Term Paper: Art & Physics

Topics: Dimension, Spacetime, Special relativity Pages: 7 (2366 words) Published: April 23, 2013
Contiuum: Reality in the views of Physic and Arts
Many things happen spontaneously. Many things exist simultaneously. The law of nature would be a description of what has been maintaining this order. While the truth of reality might never be found via experimental means, physicists approach the problem from philosophical standpoints and artists approach through creativity. Einstein in his General and Special Theory of Relativity proposed visualisations to a Minkowskian four-dimensional reality composed of chance-driven space and time variables. This notion of infinite possibilities is then explicitly used in Picasso’s Cubism painting, Bottle, Glass, Fork. Although Einstein and Picasso never discussed such matter together, their works agree on the same view that the world is defined by possibilities, and our existence merely a coincident upon clashing of space and time. The general theory relating space, time and perceptual relations begin with an interpretation of the Euclidean continuum. Einstein visualises this concept of distances between arbitrary measurements with reference to rigid bodies (Einstein, Chapter 24): a marble slab with rods assembling quardrilateral figures, forming a physical “grid” on the plane. Assuming that the rods are uniform in dimensions, the formation of a perfect square would require four of these rods. Likewise, each corner of the square would be surrounded by a total of four squares. It is then deducible, that the second square would only require the addition of three rods, since its fourth side is already settled by the first square. If we are to continue with this process, “the arrangement of the remaining two sides of the [fourth] square is already completely determined [by the previous three squares laid]” (Einstein, 93). This elimination in uncertainty constrains such visual experiment into a very rigid frame; the rods are now defined as absolute unit partitions for distances. So how does this model serve to relate our perceptions to space and time in a more abstract, and perhaps more truthful manner? In accordance to the Euclidean model, the Cartesian coordinates postulate what Einstein would describe as strictly horizontal or vertical paths taken to get from point A to point B through the rods. It is explicitly (or rather implied) in his paper that the Cartesian coordinates (Einstein, Chapter 24), while serving this rod-on-marble-slab model, display properties of x, y coordinates on a two dimensional plane. By defining two bodies’ relation in space and time through theoretically concrete distance measurements, the Euclidean continuum then suggests relation between bodies with regards to space and time in general as fixed rigid bodies. However, the Euclidean model does not remain conclusive. If heat is applied regionally to the marble slabs, Einstein proceeds, the expansion of rods due to extra energy in the heated regions would cause their dimensions to “expand”(Einstein, 94). Consequently the system would no longer be consisted of identical unit partitions. The Euclidean definition of relativity using Cartesian coordinates therefore is aborted. Similar to the scientific toiling in theories of objective relations in space and time, Picasso formulates a visual experiment to better understand reality. Take Bottle, Glass, Fork for example. If we apply an artificial grid over the painting (Figure 1), which does not need to be well calibrated, for arbitrary setups can always be “defined” as uniform—there is no apparent relation between the painting in the back and the grid in the front. It is hardly necessary to argue that the grid appears to explain any object relations in the painting. Now boldly assume all object bodies in this world are interconnected by some undefined relations, and that these relations all governed by a general set of rules, Picasso would have undoubtedly captured such object relations in his painting. But how can we perceive such relation, if the grid...

Cited: Einstein, Albert. Relativity: The Special and the General Theory. Lawson, Robert W., editor. Three Rivers Press, New York, 1961.
Picasso, Pablo. Bottle, Glass, Fork (1911-1912). Oil on Canvas. Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1972.
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