“A Flowing World” (from chapter Water Is Motion)
Flow lies at the heart of our vibrant world: the cascade of a water spout; the undulation of a woman’s tresses; curling smoke and coiling vegetation; the shear flow of Jupiter’s Red Eye Spot or Saturn’s hexagonal storm. A correspondence pattern of flow is at work.
Chinese artists strove to imbue their art with Chi (or Qi), the vital energy of the universe.2 Circulation of Chi produces movement of life, the 17th century painter’s manual The Mustard Seed Garden tells us. The ancient painters of China used to teach, “Take five days to place water in a picture.” Vincent Van Gogh’s well-known painting Starry Night intuited the deep mathematical structure of turbulent flow with remarkable accuracy.
Turbulence is normally associated with unpredictable chaos; and yet, from this chaotic flow emerges a kernel of order in the vortex or eddy form. A kind of self-organized stable chaos; like Kármán vortex streets (alternating swirls caused by a separation of flow around a blunt body) or the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability of vortex waves when two different fluids with different velocities or directions pass each other as in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.
Da Vinci considered the vortex a fundamental feature of flow.
“The vortex is the mediator between the polarity of motion and stillness,” say Wilkins, Jacobi, and Schwenk. Quiescence and motion, vortex generation, metamorphosis, decay and again quiescence, in a continual cycle of motion and transformation: it is creative destruction.
The cycling Ouroboros.
This article is an excerpt from “Water Is…” (Pixl Press) by Nina Munteanu,