When art inspires engineering – The University of Sydney

Simulate a work of art using physics.

“Surprisingly, Karin did not consciously seek to create a representation of a mountain. Later, she realized that she may have been unconsciously influenced by Spielberg’s Devil Tower. Dating of the Third Kind – one of the first movies we saw together when we were kids,” Prof Einav said.

The work was a jumping-off point for science inspired by the engineering team’s art: its similarities to Professor Einav’s field of research prompted consideration of granular phenomena.

To analyze the work, engineers recreated the general patterns of the artwork using a computer simulation model. This allowed them to reverse time and analyze the collective interaction of individual particles they imagined behind like a rocklater analyzing the stalactite formation detected in the process.

“To make the leap from art to science, we recreated the artwork by simulating our imagined particle system using a physics-based computer model of granular systems, allowing us to analyze stalactite structures quantitatively,” said Mr. Benjamin Leithon, honorary graduate student who carried out the simulations.

“Recreate like a rock for scientific demonstration required us to analyze the complex physical processes involved in the formation of granular stalactites – structures that we would not necessarily normally go to study. Understanding the physics behind these structures has the potential to benefit industrial processes where grain ‘sticking’ is a driving factor, such as mud in agricultural environments,” Prof. Einav said.

The engineers said that ultimately the purpose of the study was to encourage others in their field and broaden their minds.

“Doing things the same way over and over again isn’t always innovative or productive. Art, by its very nature, elicits subjective interpretations that should be exploited to generate new ideas or methods.

“When colleagues from different fields saw like a rockit immediately made them think of their own work on circulation networks, capillary adhesion and jet falls.

“By having an open mind and approaching things without preconceived ideas, areas that may have nothing to do with a scientist’s research could inspire a new way of thinking and doing.”

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