In 1889, inspired by a famous astronomical drawing that had been circulating in Europe for four decades, Vincent van Gogh painted his iconic masterpiece â€œThe Starry Night,â€ one of the most recognized and reproduced images in the history of art. At the peak of his lifelong struggle with mental illness, he created the legendary painting while staying at the mental asylum into which he had voluntarily checked himself after mutilating his own ear.
But more than a masterwork of art, Van Goghâ€™s painting turns out to hold astounding clues to understanding some of the most mysterious workings of science.
This fascinating short animation from TED-Ed and Natalya St. Clair, author of The Art of Mental Calculation, explores how â€œThe Starry Nightâ€ sheds light on the concept of turbulent flow in fluid dynamics, one of the most complex ideas to explain mathematically and among the hardest for the human mind to grasp. From why the brainâ€™s perception of light and motion makes us see Impressionist works as flickering, to how a Russian mathematicianâ€™s theory explains Jupiterâ€™s bright red spot, to what the Hubble Space Telescope has to do with Van Goghâ€™s psychotic episodes, this mind-bending tour de force ties art, science, and mental health together through the astonishing interplay between physical and psychic turbulence.