Look into the abyss of a swirling black hole with this monolithic LED installation

Screengrab of Jesse Woolston's latest piece, <em>The dynamics of the flow</em>, making her Art Basel Miami Beach debut later this week. “><figcaption class=

Enlarge / Screenshot of Jesse Woolston’s latest play, The dynamics of the flow, debuting at Art Basel Miami Beach later this week.

Jesse woolston

Multimedia artist, composer and sound designer Jesse woolston has had a recurring dream for much of his life of encountering a black hole, “falling in and waking up terrified”. (Who wouldn’t wake up terrified?) According to the artist, these dreams always reminded him of “the terrifying fear of nature”. Now Woolston has channeled this emotional experience into a new multimedia installation, The dynamics of the flow—Is part of an LED monolith exhibit that will debut later this week at Art Basel Miami Beach. Bonus: it’s also an NFT.

Woolston has long fused his artistic work with his love of science, aiming to “recontextualize” physics and art both visually and with sound / music. “I see scientists almost as fantastic magicians at understanding the world,” he told Ars. “I consider myself to be someone who enjoys communicating the laws of the universe and what it means to be human.” He worked with Cornell University astrophysicists who hunt exoplanets, for example, and wrote the music for a theatrical dance performance inspired by Washington State University’s research into glacier dynamics in the Greenland. In recent years he has focused on building large installations that combine sound and visual in interesting ways.

A few years ago, Woolston created an art installation for the Museum of the Moving Image in New York with Levi Patel that used haptic technology. The technology is called Music: Not Impossible (M: NI), and I wrote about it in 2018. M: NI is designed to provide deaf and hearing users with a “vibrotactile” concert experience.

The basic kit includes two battery-powered bracelets, two ankle bands, and a harness that adapts to the back and shoulders. It interfaces directly with a venue’s audio system and sends electrical pulses (coordinated with colored LED lights) corresponding to different tracks of music to the sensors against the skin. The skin is a bad frequency discriminator. It can only detect between 10Hz and 1000Hz, whereas our ears can hear frequencies as high as 20,000Hz. But the skin is quite sensitive to changes in intensity and amplitude, and that’s what the M: NI system operates.

For MMI installation — titled Cropped—Woolston and Patel have incorporated M: NI haptic suits that can be worn by an entirely deaf audience. “It allowed them to feel the music through their bodies. I understand sound, I understand wavelengths and vibrations and how our ears interpret these things,” Woolston said. “The goal was to reframe the way we understand sound with technology.”

More recently, Woolston has found particular inspiration in the physics of turbulence: strong, sudden movements in air or water, usually marked by vortices and vortices. One of his installations explores color theory via a 3D visualization of fluid dynamics by Monet Seascape. Another piece also incorporates 3D physical simulations of fluid flows, this time inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s most famous painting, Starry Night.

From a purely aesthetic point of view, people have long noted the turbulent nature of Van Gogh’s colorful swirls and swirls. As I wrote previously, Concord Consortium research associate Natalya St. Clair gave a TED-Ed 2014 Conference on how Van Gogh’s technique in Starry Night allowed the painter to represent the movement of light on water or in the twinkling of stars. We see this as a kind of sparkle effect, as the eye is more sensitive to changes in the intensity of light (a property called luminance) than color changes.

But there is also a hard science behind the connection. Nasa published an image by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004 of turbulent eddies of dusty clouds moving around a supergiant star, noting that this “luminous echo” was reminiscent of Starry Night. Two years later, a group of physicists from Spain, Mexico and England mathematically analyzed painting and concluded that it shares the same turbulent characteristics as molecular clouds (where literal stars are born) – perhaps reflecting the artist’s turbulent state of mind when he created it.

In the 1940s, a Russian physicist named Andrei Kolmogorov predicted that there would be a mathematical connection (now known as the Kolmogorov scale) between how the speed of a flow fluctuates over time and how quickly it loses energy in the form of friction . That is, some turbulent flows exhibit energy cascades, whereby large eddies transfer part of their energy to smaller eddies. The smaller vortices, in turn, transfer some of their energy to even smaller vortices, and so on, producing a self-similar pattern at many spatial size scales.

As described in an article published on arXiv physics, the international team of physicists measured how the brightness varies between two pixels in digital photographs of several Van Gogh paintings. The researchers calculated the probability that two pixels at a given distance have the same luminance. They found evidence of something remarkably close to the Kolmogorov scale, not just in Starry Night, but also in two other paintings from the same period in Van Gogh’s life: Wheat field with crows and Road with Cypress and Star (both painted in 1890).

A ArXiv 2019 paper by two graduate students from the Australian National University in Canberra built on this earlier work. By choosing a square section in the sky part of a digital image of Starry Night, they were able to create 2D maps in three “channels” of different colors. Then they calculated the 2D power spectrum. They also found evidence of turbulent scaling in Starry Night. But while the previous team found the Kolmogorov chipping – the undersonic turbulent flow underlying convection currents in stars as well as in Earth’s atmosphere – the Australian duo found Greatsound turbulence.


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