Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Contemplation at Copernicus’s Birthday: The Spirit of Thinking Differently

With Nicolaus Copernicus being featured in today’s Google doodle to celebrate his 540th birthday,  it leads all of us to think more carefully about every supposed fact, and admire those who question the rules or challenge the authority, as Copernicus’s iconoclastic success in discovering that the Earth is actually circling the Sun, and what had been thought–that the Earth was at the center of the Universe–was wrong.

Though we may understand more about Universe than five centuries ago, still, what we know, compare to what we don’t know is a tip of iceberg. How hard could it be to solve a giant jigsaw puzzle of nature?  Most complex ideas before they become scientifically validated, they appear in abstraction. There is some mystical-ness when they first appear.

The art or science, what is the nature of our universe, here are a tale of another two contemporary geniuses:

Authenticating Pollock Paintings Using Fractal Geometry: his masterpiece Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952 by rolling a large canvas across the floor of his windswept barn and dripping fluid paint from an old can with a wooden stick. Given that Pollock's paintings are often described as 'organic', the obvious step towards identifying the 'hand' of Pollock is to take the pattern analysis techniques used to identify fractals in Nature's scenery and apply the same process to Pollock's canvases.

But if Pollock's swirls of paint are indeed a celebration of Nature's organic shapes, what shapes would these be? What geometry do organic shapes belong to?  Do objects of Nature, such as trees and clouds, have an underlying pattern, or are they 'patternless' - a disordered mess of randomness?  Although natural systems appeared to be disordered, hidden underneath was a remarkably subtle form of order. This behavior was labeled as chaotic and an area of study called chaos theory was born to understand Nature's dynamics.

Mandelbrot’ fractal theory : Pollock's work had huge influence on Mandelbrot (great mathematician). Benoit B. Mandelbrot (November 1924 – 14 October 2010) was a Polish-born, French and American mathematician, noted for developing a "theory of roughness" in nature and the field of fractal geometry to help prove it, which included coining the word "fractal". He later created the Mandelbrot set of intricate, never-ending fractal shapes, named in his honor. In 1975, Mandelbrot coined the term fractal to describe these structures and first published his ideas in 1975, and later translated, Fractals: Form, Chance and Dimension.

Mandelbrot ended up doing a great piece of science and identifying a much stronger and more fundamental idea—put simply, that there are some geometric shapes, which he called "fractals", that are equally "rough" at all scales. No matter how close you look, they never get simpler, much as the section of a rocky coastline you can see at your feet looks just as jagged as the stretch you can see from space.Many of Nature's patterns have been shown to be fractal. Examples include coastlines, clouds, flames, lightning, trees and mountain profiles. Fractals are referred to as a new geometry because the patterns look nothing like traditional Euclidean shapes. In contrast to the smoothness of artificial shapes, fractals consist of patterns that recur on finer and finer magnifications, building up shapes of immense complexity.

So both the artist and scientist observed how the pluralistic world would - emerge (by generative design, pattern) - that can only be defined by fractals, in which cartesian approaches fails. Will the growing interplay of art and science transcend to the next level of cognizant of the world, the nature, and our infinite Universe?

We are all the bits and bytes, signals and notes of our Universe, we may also discover or co-paint the information masterpiece we can or can’t understand, may Copernicus’s spirit of questioning inspire our curiosity and encourage us to think differently.


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