This issue’s cover picture is a creation of Anthony Lee, a young British artist, who has always been fascinated by exploring the possibilities of creating images through light. In Anthony’s eyes, this experimental process is the result of “the idea of an ephemeral substance or state, the idea that the captured moment was never intended to last or be repeated. In my light images neither the light nor the shape can last and yet they stay captured in the image I present.”
It is interesting to notice where both the artistic and scientific processes intersect and interact with each other – and where they do not. The artist, Anthony, is looking for a way to use scientific knowledge to express his personal emotions and inner thrills; and the resultant art is the outcome and purpose that elevates and distinguishes the science. And yet Anthony is bending and filling reality with his own meanings – his “ephemeral” ideas of light and shape – that are changeable and unique to him. Contrast this with the aims of scientists, who look for permanent truths that affect every observer, irrespective of their uniqueness in this space-time continuum.
Questions about what light is and how it plays a vital role in the existence of life have driven the development of scientific knowledge from its earliest days. In particular, in the last two centuries a deep understanding of light led James Clerk Maxwell to formulate the Theory of Electromagnetism – one of the four fundamental interactions in nature – and, through his equations, to completely unify the electrical, magnetic and optical phenomena. Thanks to his obsession with light, Albert Einstein overcame the inconsistency between Newtonian Mechanics and Maxwell’s Equations to create a new pattern where space and time became completely inseparable: the space-time of Special Relativity. His further considerations about the photoelectric effect, combined with Planck’s work on black bodies, finally opened to us the revolution of Quantum Mechanics.
Since light has played this central role in modern physics and mathematics, we have decided to make use of Anthony’s image to represent a new magazine that ‘comes to light’. The bizarre yet intriguing form that appears on the front cover has been created by using a single strip of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), set to a continuous loop of varying colour, and then capturing these sequences with a camera on a slow shutter speed while moving one’s body. As he describes in his fine art project, Anthony feels that the inclusion of his body in the creation of these images makes them not only individual and unique but also representative of him as a person.
Returning to the science, the creation of the blue LED by Professors Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura in the early 1990s led the Nobel committee that awarded the trio the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2014 to declare that “the 21st Century will be lit by LED lamps” – more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than the existing incandescent light bulbs. Whilst red and green LEDs had been around for years, the absence of blue meant that it was not possible to combine the three colours to produce white light. Our cover is art’s small homage to this scientific breakthrough: red, green and blue come together to give birth to a dazzling white.
The shape from which the white springs forth resembles a shell, an object also present in an iconic painting of the Italian Renaissance: Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, painted between 1482 and 1485. Here, it is a nude Venus who emerges from the shell, floating on waves that have been stirred by the breath of the god Zephyrus, who is being clasped by a female figure – possibly the nymph Chloris – in a representation of procreation. Art scholars argue that the artist was influenced by a Platonic Academy present in Florence at the time, which pushed for a revival of Plato’s philosophy, and that the nude Venus is an embodiment of Plato’s ideas of divine love as a vivifying energy and driving force of nature.
In this view, one can use Venus as a representation of the creative drive that unites both artists and mathematicians.
In art, it inspired Botticelli to produce one of the greatest aesthetic creations of the Renaissance period; whilst in mathematics, it motivates us to explore more deeply the beauties of the subject, from which we obtain either a pure aesthetic pleasure or a thrill at having explained the mysteries of nature and social phenomena.
- Anthony Lee is a student of Sound Art & Design at the University of the Arts, London. For more of his art, go to anthonyleefineart.wordpress.com
- Mattia Miglioranza is a PhD student at UCL, interested in Riemannian Geometry, Geometric Measure Theory, Art and Philosophy.
More from Chalkdust
- The story behind Issue 3's cover artwork
- Matthew Scroggs spends too much time beating this arcade classic.
- How derivatives of matrices are being used in your day-to-day lives
- Here is a very exciting way to measure how similar is your music playlist between your friends, or how similar are your Facebook contacts.
- On the mathematics of love, communicating maths to the public, and women in maths.
- Klaus Roth and his work