Quick: Is This A Jackson Pollock Painting, or Insect Flight?

Illustration for article titled Quick: Is This A Jackson Pollock Painting, or Insect Flight?

Can you distinguish a clever data visualization from an abstract expressionist painting?


This happens to be the former, rather than the latter, but you'd be forgiven for not knowing. According to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Flight trajectories of fruit flies during exploration of a 30 cm wide wind tunnel are reconstructed as different colored paths that resemble dribbled paint. Cameras captured fly movements at 1/100 second intervals and the images were scaled according to flight speed so that longer residence times are depicted by longer marks. Star patterns indicate times when the flies were subjected to a brief 40 millisecond gust of wind (directed upward in this image). The experiments revealed how the flies' wind-sensing antennae stabilize their visual flight controller.

The paper that the image is associated with is called "Flying Drosophila stabilize their vision-based velocity controller by sensing wind with their antennae," by Sawyer Buckminster Fuller, Andrew D. Straw, Martin Y. Peek, Richard M. Murray, and Michael H. Dickinson.

A little bit of internet sleuthing shows that the image won first place in the 2008 Caltech "Art of Science" competition when Fuller was a graduate student.

[h/t @aatishb]


Exponential Grape

People say there's some deep deep math in Pollock's work. I'd say either way it's an amazing work of art.