes for them to identify and be identified by those tools.  On the other hand, artists and social scientists spend most of their time on “expressing their emotions” or trying to identify and possibly solve social issues such as religion vs. government, political correctness, individual rights, and others.


This is the root where the two cultures of UCLA stem upon.  To the engineer who is preoccupied with minimizing the channel length of a transistor, conceptual art has no meaning and seems as a waste of time.  After all, the beauty of art is in the eyes of beholder and doesn’t have a global implication.  On the other hand, although the artists potentially use what scientists develop, they may not think of them as significant improvements as to them those products merely effect our physical life or the scientists could be very well producing bad science, an issue discussed in “Third Culture: Being in Between.” In their extreme forms, these condemnations can be verbalized as “evil scientist” or “mad expressionist” as discussed in class.

These two very different points of view can easily be observed in respective student organizations.  A good point of comparison is the Greek life as it has a strong focus on social life.  As explained before, social activities are more closely related to social sciences and arts than they are to sciences and engineering. Using Facebook as a source of information, a rough statistics shows that the majority of Greek members are from the north campus.

More interestingly, there is a major-based fraternity, the Triangle fraternity, which consists of only math, science and engineering majors.  Furthermore, the rush activities of this group is different from those of others.  While most fraternities host BBQs, poker tournaments, and smashing activities, the Triangle has “Video Games and Liquid Nitrogen” and “Laser Tag” listed as what they’ll be doing in two out of four nights of rush week.  This clearly shows the existence of two cultural poles on campus: one heavily relying on lab and another heavily engaged in oral means.  This example is very important as it lays down the root for arguing that the north campus and south campus are not merely different in what they do during the “school hours” but are also different in what they think of as enjoyable activities; thus exist the two different cultures with different goals and different mindsets.


Thus far, the argument has been that there exist two different cultures on UCLA campus with different goals.  However, that doesn’t mean collaboration between the two is impossible.  It’s through the collaboration of artists and scientists that great technologies are implemented.  My idol for achieving this is Apple Inc. as it has successfully integrated art with technology.  They’ve developed systems which use technology to deliver content in an aesthetic form; and thus achieved great success as shown by their financial accomplishments.  I believe that the two cultures currently exist and will continue to exist without merging.  However, what might and should change is the rigor of collaboration between the two.


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