Monday, October 27, 2008

NOVA--"Hunting the Hidden Dimension"

Being aired this Tuesday evening, October 28th, on most PBS stations is a program on fractals where art and science meet..."Hunting the Hidden Dimension".

Hunting the Hidden Dimension

How ancient the relationship is. Such a relationship embraces epistemology, ontology, metaphysics, theology, mythology, and all the real sciences. It can be a codified or individual interpretation passed on by oral tradition, the written word, visual/auditory transmission, and all characteristics of science. Artistic representation of the cosmos can be primitive and crude or spirited in the latest aesthetic movement of sophistication. Aesthetics and the cosmos can be an intensely personal experience. It can be as simple as connecting the stars and recognizing the constellations or a pristine mathematical formula.

And we cannot strictly limit the aesthetic experience to mathematical or physical explanations/representations but to include the entire visual and auditory spectrum of experiences. Yes, it certainly appears the universe [neutral] to be a "mess", but it is a fine specimen of specific laws of physics--all interacting in the most minute manner. Historical mistakes as you mentioned are true, but day to day advances dispel old notions and revitalized by new notions of a broader sphere of concern. If man lasts long enough, the "mess" may not be so "messy". I really don't want to get into the technical theories and movements of aesthetics, but it is evident that the beauty of the universe is adequately manifested in the visual and auditory--outside Earth and on Earth.

Beyond the potential aesthetics of the mathematics and physics of the universe, there is the problem with visual representations. The question being, how true to reality are those photographs that we see. In the infancy of astronomy, the images were taken by long exposure on photographic glass plates whose emulsion of sensitivity was not necessarily panchromatic. Many of the prints were enhanced in density, contrast, and color. Sometimes for illustrative purposes, the print was at the mercy of many artists. Today we have computer enhanced images. So for those that do experience an aesthetic experience of the cosmos through visual representation, what are they really experiencing? Does it have an ultimate effect on the experiences? How intense is that "pink"? Is it too "dark" or too "light"? Humm...a matter of personal aesthetics I guess. I don't have a problem with what I see for it is pleasing to the eyes--soothing like chocolate ice cream.

"Out of the fire and ashes rise the phoenix". It does boil down to personal interpretations and preferences based on many undefinable things. Defining art is probably limited to movements within a period of history whereas aesthetics is a bit more elusive. The residue from presentation, discussion, and analysis of materials presented in an aesthetics course was that "art" was a matter of "taste". Debate and trends will continue which leads me to a short and true experience from my university days when I took a course on aesthetics. A good course for four months discussing all aspects of aesthetics until numbness set in the students. The professor's summation resulted in a statement that aesthetics was a matter of "taste". Someone from the room [perhaps yours truly] quipped: "Ya,...'good taste' and 'bad taste'". Needless to say the material came full circle and we were transported back to square one. The point...aesthetics is unique and personal.

Aesthetics does abound in the universe. Granted the following are abstract and highly geometric, but nevertheless for some provide an aesthetic experience. The photos are from the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. [Mars Global Surveyor was launched in November 1996 and has been in the Mars orbit since September 1997. It began its primary mapping mission on March 8th, 1999].

"Carbon Dioxide Landscape"

"Dark Mesas of Aram Chao"

"Dunes in Noachis"

"Exhumed Craters"

"Small Dunes in Hellas"

"South Polar Layers"

"Sulci Gordii"

"Aesthetics and Motivations in Arts and Science"

Bathsheba Grossman

"Chen Ning Yang on Aesthetics and Physics"



"Fractal Geometry"

"gallery: bathsheba grossman"

"Whither Santayana's Aesthetics"

More websites and images on fractals can be found at "Google".

The Fractal Geometry of Nature


Benoit B. Mandelbrot

ISBN: 0716711869

A snowflake--something special

"I find the ideas in the fractals, both as a body of knowledge and as a metaphor, an incredibly important way of looking at the world."--Al Gore.

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