Last week, I visited Oslo. Unsurprisingly, given the long nights they have this time of year along the 60th parallel, they have lots of interesting lights! Here is one that I saw in the airport, that reminded me of a void in the cosmic web; its "walls" would correspond to the sheets of paper, its "filaments" would correspond to the seams, and its nodes, or galaxies, would correspond to where seams come together.
I didn't have much other time for art pondering this week, but it seems increasingly likely that Lizzy and I will explore some of the geometry of galaxies in "phase space" ...
A galaxy in even a relatively simple two-dimensional universe forms by folding up a 2D sheet in 4 dimensions, impossible to visualize directly. As a stab at visualizing that, below is a video I made a few months ago.
It's an alternative view of this following 4-fold-symmetric simulation, made by Thierry Sousbie, the author of the fabulous gravitational code ColDICE that I'm using. Here, the color shows the density at each point in the two-dimensional square: deep blue has very little material, and red has a lot of material bunched together.
My movie has the same structure, except pulled apart and tilted a bit ... Thierry's is a projection through the "z-axis" (almost directly out of the screen, but tilted a bit to reveal the structure). This z-coordinate gives the initial distance to the center of the blob. It changes with time as the structure stacks up. The red/white/blue colors are an attempt to track where different parts of the initial sheet end up; the color in different patches remains the same throughout the movie. One thing that does help me to understand the structure is that the bulb at the tip oscillates back and forth but stays the same size ... that means that the part of the galaxy that first formed stays relatively intact, but just oscillates in and out sort of like a pendulum.
Mark and I were very busy this past week with different activities, but we’ve made individual progress on some things. As Mark completes visualizations for his research, he shares them with me, such as the captivating video he is sharing this week!
I downloaded the visualization software ParaView, and have yet to successfully complete any graphing with it. Instead, my partner Craig created a very simple Python script for me which I used to plot some of the same data I shared last week.
To illustrate the the simple power of graphing as a tool of observation and insight, I plotted the data using different styles such as a line, dots, and dots and lines, as well as at different value ranges. The data itself is already a zoomed-in section of a position-velocity phase portrait, and I’ve further zoomed in on what looks like a complex area. “Look, you found an ear.” said my partner when I plotted the first zoomed in section.
Dotted line, dot plot (left) and Lined dot plot (right)
I found the dots to be more illustrative of what is being plotted: a particle in a simulated dark matter sheet. The dots show where the data points “stretch” and “bunch”. Velocity and position are both functions of time, but there are no values for time in this graph. Time is suggested by the data points being numbered from 1 - however many there are, point 3 comes after point 2 comes after point 1… suggests the progression of time. What I noticed from the dot graph is that at high velocities the particle’s position varies by a great degree in certain sections, and when the particle is “slowing down”, going from a higher to a lower velocity, its position changes very little. In the furthest-zoomed-in graphs, the last two, you can see where there are points that create a vertical line, showing no change in position even when velocity is increasing, or decreasing. The vertical line shows up in a few places, as does the occasional two-data-point horizontal line, suggesting no change in velocity even though where was a position change. Here I am, an artist, making the simplest of insights into a plot, and I feel like a real scientist! All of these insights could change or be explained away by different visualization techniques, for example a more refined collection of data points might make vertical or horizontal lines disappear as data points fill in the empty space shown in these graphs. Perhaps “noise” in the data is being smoothed out, something I noticed SciArt collaborators David and Christina mentioned last week. I will have more on these plots next week after I meet with Mark about them! I hope I've done this explanation justice...
Speaking of other SciArt collaborators, I noticed a few lovely synchronicities amongst our updates. We must be reading each others work… David and Christina, working with the sonification of data into musical compositions along with choreography, mentioned their initial exclusion of silence, or musical rests, in the compositions, and how that may be added in a meaningful way. Also mentioned was the perspective on “rest” in dance, analogous to silence in music. I find that “silence” in visual art is vital, for example, empty space, “white space” in graphic design, and blurred details or imprecision are all elements of silence and rest in art. Brittany and Cara, working a little bit with the secret life of insects, mention insects’ silent role in decomposition, “What is required for us to not take silence for granted?” they say. These updates were from the same week! Hey, are you all cross-group collaborating?!
Ben, partnered with Paz, updated last week on the prevalence of the use of data visualization in our collaborations, and the nature of “open access” data, which seems to be not-so-open after all. From what I read, there is a sense of “can I trust this open source data?” in regards to environmental data that, again, seems to be open access. Ben says, “I see why it’s called “invisible data” and I continue to wish for more democratic ways to share scientific research.” From this, I was reminded of one of my first conversations with Mark, in which I asked him whether or not there were any aspects to his research that we should not share with the public, if we would be stepping on any proverbial toes by doing so, or if there were any copyright issues to consider. He assured me that for as far back as he could tell, astronomy research has always been very open, and it seems to be remaining that way. This was one way I acted to establish an atmosphere of trust between us. Joana, partnered with Pooneh, updated last week on her own interface as an artist utilizing institutions for their labs, and how she upholds a standard of gaining the trust of those with whom she works before engaging in a request for collaboration. Maintaining that trust is also central to her success in cross-disciplinary work.
We’re taking a holiday break this week, but will keep communication lines open between us, just no blog! In that time, Mark and I will make a game plan moving towards the end of the residency and will share that in our next update.
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Lizzy Storm is an artist and owner of Lizzy Storm Designs based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mark Neyrinck is an award-winning astrophysicist and cosmologist, and a postdoctoral researcher at Durham University, United Kingdom.