March 10, 2010

Dr. Eric Johnson Heller is a member of the Physics and Chemistry faculties of Harvard University,  where his recent research has focused on the occurrence of rogue waves like the ones that crashed into a Mediterranean cruise ship last week.  This week’s issue of TIME Magazine describes what happened, and details the long history of these unpredictable ocean events.

Dr. Heller is not only a science professor, he is also an artist. He says that he uses his art to illustrate "secrets of Nature only recently uncovered." He has created a series of computer art works called ROGUE WAVES, in which the patterns replicate the flow of these monster waves.

© Dr. Eric Johnson Heller

As he describes it: "The Rogue image series arises from the complex branching patterns of energy flow that result as ocean waves negotiate a sea filled with complex currents (like the Gulf Stream and the eddies that it spins off)....The branches are the danger zones: places where rogue waves are more likely to develop. The branches result from an unexpected focusing of wave energy." He makes these images as a way of visualizing the way the energy of the waves builds, sometimes resulting in rogue waves like the ones we saw in the Mediterranean last week.

What a wonderful blending of science and art, helping us all to understand this powerful natural phenomenon. 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

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