Something that caught my eye on my expansive Facebook feed the other day was a jolly interesting video on Van Gogh's Starry Night and how this prominent piece of art accurately represents an incredibly complex scientific principle.
In 1889, inspired by a famous astronomical drawing that had been circulating in Europe for four decades,Vincent van Gogh painted his iconic masterpiece "The Starry Night", one of the most recognised and reproduced images in the history of art. At the peak of his lifelong struggle with mental illness, he created the legendary painting while staying at the mental asylum into which he had voluntarily checked himself after mutilating his own ear.
But more than a masterwork of art, Van Gogh’s painting turns out to hold astounding clues to understanding some of the most mysterious workings of science.
It turns out that "The Starry Night" sheds light on the concept of turbulent flow in fluid dynamics, one of the most complex ideas to explain mathematically and among the hardest for the human mind to grasp. From why the brain’s perception of light and motion makes us see Impressionist works as flickering, to how a Russian mathematician’s theory explains Jupiter’s bright red spot, to what the Hubble Space Telescope has to do with Van Gogh’s psychotic episodes, this mind-bending tour de force ties art, science, and mental health together through the astonishing interplay between physical and psychic turbulence.
This got me thinking a little bit more about science and art. I'd always, rather arrogantly, assumed that for all intents and purposes the two subjects crossed pathes very rarely. And how very wrong I was.
Flair, creativity, inspiration, and interpretation: science and art share similar vocabularies yet are often compartmentalised into their own mutually exclusive worlds.
For art, the chance to gain inspiration from science's insights into the natural world; for science, an opportunity to view an entirely new perspective on research. Science and art serve humanity in complementary ways. Both involve creative thinking and problem solving. Historically, art and science arouse out of the same ground. Science look for answers to questions about external natural phenomenon forming the bases for the development of technology. The art force the development of our inner world, our spiritual, emotional and creative of our personal word.
Nowadays, there's a plethora of collaboration between the worlds of science and art. This includes an Art and Science Journal, which focusses on artworks that are based on scientific themes and developments and this fascinating article in The Guardian highlights some of the collaborative work between scientists and artists.
Finally, I think that "art and science" is a hot topic and one that's open for analysis and questioning. As Albert Einstein said: "Where the world ceases to be the stage for personal hopes and desires, where we, as free beings, behold it in wonder, to question and to contemplate, there we enter the realm of art and science. If we trace out what we behold and experience through the language of logic, we are doing science."
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I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology