Van Gogh Accurately Depicted “Turbulent Flow” Decades Before We Knew How It Worked

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There are some phenomena in the universe that as-of-yet cannot be fully described with mere language, whether that language is linguistic or arithmetic. Turbulent flow is one of those phenomena.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept, turbulent flow is the natural movement of a fluid — meaning, a liquid or a gas — wherein the fluid shifts and mixes, apparently at random.

But it isn’t random. In 1941, Andrey Kolmogorov developed an equation that’s pretty close, albeit not exact, to describing how turbulence works in nature.

However, sixty years earlier, Vincent van Gogh — while in a state of self-alleged psychological turmoil — painted “Starry Night,” in which the sky’s shimmering swirls depict turbulence to near perfection, with eddies that nearly matched those of Kolmogorov’s future equation.

Art, it seems, had transcended knowledge. Watch the video to learn more.

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Matthew M. Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Grand Valley State University, with emphases in fiction and nonfiction. He lives smack-dab between some railroad tracks and Grand Rapids Michigan's third-busiest road, and spends his time studying film and literary fiction.