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Vincent van Gogh painted his famous Starry Night a year before his death, in June 1889. Not only is it one of the artist’s greatest works, but it also is one of the most important works of art in the history of Western painting.
In 2004, observations using Hubble Space Telescope revealed swirling clouds of dust and gas surrounding a distant star. And as astronomers claim, these Galaxy images look uncannily like Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.
The scientists began to study how the artist’s works connects to the actual discovery and found out that there is a distinct pattern of turbulent fluid structures in many of Van Gogh’s paintings.
As it turns out, while the famous Dutch painter was in an asylum in France, he captured one of the most complex and elusive concepts in science — turbulence.
In fluid dynamics, turbulence is the term used to describe the fluid flow with a violent disorder where large eddies develop to form smaller scale structures; these smaller eddies in turn undergo the same process, giving rise to even smaller eddies. For example, turbulence causes the formation of clouds. It looks like this:
More than a hundred years ago in a period of intense suffering, Van Gogh was somehow able to perceive and depict one of the most difficult phenomenon nature has ever produced and unite the greatest mysteries of movement and light in his mind.
This discovery encouraged scientists to check the works of other Impressionists to learn whether they could depict turbulence in the same way. But the study showed that their paintings are not as accurate in terms of mathematics, as compared to Van Gogh’s masterpieces. Not even The Scream by Edvard Munch could never match up to Starry Night.
So, in the darkest times of his life, Van Gogh managed to capture one of the most complex and intricate concepts in physics and mathematics.
Look at this video to learn more about turbulence and Van Gogh’s paintings: