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Turbulent Art

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2006
Sally B. Patterson

Vincent Van Gogh is well-known for dynamic depictions of nature in such paintings as The Starry Night. Many such works were painted when the artist was in a state of derangement. Recent investigation indicates that he was not only a mad painter, but also, at least subconsciously, a bit of a mad scientist.

Turbulant Art_VanGogh-starry_night.jpg

Physicist Jose-Luis Aragón of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Queretaro headed a team that analyzed some of the famous paintings and discovered that the artist’s swirling designs and use of light depict the deep mathematical structure of turbulent flow with remarkable accuracy. Using mathematical models based on Kolmogorov scaling, the researchers calculated luminance probability distributions among pixels in digitized versions of Van Gogh’s work and found them surprisingly consistent with predicted values for fluid flow models. They reported their findings in an online paper at arXiv: physics/0606246v1 on June 28.


GLOSSARY
light
Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 750 nm. In photonic applications light can be considered to cover the nonvisible portion of the spectrum which includes the ultraviolet and the infrared.
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