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The Convergence of 
Art & Science

Denise K McTighe

ASAG Journal

March 25, 2020

 “Art and Science are but Wings on the Same Bird.”
—Denise McTighe

It comes across in flashes of infinity, moving spaces and lines through the eyes, gliding across the avenues, in perfect mathematical symmetry. Pushing out and beyond the eternal boundaries-eluding to endless bursts of color, and interjoining dimensions.  A glorious discovery that mapped unknown physical dimensions, bringing them to visual light for all to behold- a miraculous universe within universes.  These mathematical structures bounced in and out of the minds of the thinkers who tried to follow the endless patterns and meaning. In the 19th century, thought leaders of the day, like the bohemian mathematician Bernard Bolzano explored the infinitesimal areas of this geometric space, trying to understand the chaotic nature of the infrastructure. However, it was not until the discovery of Benoit Mandelbrot’s famous set in 1975, that this scientific philosophy found a more esteemed position within mathematical circles-emerging from obscurity with its new name- the multifractal.

Yet, decades before Dr. Mandelbrot presented his gem to the world, some of the world’s greatest writers were pushing pens dipped in black ink across the postmodern era, giving us literary masterpieces. Unbeknownst to them, and the intellectual society they occupied, these works of art revealed some of our most profound, and unknown discoveries about the potentialities and far reaching mysteries of the multifractal. 

Physicists from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN) in Cracow, Poland, conducted an intensive analysis of famous works of great writers in 2016. Their research revealed that certain literary texts, in stream of consciousness style, particularly James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, and Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, had highly complex, and mathematical structures within the sentences, and were perfect expressions of multifractals. Throughout these texts, beyond the literary genius, dwells a complex architecture of elegant symmetry. One that converges beauty with our scientific truths. 

And in 2004, after the Hubble telescope captured the image of a distant star that looked like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Nasa sent out a press release: “[The] Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting, is renowned for its bold whorls of light sweeping across a raging night sky. Although this image of the heavens came only from the artist’s restless imagination, a new picture from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope bears remarkable similarities to the van Gogh work, complete with never-before-seen spirals of dust swirling across trillions of miles of interstellar space.” This inspired scientists at Autonomous University of Mexico to research the similarities to the eddies of the distant star and those found in Van Gogh’s own constellations. They discovered that the paint strokes in Van Gogh’s works that were painted during his most psychotic and “turbulent” state of mind, mirror the concept of turbulence, in mathematical precision.  However, Van Gogh created them long before Soviet mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov developed his theory of turbulence, a scientific oddity that still baffles physicists to this day. This troubled painter managed to capture the movement and fluctuation of light and luminosity without any scientific understanding or background, long before the mystery unfolded in laboratories.  

And beyond this concrete evidence of the connection between art and science, the prophetic nature of certain authors like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, whose predictions seem to be unfolding in modern times, is another compelling example of how art often seems to precede world events and human discovery.  We are only in the beginning stages of understanding why the artist is often ahead of the curve, and how humanity can learn to tap into this intuitive collective spirit, for greater benefit to all.  The archetypal artist has often been directed to the outer fringes of society, lingering on the edges, waiting for a seat at the table. But it has been these suffering souls that have found the secret doors in the universe that connect the unknown world with our everyday lives, bringing insights that seem to come from the cosmic rays, bursting stars and multidimensional worlds of the beautiful mind.


The Convergence of Art & Science

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