Makematics: Isolines, articles, and future work

I am excited to be taking Makematics at the same time as Digital Imaging: Reset. Edge detection, brightness, hue – computer vision and commonly used sensor algorithms are the foundation of that class. I am deepening my understanding of how sensors receive and interpret light, and how we can use the results.

Light and color are endlessly fascinating to me. I love the way pigments and textures create unique diffraction patterns. The beauty of interference waves on the tip of a feather, or the sheen of a calcium deposit lining the shell of a mollusc. How does this overwhelming variety of pigment, medium, and surface become sorted and made available in image manipulation programs? Where do you have to start to create something like the Photoshop watercolor filter? (a collaboration between Stanford, University of Washington, and Pixar) helped me to understand.
Take a look at Fig 2 from their paper:

Computer Generated Watercolor (Curtis et al, 1996)

To me, those look absolutely realistic (expect possibly for f, which I would expect to have more interference at the center). They arrived at these effects through the fluid dynamics of pigment-loaded water distributed through capillary action on a porous surface. In other words, the math behind real water+color on paper. Fig 3 shows the general model:

Computer-generated watercolors (Curtis et al, 1996)

I find myself drawn to the idea of translating visualizations into tactile representations. In particular, I am interested in assistive technology. Images have incredible power. Particularly in science, the ability to visualize an interaction is directly related to understanding the concepts. You may plod through a textbook trying to imagine how everything relates, but those relationships instantly jump off the page with the right image.

So what do you do when you are not a visual learner? Or when visuals simply are not an option? Sculpture is one option. Stereolithographic math has been around for a long time, and the sculptures we can produce have gotten more and more complex – particularly with advancements in 3D printing. Now you can have impossible earrings, or labeled mathematical models. But surely we can do more, and better! And how can we best teach physics and astronomy, subjects where scale and motion are so critical? I want to find better ways to make this happen. This week’s assignment, exploring isolines and pdf exports that would make 3d modeling simple, are an excellent start.

I only played around with Isolines a little bit, but I can see so many possibilities! Here are some vector export shapes I think make excellent 3D models, or whose outlines were attractively abstract yet perfectly representative of their original color image:

I would love to do some laser etching for a data viz about science education at some point. Exploded, colored graphs – perhaps as custom light fixtures – can get across points that are hard to see with everything cramped into a single layer.


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