Stargate of Diffraction. Escaping the Labyrinth of Colorful Wires.

This blog has been many things. Experimental poetry playground, notes from the field by a small business owner, popular science and tech blog, compilation of dry research reports, self-referential musing of a web developer. The only intersection between all of this has been me being interested & invested in it.

I had tech-blogged myself into a corner, took a break, returned in the middle of pandemic panic. It felt like exploring a foreign planet. Slowly, I’ve discovered an artistic playground. A playground in the dark, lit with pure spectral colors.

Magically, this code / pure text / math formula blogger has turned into somebody who enjoys creating visual artworks from mathematical physics. I owe to Sir Roger Penrose. His book The Road to Reality is illustrated with the Noble Prize winner’s old-school drawings. He speaks of the magic of complex functions and the Riemann sphere. I could not stop thinking about spinors and the topology of rotations. I was torn between explaining the underlying physics and playing with the beautiful structures. The book that shaped my teenage mind was Gödel, Escher, Bach . I had figured I was mainly inspired by Gödel, but maybe Escher had percolated my brain more deeply.

Subconsciously, I have been searching for a way to constrain my creative options. Get creative in a way that has been working so well for my Found Poetry.  Again, I wanted to construct the labyrinth from which I plan to escape. I can’t say, I set up the rules beforehand. The rules gradually found me, slipping into my work and play.

Physics, it is – not math and code. In the end it is always math and code, but I constrain myself to math related to physics. My first experiments with Penrose’s example functions were a stretch as they had no application in physics (that I was aware of), but they were inspired by a physics book. Now it has been a year since I have started to create diffraction art.

Physics I do remember. I am not scouring physics books to find potentially beautiful math. Remembering like having laid my hands on it, in some way. Remembering spectral colors in the laser lab. Remembering temperature waves in ground I’ve analyzed.

Draw with simple lines. No super computer rendering power required. For the sake of the constraint. In the spirit of creating poetry from the virtual scrapyard. Gleefully using tools not created for art, but for science. Going to where serendipity drags me. I ended up programming colored contour lines because I wanted to visualize a weird complex function, inspired by Penrose. Then I saw delicate wire loops everywhere.

Overload colors with meaning. With diffraction art, there is no leeway: The line of each color exactly represents the wavelength of a laser beam, whose diffracted intensity the curves show.

Science is optional. The artwork should stand on its own. Behind each artwork is a little science and programming project. But more and more often I am resisting the urge to provide all the formulas and go full nerd.

In the dark. I’ve started with colorful wires on white background. But suddenly I switched off the light, and I locked the switch, for now.


Diffraction patterns: Intensity versus wavelength, for a range of spectral colors. Digital physics art by elkement.

Stargate of Diffraction #3. Diffraction patterns: Intensity versus wavelength generated by a diffraction grating of a few slits, for a range of spectral colors. The color of each line represents the exact wavelength of light that generates this diffraction pattern. Weighted by the intensity of blackbody radiation, the temperature being a bit lower than that of the sun. Somewhat realistic parameters of the grating, like the distance of the slits being a few thousand nanometers, and the width of the slit being a few hundred nanometers. Digital physics art by elkement, created with javascript code, using framework p5js. Low resolution version.


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