Monday, November 24, 2014

Perception of Fluid Turbulance Through Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Turbulence flow in fluid dynamics has been a concept studied, yet never completely understood, in math for centuries. Now, some mathematicians are studying Vincent van Gogh's Starry Nights painting from 1889 to better understand this concept. His painting was able to capture the movement of light. When one observes his painting they can find that the lighting in Starry Nights seems to have fluid movement, almost as if it is pulsating. This luminating effect is perceived in our visual cortex as light, yet it does not register the colors. Our brain's perceives the contrast and motion by blending to different colors together due to the fact that they have the same luminance. Another portion of our brain that actually sees the colors. With these two perceptions happening simultaneously this causes the light in many impressionist painting to pulse and/or flicker. Their brush strokes enable them to capture a sense of  how light moves.  Even though turbulence is one of the unsolved problems for mathematicians, they have include Van Gogh's painting among their studies of turbulence now. These studies also include the rings of Jupiter and distant clouds of dust and gas in space. In their studies they have discovered that his painting does have patterns of fluid turbulence structures. These are remarkably close to the Kolmogorov theory of turbulence from the early 1900's. The scientist study the brightness varies between the pixels. They concluded that his painting from the time period in his life when he had episodes of psychotic agitation does behave very closely to how fluid turbulence does. The scientist in the study were amazed how during a period of intense suffering in van Gogh's life he was able to preceive and represent one of nature's hardest and most unique concepts.

1 comment:

  1. It's really interesting to see how turbulence is so hard to understand mathematically but in an artistic sense it makes the concept much easier.