In the 1997 film Contact, the no-nonsense astrophysicist played by Jodie Foster struggles to describes the sights of the galaxy when she’s sent on an intergalactic mission. “They should have sent a poet,” she says, sobbing as she searches for words.
Though I would argue that many physicists are indeed quite poetic (Contact was based on a novel of the same name by astrophysicist Carl Sagan), it is true that one of the challenges facing astronomers and scientists is how to correctly visualize the astounding data they see so that it’s beauty and importance can be understood by laymen.
To this end entire fields of science have sprung up around the proper way to draw galaxies or even particle interactions. In particle physics, scientists track the movement of the particles they study in “bubble chambers” rendering the results in full color glorious fractal patterns. Similarly, scientists take the raw data they have received from telescopes and radio signals and try to translate them into visualization that people without a PhD can understand. These images have the same natural, fractal-like patterns found in art, so it’s not too surprising there are similarities.
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In this video, an astrology artist is stunned to discover her star chart “coordinate” artwork, designed to help her clients discover their stellar “starseed” origins, looks a lot like the art coming out of the particle physics labs.
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“Images from the particle collider are coordinates, y’all,” she captions her video. And she’s not wrong, they are the coordinates of particle decay. That they do so in fractal patterns, just like other bodies in the universe, is only natural.