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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The unexpected math behind Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

A TED-Ed video - this is the description:
Physicist Werner Heisenberg* (wiki) said, “When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.” As difficult as turbulence is to understand mathematically, we can use art to depict the way it looks. Natalya St. Clair illustrates how Van Gogh captured this deep mystery of movement, fluid and light in his work.

*My favorite (and only) Heisenberg joke:
Heisenberg is driving down the road (possibly in New Jersey) when he gets pulled over by a cop.
Cop: "Excuse me, Sir, but do you know how fast you were going?"
Heisenberg: "Why, no, Officer. But I know where I am."


  1. Heisenberg is driving down the road (possibly in New Jersey) when he gets pulled over by a cop.

    Cop: "Excuse me, Sir, but do you know how fast you were going?"

    Heisenberg: "Is that your cat?"

    1. you hit the cat

    2. Heisenberg: Crap. I did until you observed my speed with your radar...

  2. In his book, "Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science," physicist and philosopher Patrick A. Heelan provided a mathematic model of Van Gogh's curved perception of space in paintings such as "Bedroom at Arles," and "The Iron Bridge of Trinquetaille." Heelan, who was a student of Schrodinger, was sought the invariant structures of curved, or "hyperbolic," space within visual perception. Providing the parabolic coordinates from multiple examples of seeing - in both laboratory settings and in works of art - Heelan argued that the likely older parabolic perception is always a possibility for us, though it tends to be buried by the dominant and dominating manner he identifies as the Euclidean/Cartesian way of thinking and perceiving.

  3. Ahem:

    Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger were driving down a road.

    Heisenberg was at the wheel.

    Soon a cop pulled them over. Walking up to the car, he asked Heisenberg, "Do you know how fast you were going?". To which he replied, "No, but I know exactly where I am.". Confused, the cop said, "You were going 100 miles per hour!!". Heisenberg then cried, "Great, now we are lost!!"

    Nonplussed, the cop ordered both gentlemen out of the car and proceeded to search it. When he got to the trunk, he opened it. "Did you know you have a dead cat in your trunk?" He asked. Schrödinger replied, "We do now, asshole!"


    1. You win an uncertain quantity of the Internet for an unspecified duration.

  4. I hate to break into this chain of great Heisenberg quote, but there is an interesting parallel between what this video says about some of Van Gogh's art and the Australian aboriginal art I saw at the Seattle Art Museum. When view from the right distance, some of the later, filled with numerous dots, seems to swirl and move, much like that in Van Gogh.

  5. best was david cassidy being stopped for dui in california, when he noticed officer name on badge "tom jones" he asked "what's new, pussycat"? - has heisenberg beat imho

  6. Cop: So, where are you going in such a hurry?

    WH: To the hospital. My wife is having triplets and I want to get there when they are born.

    Cop: Have you picked out names?

    WH: Yes. Adolph, Rudolph and Randolph.

    Cop: I'll give you an escort.

    They get to the hospital and find they are too late for the birth. The babies are born. But, they are quintuplets, not triplets.

    WH: Helga, I love you so much. Thank you. But what shall we name the other two.

    Helga: I've already picked out their names. Getoff and Stayoff.