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Apparent chaos

The title of this entry is inspired by a phrase from 2010 Masterchef winner, Dhruv Baker. During his visit to India in the final rounds of the competition he described the busy scene around him (a market, I think) as 'apparent chaos'. What a perceptive phrase. For me it was the perfect description of somewhere so busy that it has the semblance of chaos without actually being chaotic. Indeed, apparent chaos can be the mark of a high level of order - the result of highly complex dynamics: in the marketplace crowds of people buying and selling, communicating, interacting in complex ways with a view to somehow getting everything done and sorted out.

The image below, entitled "Entropy or complexity" expresses this 'apparent chaos' concept. Its patterns of light travelling through glass, splitting into iridescence as it goes, have a random quality - yet there are physical and optical reasons for all the patterning and textures within the image; determined by the interplay of the shape of the glass, the type of light, the angle of light etc. ... all of which means it's a very very complex order, and not chaos.


entropy or complexity

 'Entropy or complexity' August 2011  Light travelling through glass

Any comments on this are very welcome. I'll post a few more examples in other media at some point.



Animal crackers in my soap!

Happy Christmas everyone!

This image's title is derived from Shirley Temple's 'Animal Crackers in my Soup' which I remember seeing at Xmas when I was small.

I can see at least ten small creatures in here...

'Animal crackers in my soap' a miniature menagerie


Soapadelia shows the passing of time

This image shows two soapy states juxtaposed; relatively static patterning on the left, and on the right, drips of soap mix from above causing dynamic changes in the pattern. 

Relatively static and dynamic states juxtaposed

I am always interested in showing different speeds of flow within one image as their juxtaposition heightens our awareness of time. Time-rich images ... for me, best of all !


The Lightcatcher

One from earlier today

'Lightcatcher' soap film, bubbles, reflections


Just passing through ... thin film interference from plastic tubing

Amazing how strong soap film is.  I spent a few hours yesterday making and photographing a soap film rig where the plane was penetrated by thin flexible tubing. I wanted to see how the flow was affected by the tube passing through the film.  I made a wire frame and attached some tubing in such a way that it passed through the film, and one of my friends from the workshop kindly photographed me holding it:

intrusions from the side - two sections of tube pass through the film

Below is an image of the same equipment now horizontal with an interesting deformation of the soap plane (quatrefoil shape) where the tubing goes through:

accommodating the tubing


so thin, yet so strong

Yesterday in the lab I experimented with pushing objects through soap film, and was amazed that the syringe, shown below, passed through it without breaking the film. We can see the the lower half of the syringe quite clearly although it is actually behind the film.  The bubbles and dark elliptical shape mark the point where the syringe passes through.

flexible film

Below is an image of soap film at a later stage, when it begins to turn black.  I liked the contrast between the two areas; two stages coexisting:

'Black, white and colour'

Below are a couple of light images I took today of light and glass. I felt they had a suitably cool, wintery mood; the lower one reminded me of frost needles.

'glass steps''needles'


Everywhere in chains

'Sci-fi Garden'

I'm intrigued by the way the vortices in soap film emerge one from the other in a linked formation, as in 'Sci-fi Garden', above. Their shapes seem to be unique too; mushroom shaped but often rounded at the top, and as mentioned before, affected in shape by oncoming flow .. must find out more about this. Below are some which are just developing at the edge of the flow:

'on the edge'



New planets discovered!

I found three new planets the other day when I had my telescope out; how lucky is that.



'Epi Hemeris'


Robotomorphism and other morphisms

The robots are coming ..

or maybe they are here already in the Fluids lab at the Uni .. I caught a few candidates yesterday in my sketchbook,  including a fully-fledged one with its lifeline tubes attached, an ominous looking claw, metal twins staring out from the wall .. glad I'm not around the lab at night 

And here are some other morphisms  -

the poppy seed head below reminded me of a knight's helmet, and is called 'as for me .. I'll be a knight' - a line from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

 'as for me .. I'll be a knight' My Flickr stream (see link, right) is full of ambiguous images, and the comments left by viewers reflect a huge range of possible interpretations of my work. People seem to enjoy this process; I think it adds to the image - the ideas are usually different from my own ...  

Below, examples in soap film of how 'eyes' may make us think of creatures; 

 'watching ...'For me, more robots in this one! - and fish below.


Below, one more 'morphism' taken this summer which I entitled 'Birth of the Medusa'. Plants may sometimes may take on strange anthropomorphic forms, especially when they are just emerging, as this one is.

'Birth of the Medusa'


Inexpensive Iridescence - colour comes free!

Here are three images I took recently using iridescent colour - two of soap film, one of light and glass. I like the idea of finding the colour somewhere between the object that is being photographed and the camera.  The colours are often quite elusive, but that makes the process more intriguing...


'New blue planet''ethereal ephemera'


Guess the image? and some technicolour film

HY and BEND detail

This image detail is made up of small pictures which are themselves details of the Fluids lab where I work at the Uni .. then assembled in Mathematica into a bigger picture ... the answer's hanging on the wall in the Harrison Building, Exeter University!

Below are a couple of examples which include further work with my wonderful soap film generator. The first one shows an area about A4 size. Its vortex patterning, where upflow and downflow merge, has an Escher-ish quality, where patterns and their inverse shapes fit together like a jigsaw.

technicolour landscape 

The obliquity of the ecliptic


Apparitions in the lab

Suspended in spaceI love the ephemeral nature of the soap film, and this quality is enhanced by seeing it suspended amongst more tangible objects:

As can be seen from above, quite a large area is now illuminated, thanks to help from a friend in the workshop. I still need to sort out exactly how to position the camera, but it was wonderful to watch the flow over a large area; how for instance descending flow interacted with flow rising back up from the bottom. 

The dynamics of the flow are also interesting at the boundaries .. below is an image showing how the soap attaches to the string and the bubbles. The shape of the flow seems to be determined by these boundaries.

corner flow Below is a close up of streaming downwards from the bubble layer, top, defined by the scalloped edge

coloured labrynth


The bigger picture on film

I've been trying out some new equipment this week built in the workshop for me at the Uni. It's for producing large areas of soap film, and the design is based on one I found at the Exploratorium site

I was delighted to find that this equipment works beautifully, and that the soap film lasted for a few minutes; plenty of time to film it. I now need to work on the lighting, which is a little tricky, as there is a comparatively large surface to be lit correctly, and the light source probably needs to be from above. Direct sunlight is an obvious solution, so I'm hoping for some good weather in order to try it outside!

Meanwhile, here's one I took yesterday using this equipment, with a lamp illuminating a circular area of the film:

global patterning 



Evolution in the making: new video

This video is an exploration of some ideas I had to do with evolution. These thoughts occurred to me whilst I was exploring different kinds of flow in the University lab and at home .. the similarities between the growth of shapes within the ink and those of plant and animal forms would form an intriguing area for exploration.

The video starts with a spinning planet seen from afar, then we plunge down into its surface to explore in detail. Life forms, initially simple in their shape, become increasingly complex as we move through time. The video ends with the spinning planet below a turbulent sky.

It was a great experience collecting the footage over several weeks, seeing different kinds of flow up close for the first time; fantastic!  - I very much hope you enjoy watching it.


A film of a film

Here is a film of soap film which I took yesterday .. never worked with this before, but between the pops it has lots of artistic possibilities


Fun with multi-phase flow

Today at the lab I tried soap films for the first time ... it was great; I loved it! A colleague explained about how it was multi-phase flow; I need to read up a bit about that. The workshop are building me a rig to do these - meanwhile here are a few with my temporary arrangement - more to come soon.




Thirsty work doing a Keynote! - mine's a tonic ...

I had a great evening on Tuesday at the Uni when I presented a talk on my work ... Many thanks to all who came! Long time since I last did a Keynote (two years ago) ... a lot of new work has happened since then, so there was quite a bit to get through ... I enjoyed answering the thought-provoking questions at the end, too.

And afterwards - takeaway chips ... and about two gallons of water!

Here are two images of ink that I took in the lab yesterday as it was sliding and gliding along .. very relaxing to watch; I want do a movie of this creeping flow soon.

sliding off the edge

new levels generate new lines and curve


Liquid fireworks

It's nearly that time again.. and some people have already started fireworks around here. These are some inksplosion pictures I took a few days back - they reminded me of firework colours and patterns, and the glow they make in the dark sky. "Feather flurry' reminded me a little of a catherine wheel with its angled trails.

feather flurryBubbleglow in the sky Bubbleglow in the sky development



My talk next week .. everyone welcome!


After the flow has gone ...

Yesterday in the lab, I arranged some pools of ink, turned off the flow and looked at how the ink arranged itself in a small residual amount of water. Particles suspended in the ink were deposited on the glass surface, and the patterns were reminiscent of aerial views of rivers and estuaries.  The branching patterns also looked like trees and leaves.

Sedimentary foliageI was reminded of my ink on paper work, where the ink would often similar residual patterns as it dried, as in the example below called 'The Deep Winds rising'.

Like underwater currents passing through sea plants

Recently I have been looking for a way of visualizing vortices in one of the larger tanks in the lab - but have not quite got there, partly I think because the flow may be a little choppy.  One of my colleagues suggested a peristaltic pump as being a good source of laminar flow, so I will try that soon when the equipment is ready.

Meanwhile, here are a few vortices within the surface tension-driven flow I tried in the lab yesterday:

'Mushroom vortex'

'Yin and Yang'

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