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Friday, November 14, 2014

Chaos, Turbulence, and Van Gogh's Mystery

One of our brains greatest gifts is the ability to recognize patterns.  It enables us to survive, compete, and navigate our world.  It helps us to remember our friends, favorite foods, avoid dangers, read, and stop at a crosswalk.  One of the patterns we see every day is turbulence.  We see it in the wind on a pond, clouds moving in the sky, and cream in coffee.  I would venture to guess that most of us take these simple swirls for granted each day, but they are incredibly complicated things.  These structures give physicists problems and have proven difficult to express mathematically. 

While studying stars with the Hubble telescope in 2004, a group of scientists saw eddy's of dust and gas around a star that reminded them of Van Gogh's work.  After studying these eddy's and comparing them to Starry Night- they were able to realize that he was able to visually express with paint a remarkably high level of scientifically measured proficiency.  

Natalya St. Clair, author of The Art of Mental Calculation, addresses this subject in a short Ted ed video here:

The intersection of Science and Art reassures me that many school curriculum's would benefit from teaching the two together.  Jackson Pollocks paintings and fractals; and  Fibonacci and Da Vinci to name a few.  The impressionists masterfully worked on the study of light and it's motion.  They manipulated paint on a canvas in a way that exposed the mechanics of our brain.  They tricked us into seeing cascading energy and light as it radiates, moves and fades away.   They created a dynamic experience out of static objects.  It's wonderful magic.  I hope you enjoy the Ted ed video.  

I'll leave you with a quote from Rothko: 
'A painting is not about an experience. It is an experience.'