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Van Gogh Painted Turbulence

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the fasten-seatbelt-sign-has-been-illuminated dept.

76

rangeva writes "Nature is reporting that Van Gogh works have a pattern of light and dark that closely follows the mathematical structure of turbulent flow. From the article: 'Vincent van Gogh is known for his chaotic paintings and similarly tumultuous state of mind. Now a mathematical analysis of his works reveals that the stormy patterns in many of his paintings are uncannily like real turbulence, as seen in swirling water or the air from a jet engine.'"

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So much for fine art... (5, Funny)

luder (923306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15689957)

Just proves his head was full of air and that he had a single neuron, precisely located on it's center. When he cut one of his ear, he created a stream of air, coming from the interior of his head (high pressure) to the outside (low pressure). The single neuron, placed in the middle of the stream, obviously caused some turbulence, explaining why he "painted turbulence".

Funny would have been a more adequate moderation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15689998)

It's quite sad to see such a humorous post being modded down.

Re:Funny would have been a more adequate moderatio (1)

RedOregon (161027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690027)

Agreed. I was going to come up with something pithy about him watching smoke roll past his disfigured head and painting the swirls he saw, but the OP here has my half-baked post beat all to hell.

Re:Funny would have been a more adequate moderatio (1)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690135)

Only if it was, y'know... funny. ;-)

Re:So much for fine art... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15694976)

"precisely located on it's center. "

On it is center?

You fail it.

Hey, gamers! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15689959)

Strafe does not [reference.com] mean the same thing as sidestep. We at Wikipedia would appreciate [wikipedia.org] any insight you can offer as to the origins of your illiteracy.

Re:Hey, gamers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15690215)

Blame the developers.

Re:Hey, gamers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691794)

Funny thing about language, it's not static and set in stone. It's an living evolving thing. New words are developed, old words take on new meanings, or die out. Get used to it.

Re:Hey, gamers! (0, Offtopic)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691816)

In games, I have "strafed" in both senses. It all depends on the context in which the word is used.

I like to enjoy art... (0)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15689966)

Eventhough studies like these can be interresting...

I like van Gogh, the article is somewhat interresting, but I enjoy the paintings without the mathematical analysis better.

Re:I like to enjoy art... (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 8 years ago | (#15689974)

> I enjoy the paintings without the mathematical analysis better.

That's someone's living you're dissing! Not everyone can get a productive job, so if your tax money is being spent keeping some potential crack-head on the straight and narrow, writing pointless papers and theses about nothing, then surely it's better than you spending it on your own choice of...uh, wait, that's not right...

Re:I like to enjoy art... (1)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15689985)

I'm not saying they should not do the study... Just that I like to view art without them on my mind.

Re:I like to enjoy art... (1)

Maset (190867) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690018)

Can you not keep yourself in the dark? Why are you complaining about new knowledge?

Re:I like to enjoy art... (1)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690025)

I'm not complaining... Just starting the discussion about studying and enjoying art that don't alwais work wellb at the same for a lot of people.

Re:I like to enjoy art... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15690096)

Sure. I was enjoying the article, then they made reference to Andrei Kolmogorov. At this point, I found the complexity somewhat limiting... You know, like if the description of the painting started to be more intricate than the painting itself...

Re:I like to enjoy art... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15692605)

Ah, slashdot is getting lower and lower. A reference to Kolmogorov Complexity goes unnoticed. Should have been modded Funny, for the last few Computer Science geeks out there.

Re:I like to enjoy art... (5, Interesting)

ab0mb88 (541388) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690836)

Did it occur to you that perhaps part of the reason that you like Van Gogh may have something to do with the fact that he portrayed a natural phenomenon perfectly? The human brain is capable of seeing things that are right or wrong that you may not be able to consciously notice. The math described may be why you like this art.

Re:I like to enjoy art... (1)

energydome (142833) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692578)

You may be right but art isn't about how you make it but how it feels... I don't think it matters if Van Gogh painted turbulence or Jackson Pollock painted fractals or John Singer Seargent represented wave theory.... its about the magic of the emotion, not the science behind it, if art turns into a science where we can make people think/feel whatever we want, we leave nothing to human chance or the subconscious.

Re:I like to enjoy art... (1)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693603)

My thoughts exactly.

Re:I like to enjoy art... (1)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693633)

Actually, yes it did, for a similar reason I like Bach. Van Gogh, nope, that's pure emotion.

But then again, maybe that's why I'm not a true nerd...

Amazing (5, Funny)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15689972)

Absolutely amazing. I mean, what are the chances that he ever saw turbulent streams or windswept clouds living in rural Europe or that he took his inpiration from those pattern as much as from all the other organic/natural patterns he used everywhere in his art?

Re:Amazing (3, Funny)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690132)

That depends.

Many variables involved.

Quantity and quality of paint thinner sniffed this morning.

Quantity and quality of absint drank with coffee for breakfast

Quantity and quality of the dirt on the knife used to cut your year off causing a infection of the remaining stump

Quantity and quality...

Dunno, while I like Van Gough and I would not go for his methods of achieving artistic inspiration.

Intuited? (5, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#15689977)

Why would he have to intuit chaotic flow? Anyone who's seen smoke rise from a cigarette or viciously stirred an absinthe and water mix, has seen similarly chaotic swirls. I think its safe to say Vincent would have done both.

Re:Intuited? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15690059)

'ear 'ear.

Re:Intuited? (5, Interesting)

kikibobo (185258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690234)

What he intuited, it would seem, is Kolmogorov scaling. Other artists, gifted artists, tried to render turbulence, but their renderings did not exhibit Kolmogorov scaling. So, that's pretty interesting -- his paintings manifest a deep theoretical result, that other paintings which try to capture the same phenomenon, do not. It's reasonable to suggest he intuited something pretty deep that others did not.

more info on the science of his sworls? (1)

Garganus (890454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690711)

Pardon how sarcastic this is going to sound--I promise that's not how I mean it: You're right, this is pretty interesting. I was so interested that I tried to look up Kolmogorov scaling in, among other places, the wikipedia. The closest thing I could find was Kolmogorov Microscales [wikipedia.org] which is not very helpful, since a painting cannot 'exhibit' units of measure proper. If you know anything about the phenomenon of this 'scaling' I'd love to hear more about it, especially as I'm a big 'Gogh fan.

Re:more info on the science of his sworls? (2, Informative)

mrogers (85392) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691052)

There's more information on Kolmogorov's scaling laws here [berkeley.edu] , not that I understand most of it. As far as I can tell, in a turbulent system the difference between the values of a physical property at two points follows a power law [hp.com] with respect to the distance between the points; the power laws for different physical properties have different exponents, but they all seem to be multiples of a third (?).

Re:more info on the science of his sworls? (1)

NichG (62224) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695996)

It has to do with how you go from one to the other. Taking derivatives or integrals will increment or decrement the exponent by 1, and the different scalings are all derived from eachother.

The simplest way to see Kolmogorov scaling is to posit that the effect of viscosity in turbulence occurs only at the smallest lengthscale, and that aside from that energy must be shuttled via conservative mechanisms up and down between lengthscales. That is, energy is only dissipated at the smallest scale, so large scale motions can only lose energy by transferring it to smaller and smaller scales. It helps if we consider the incompressible case as this is simplest (constant density)

You then look at all the meaningful quantities in the system. We'll divide out the density of the fluid so units of mass won't appear. You have
the net rate of energy dissipation (this folds in the viscosity) 'epsilon', which is in units of L^2/T^3, you have the lengthscale l which is in units of L, and you have the energy at that lengthscale dE/dl(l) which has units of L/T^2.

So if thats it, then you can write a relation dE/dl(l) is proportional to (epsilon)^(2/3)*l^(-1/3) simply to get the units to work. This gives you dE/dl(l)=A*l^(-1/3). Usually the Kolmogorov relation is given in terms of k, which is proportional to 1/l. So dl = -(1/k^2)dk, so we're left with dE/dk = A*k^(1/3-2) which is k^(-5/3) which is the usual relationship.

The interesting thing to note is, this can be different in 2D because there is a second conserved quantity, vorticity, which can only be dissipated at the viscous scale or the scale at which external forces act on the system. This means that a double-cascade can be observed, where you get a transition between a k^(-5/3) scaling to a k^(-3) scaling (or vice versa depending on how the system is driven).

So I suppose this means we can tell whether Van Gogh got his inspiration from looking at 3D turbulence - patterns in clouds and rising smoke and mixing liquids, or from 2D turbulence - whorls on soap bubbles and other thin film flows.

Re:more info on the science of his sworls? (1)

mrogers (85392) | more than 8 years ago | (#15697826)

Thanks very much for the information! Does the difference between 2D and 3D have anything to do with the fact that 3D dynamical systems can be chaotic while 2D systems can't? Or am I seeing patterns in smoke here?

Re:more info on the science of his sworls? (1)

NichG (62224) | more than 8 years ago | (#15703867)

2D systems can be chaotic. I think what you're thinking of is systems with 2 degrees of freedom, which is different.

There are some visible differences between 2D and 3D turbulence though. 2D turbulence is marked by point vortices that form various correlated structures, but a lot of the turbulence is just carried by the interactions between point vortices of different sizes.

In 3D, those vortices become threads, and they can get tangled up and so on. Vorticity is no longer conserved and so you have things like as material gets pulled into an upwelling, its rotation is magnified (conservation of angular momentum). It's a process that occurs in tornados, for example.

Re: more info on the science of his sworls? (1)

gidds (56397) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692085)

Sounds to me rather like the sort of fractal scaling that they recently discovered in the works of Jackson Pollock.

Re:more info on the science of his sworls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15695609)

All turbulence is characterized by a major scale of whorls called the production scales (roughly the size of the phenomena producing the whorl), and a series of smaller scales of "whorls" down to the point at which molecular forces associated with friction take over (called the dissipation scales).

The Kolmogorov scaling has to do with the relative sizes of the swirls/whorls in the picture. Kolmogorov suggested that the power in these swirls decays as a power law with -5/3 as the exponent. From the relative sizes of the whorls, you could compute the decay rate, and evidently this is accurate in Van Gogh's paintings.

Soviet Russia (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15690026)

In Soviet Russia, turbulence paints you!

Re:Soviet Russia (1)

member57 (680279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693560)

My day is now complete with reading of the "in Soviet Russia" comment.

shocking: you can see turbulence (0, Redundant)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690028)

Here's a shocker: Van Gogh saw leaves blowing in the wind, the wind patterns on the surface of the water, and a myriad of other things that are visual cues to what turbulence looks like. Combine all those together with his incredible painting talent, and surprise! He manages to paint something like what the air was actually doing. Oh, and he may have actually seen some colors in the air through sensory blending (drugs plus being a bit crazy).

No you can't (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691053)

You can see turbulent phenomena. You can feel that representations of such phenomena are correct or incorrect. But that's not the same as seeing turbulence.

Seeing turbulence itself takes more than having the image of a turbulent phenomenon on your retina. That takes place at a higher level of the brain, one that is more imaginative. Artists don't "see" in the way a camera sees. not even photographers, who must search for the right opportunity where what they are looking for can be stripped naked of irrelevant detail.

Painters especially don't just record what they see. They abstract salient details and present them in ways that emphasize or deemphasize. Even the most routine of painters will move a tree in a landscape or improve on a train of clouds in order to produce a more pleasing rhtyhm. But what we are talking about here goes way beyond that.

Naturally, any realistic depiction of landscape will reproduce mathematical relationships, such as the fractal geometry of waves. But only a master like Hokusai can make a wave whose fractal nature is burned into our memory.

Works such as "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" by Hokusai, or "Starry Night" by Van Goh are not realistic, they are hyper-real. It takes a great drafting skill to paint what is there, yet while it is a talent, it is not genius. Go out and look at some waves or some swirling smoke then try to think how difficult it is to freeze such a moving, evolving phenomenon and boil it down to its perceptual essence. That take genius.

The reason art is valuable to the human race is that it show us how to be aware of what is latent in our perception, but does not enter into our consciousness.

Other causes for his paintings (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15690029)

Somewhat interesting but not nearly as interesting as the theory that an eye problem or digitalis poisoning was the main cause of his use of color and the halo's he painted around light sources. See -> http://www.psych.ucalgary.ca/pace/va-lab/AVDE-Webs ite/VanGogh.html [ucalgary.ca]

Re:Other causes for his paintings (1)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691944)

Interesting, perhaps, but I am extremely skeptical and distrustful of any theory that reduces great art to simply being a by-product of disease.

VanGogh (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690039)

Turbulance has resonence.

Bah (4, Funny)

pr0nbot (313417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690070)

Amateur - I code turbulence!

Re:Bah (1)

proverbialcow (177020) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690414)

That explains your use of GOTO!

Re:Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15696143)

I think you misspelled flatulence.

Oh wait. Maybe that's just me.
Sorry about that.

Newton (4, Insightful)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690100)

The article goes on about turbulence as if you can only draw these patterns if you know the maths and laws behind it. That's a bit like saying you can't catch a ball tossed to you if you don't know Newton's laws.

Re:Newton (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15690123)

That's a bit like saying you can't catch a ball tossed to you if you don't know Newton's laws.
Look, maybe not all of us are super-athletes like yourself, but I certainly couldn't routinely catch a ball thrown to me until I learned about Newton's laws. Arcs! The ball goes up and it will come down in an arc. Genius! I had been trying to jump up and catch the ball and it kept hitting me in the crotch before I learned about Newton's laws. It was a painful 18 years.

Re:Newton (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15690285)

Look, maybe not all of us are super-athletes like yourself, but I certainly couldn't routinely catch a ball thrown to me until I learned about Newton's laws.

Then it's a good thing that your particular gene combination remained unexpressed until after Newton; if it had been widespread while mankind was still in the Stone Age, humanity would have died out from not being able to hit prey with rocks and spears. And think of all the events of history that would have turned out different if people couldn't get an empirical feel for ballistics without knowing the equations -- the Mongols would have been much less terrifying if they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with their bows; the battle of Agincourt would have been won by the French because the English longbowmen were incompetent; Robin Hood missing the target and accidentally shooting Maid Marian in the archery contest...

Re:Newton (1, Funny)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690124)

I don't know about you, but every dog I've ever had has been a first-rate mathematician. Their ability to calculate the parabolic trajectory taken by a ballistic tennis ball is first rate.

Re:Newton (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690168)

Most people are capable of catching a ball. I'd hazard to say that the laws, or some mathematical approximation, are hard-wired into the human nervous system.

However, most people can't render a decent image of a lit box -- not just the outline of a box, but an image of the light that the box reflects. I think it would be fair to say that Van Gogh probably spent a long time looking at, studying, and rendering these turbulent systems. In short, he taught himself the laws.

Re:Newton (3, Informative)

nuggz (69912) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690255)

Most people are capable of catching a ball. I'd hazard to say that the laws, or some mathematical approximation, are hard-wired into the human nervous system.

It seems to be software actually.
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2002/18mar_play ingcatch.htm [nasa.gov]

I'd argue that 30+ years of training makes it quite difficult to adjust, but I'm not NASA.

Re:Newton (1)

Drakai (828042) | more than 8 years ago | (#15699388)

That is a neat article. My first thought was that they should enable that experiment to see if the subconscious is able to make predictions beyond Newtons laws. Objectively, I doubt the human senses are sensitive enough to go beyond the need for Newtons laws. But the idea of a learned response to the environment was followed by the idea of closely studying that response in various experiments to see what is implied about that environment. In theory, anyway, it makes me wonder if we could learn more about gravity by these studies as well as learning more about the human condition.

And the baby experiment was just mean :( .. :P

Re:Newton (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690646)

However, most people can't render a decent image of a lit box.

If they just wait a while they can make an image of a small heap of charcoal. Most people can manage that.

Re:Newton (1)

ObjetDart (700355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690731)

Most people are capable of catching a ball. I'd hazard to say that the laws, or some mathematical approximation, are hard-wired into the human nervous system.


I'd hazard to say that the laws, or some mathematical approximation, are learned by the incredibly adaptable and flexible human nervous system, over the first few years of life which are usually spent picking up objects, dropping them and also throwing them at your siblings.

Re:Newton (1)

MarkCollette (459340) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692299)

That's how I got out of gym class in elementary school.

Let's have a look at the history behind this... (4, Interesting)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690228)

Turbulence is derived from the Latin turbinis which means vortex. The same name also gave way to turbine - a phrase first used by Claude Burdin to describe the aforementioned device in 1828.

Van Gogh lived from 1853 until 1890, so man-made turbines existed during his lifetime, as well as the more natural effects he will have seen that others have mentioned.

Ergo, the entire point of the article is moot, he painted what he saw and understood, that - believe it or not - is what artists do. Why people have to waste their time trying to comprehend why Van Gogh painted turbulence is beyond me...

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (1)

rramdin (857005) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690314)

The point isn't moot. Van Gogh didn't use various examples of turbulence as the direct influence for his art. It isn't as if he set up by a turbine and painted what he saw. He was in a studio painting what he wanted. There's no doubt that he had come into contact with a turbine, but it is remarkable that he was able to replicate it's advanced mathematical properties, more or less from memory without being conscious of them.

It's more akin to the prevalence of the Golden Ratio in art and aesthetics. It's worth comment not because it exists, but because the most talented artists can employ it unconciously.

While turbo, turbinis literally can be taken as vortex, it connotes more as "storm," "hurricane," or "tornado." A better latin word for "vortex" is simply "vortex."

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (1)

emamousette (871456) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690331)

If you RTFA, you'd see that they compared Van Gogh's works to other artists who painted what ostensibly are turbulent scenes (specifically, The Scream) and that painting did not have nearly the same degree of compliance with the Kolmogorov functions.
In essence, this study is not asking "can an artist paint something that looks turbulent" inasmuch as they are saying that during his psychotic stages, van Gogh captured turbulence with a degree of accuracy not found in other works by artists of his caliber.

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (4, Informative)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690435)

If you'd have RTFA, you would have noticed that the scientists scanned *other* artists work do not exhibit the level of accuracy that Van Gogh's work does.

"Van Gogh seems to be the only painter able to render turbulence with such mathematical precision. "We have examined other apparently turbulent paintings of several artists and find no evidence of Kolmogorov scaling," says Aragon.

Edvard Munch's The Scream, for example, looks to be superficially full of van Gogh-like swirls, and was painted by a similarly tumultuous artist, but the luminance probability distribution doesn't fit Kolmogorov's theory.
"

So, if other artists were looking at turbulence and painting it, they failed, only Van Gogh was able to do it.

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691224)

If you'd have RTFA, you would have noticed that the scientists scanned *other* artists work do not exhibit the level of accuracy that Van Gogh's work does. Van Gogh could paint something better than other artists? I'm shocked!! Perhaps Van Gogh just spent more time on his swirls, and it's as simple as that. Why make it to be such a mystery.

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (1)

andphi (899406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690595)

Ergo, the entire point of the article is moot, he painted what he saw and understood, that - believe it or not - is what artists do. Why people have to waste their time trying to comprehend why Van Gogh painted turbulence is beyond me...

"Publish or Perish?"

But yes, the idea that Van Gogh, at a time when he was most divorced from reality, created things of such mathematical precision is very interesting, particularly as an example of the union of madness and genius.

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (1)

scuzzman (928420) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690621)

The fact that he painted turbulence is irrelevant. What is relevant, is the accuracy with which he did it. If he is able to make almost exact replicas of turbulence years before scientists discover the relation to turbelence, and how it works, it shows that van Gogh had a much better understanding of it than everyone before (and during) his time. This is just a little insight into the mind of a genius.

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691829)

I have to put this in terms the average slashdotter will understand...
1. Smoke, Drink
2. Go psychotic and Paint
3. Die
4. Profit!!!

postscript: I've discovered that the "???" in most cases is "die"

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693570)

Is there a way to skip point 3?

Re:Let's have a look at the history behind this... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691840)

Ergo, the entire point of the article is moot, he painted what he saw and understood, that - believe it or not - is what artists do.

Actually, that isn't necessarily what artists do. Since the earliest cave paintings to Venus de Milo to modern cartoons, artists paint representations of what they see (with their real eyes or mind's eye) with varying degrees of attempted and actual accuracy. Trying to rigorously paint "what one sees" -- though still with large amounts of abstraction and representation -- was actually a major advancement of the Impressionists. For example, I believe they were one of the first movements to paint shadows that weren't black.

Seeing and understanding what you see are not the same, and the second is not necessarily easy.

That Van Gogh represented with high accuracy mathematical aspects of turbulence that are not obvious to casual observers, other painters, or even the scientists of Van Gogh's days who studied things like turbines indicates that he was onto something special and asking why he was able to gain these insights is in fact a very interesting question. Ergo, your whole post is moot.

Why does this have to be intentional? (2)

MrTester (860336) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690741)

This reminds me of all of those English classes in high school where the teachers would tell us all of these subtle things that were represented in writers works. I would always wonder if the authors would laugh themselves silly over all of it.

Why does all of this mean Van Gogh new that he was painting turbulence? Why can this not just be a byproduct of the way that he holds the brush and moves the brush on the canvas?

I bet that somewhere out there is a cave drawing where the patterns on the rock are a perfect representation of something in Quantumm Physics. When we find that is it proof that cave men understood Quantum Physics?

Re:Why does this have to be intentional? (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691079)

Richard Feynman used to drive a van with funny squiggle grafitti on it. They are very similar to figures used to describe quantum chromodynamics. By coincidence, Feynman was a physicist noted for developing the figures. What are the odds?

Re:Why does this have to be intentional? (1)

antispam_ben (591349) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691548)

I recall the story Feynman told on an episode of PBS's NOVA where a man came up to him and asked "Excuse me, sir, but why do you have Feynman diagrams painted on your VW Microbus?"

"Well, because I invented these diagrams. I'm Richard Feynman."

If you meet a man with fuzzy black holes on his wheelchair, he might be...

Re:Why does this have to be intentional? (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691699)

I'm glad someone gets the joke. The story is part of it.

Re:Why does this have to be intentional? (1)

thelost (808451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691662)

It seems unlikely that Van Gogh's painting style accidently approximated - with some accuracy - some kind of mathematical system. Even if it wasn't actually a conscious choice to paint turbulence then perhaps it was some instinctive understanding or recognition of how certain systems worked.

The bridge between science and art is that of conscious decision, science has always been about coming to some recognition about the world around us where we can say 'yes, I understand'. Art seems to be a recognition though that there are a great many processes that we do not understand, or cannot access consciously and so must recognise through the interpretation of the unconscious elements that emerge in different forms of art we create.

I think everyone who sat in their English classes reading Hamlet probably wondered whether Shakespeare was really asking such large questions, or had he just written a play to pay the bills and as per request by one of his sponsors?

However, if we think about how we make causal links between different thoughts we can plainly see that it is frequently a non-logical process. Four different people who see the same women walking a dog will be reminded of four different things, all very different. The logic of the association will not be apparent to each person if they compared it to the next, because it is based on personal experience and subconscious associations. We all have very different minds, and different ways of accessing them.

There perhaps is somewhere out there an excellent cave drawing describing the theory of general relativity, because on an unconscious level in that caveman's mind there is an understanding of the process. Perhaps it's just a fluke, we live in a universe large enough for chances like that to happen.

I guess it depends how cynical you are, and whether there is space for the possibility of amazement in your world.

It's only natural (2, Insightful)

deuterium (96874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15690913)

People, by their very nature, cannot truly produce randomness. Everything we output is laden with the associations and processes inherent in the brain. Jackson Pollack apparently painted with a certain fractal regularity [maa.org] that he wasn't conscious of. I imagine that Van Gough didn't intend to depict turbulence per se, he just painted that way, and others percieve the mechanics.

Artistic genius may be mathematical in nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691147)

Seems this trait is shared among other artists. When researchers had random people try to duplicate Jackson Pollock's drip-style paintings which were then rated against actual Pollocks in a double-blind experiment, people vastly preferred the authentic Pollocks. Seems that there is a fractal based component [maa.org] to Pollock's style that is not easily replicable. Perhaps most or all great artists have a mathematical aspect to their work that is subconciously pleasing to the mind.

Another case of "idiot" savants in action. (1)

NeuroManson (214835) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692769)

People who never had any training in music can somehow play music, people who never studied math but have a high mathmatical aptitude, or even people who have plenty of indicators for Aspergers (sp?) syndrome who otherwise are capable programmers and entrepeneurs (Bill Gates, anyone?). Of course, the "idiot" is in quotations because two out of three ain't bad.

Pollock and fractals (3, Interesting)

OldManAndTheC++ (723450) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692899)

This article reminds me of a similar study done on Jackson Pollock's drip paintings, which exhibit the characteristics of fractals. Pollock painted in the '50s, before fractal geometry was developed. Works by other artists, who imitated Pollock's technique, do not have the same qualities. Both Van Gogh and Pollock seem to have been able to perceive the mathematical underpinnings of the natural world in an intuitive way, and could communicate that perception through their art.

Some more info [nathanielclark.org] (PDF warning).

myopic realism (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693877)

Two observations.

1. Van Gogh may have simply had about -4.50 myopia and was painting realism...
2. The Starry Night painting at the MoMA in NYC looks like crap... small, unfinished at the edges, and not
breathtaking like certain other Van Gogh paintings I've seen. The posters are better than the original.

.. or perhaps.. (1)

sudog (101964) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695154)

.. the turbulence of the matter inside his aqueus humour as he looked from spot to spot?

Question of scientific study (1)

CherniyVolk (513591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695268)


Van Gogh's ability to properly depict (even closely) one of Nature's most chaotic of events only implies that somehow, his brain was able to calculate his efforts. Without getting into pseudo-science, crystals and all that biz; it is rather obvious that those who extend deep into the extremes of various mental illnesses or retardations display extrodinary abilities, such as high level autism.

Without any psychology or neuroscience, I speculate that perhaps such abilities are so taxing that their brains aren't able to function with common tasks, or their taxing abilities require such a unique percpective extreme rendering them unacceptable to the average person. The latter isn't too far-fetched; as some of the greatest poetry, music, visual arts and philosophical insights have been visioned from deep within the altered reality of euphoria/inebriation.

There are a lot of things, how the brain calculates everything involved in pouring a glass of water. Or, even more fascinating, how you can immediately calculate and compensate for varying viscosities in fluids within a cup after first grabbing it; such as rubbing alcohol, or honey, to adjust how you handle the cup to prevent excessive spilling of the fluids... face recognition, voice recognition, 'perfect pitch', et al. Some of these tasks, we can create a machine to do... very inefficiently and most are haphazard at best.

Is there a science or 'ology' that attempts to crack Nature's algorithms; which must be the most simplistic implementations that occur within the brains of any living organism? Even a flea's brain calculates tons of calculus, even if nothing more than trajectory, range and how much force to use to get to a secondary position. It's brain is a bit small; yet, so much is hidden. Is there even a starting point? Is there any sensors and analytical equipment so precise to detect the chemical reactions and associate them to mathematical representations?

I know *exactly* what he was painting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15697385)

Because I've done loads of acid, mushrooms, and other hallucinogens, and his paintings are *perfect* reproductions of the way your field of vision breaks down into small swirling regions when you get really intense visuals. He was painting the trippy visuals that he was seeing in front of his eyes, and it's one of the best portayals that I've ever seen.

    All other theories are moot when you've seen exactly what he saw. It's completely unmistakable, you'd recognize it in an instant if you'd seen it yourself.

harder than quantum mechanics (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15699897)

From the article:
harder than quantum mechanics
What is that supposed to mean? Quantum mechanics appears on undergraduate mathematics, physics and chemistry courses. Almost every university offers such courses and probably dozens, if not hundreds, of people graduate from each of these universities having completed courses in QM. I expect that a reasonable proportion of /. readers are among these people. Sure, it can be tricky stuff sometimes. But you don't need to be some kind of genius to understand it - just an average graduate. And the equations of motion are always nice and linear.

Armed with a basic knowledge of quantum mechanics you can start solving problems using little more than basic linear algebra or the theory of partial differential equations. You can start computing energy levels for simple atoms, or estimate tunneling probabilities, or derive some qualitative features of the conduction of current through crystalline materials.

Turbulent flow, on the other hand, is incredibly difficult. The usual mathematical tools (such as the theory of partial differential equations mentioned above) fail in all sorts of ways. The dynamics are nonlinear and highly sensitive to initial conditions. It's hard to derive statistical properties of the chaotic regions of the dynamics. We often have to fall back on empirically derived rules. Even in a perfect fluid that exactly satisfies the Navier-Stokes equations it is hard to make long term predictions - which is why one of the Millennium Prize [claymath.org] problems is about these equations.

Harder than quantum mechanics? That really isn't saying much.

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