Van Gogh Seems to Have Gotten Turbulence Right

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Vincent van Gogh is known for his chaotic paintings and similarly tumultuous state of mind. Now a mathematical analysis of his works reveals that the stormy patterns in many of his paintings are uncannily like real turbulence, as seen in swirling water or the air from a jet engine.

Physicist Jose Luis Aragon of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Queretaro and his co-workers have found that the Dutch artist’s works have a pattern of light and dark that closely follows the deep mathematical structure of turbulent flow.

The swirling skies of The Starry Night, painted in 1889, Road with Cypress and Star (1890) and Wheat Field with Crows (1890) — one of the van Gogh’s last pictures before he shot himself at the age of 37 — all contain the characteristic statistical imprint of turbulence, say the researchers.

Their paper, for the technically minded, can be found here.

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