Making Math and Science Creative Tariq Butt's Learning Journal

Workshop 1 - Creating a Digital Story

In telling a story about a scientific discovery, I struggled to find a suitable balance between focusing on the story and focusing on the person behind the discovery. In constructing my story about tenth and eleventh century Muslim polymath Abu Ali Al-Hasan ibn-al Haytham's research into optics, I found myself telling the story of the person more than their specific discoveries. I found justification for this approach when I reached the end of the story because Haytham's research, discoveries and publication were about more than light and optics. He was forced to work alone and because of that he made advances in the scientific method which was later adopted by Francis Bacon and scientists influenced by him. Therefore, his life and his method was the story and it was impossible to detach the person from their discoveries.

In choosing a visual approach, I decided to use excerpts from Abū Muhammad al-Qāsim ibn Alī ibn Muhammad ibn Uthmān al-Harīrī's Maqamat. al-Hariri was a poet, linguist and high government official of the Seljuk Empire. Both men were born in the mid-eleventh century (al-Hariri was eleven years older than Haytham) in Basra (present-day Iraq). Maqamat al-Hariri (also known as the ‘’Assemblies of Hariri’’) is a gorgeously illustrated collection of maqamat (a literary form that uses a combination of poetry and prose to narrate anecdotes) must have been published when Haytham was a young man in Basra and because of its popularity he must have had some exposure to it. The illustrations from al-Hariri's Maqamat beautifully complemented Haytham's life experiences and it seemed suitable to tie together the work of these celebrated intellectuals of the Islamic Golden Age. I hope you enjoy the story available at the link below:


Workshop 2 - Creating a Video Story

Overall, I found the second workshop assignment much easier than the first because I had already created a structure for the story and gathered all the assets for the visual treatment. I had originally intended to keep the story to a maximum duration of two and a half minutes, but I found that I would have to cut essential elements and thereby compromise the story I wanted to tell. In the end, my video was four and a half minutes but I am happy with the structure and do feel like I was able to do justice to Ibn-al Haytham's journey from the learning communities of Basra to the lonely life of a researcher in Cairo.

A couple of things proved frustrating in Adobe Spark Video: (1) I found that the software sometimes suffered from digital glitches when I was recording my audio narration. I was able to get around this obstacle by recording the affected audio a couple of times. It wasn't the ideal solution, but it did provide an effective work-around. (2) I was frustrated by the lack of transitions in Spark Video. Although I only need this for one of my "slides" it took me more time to build it outside Spark Video (in After Effects) and then import the video with the transition built-in. Once again, not ideal, but I was able to find a work-around. Overall, Spark Video is fun, intuitive and gets the job done. I find the access to royalty-free music, pictures and icons to be a great feature even though I only made use of the music for this particular project. Working in Spark Video was also more efficient than working in most offline video editing tools and being able to share the video instantly after completion without having to go through an upload and publish process. My final video is below:


Created with an image by Joel Filipe - "This photo was made with some experimental liquids as milk, water paint and oil. I’ve made this with a friend and we had so much fun doing it. The surprise of the reactions thought the different material was both charming and changeling. I truly recommend everyone to try something like this, let’s share the different results. Have fun using this picture."