Duality of Natural and Technological Explanations

Duality of Natural and Technological Explanations

Anna Ursyn (University of Northern Colorado, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8142-2.ch005
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This chapter provides visual interpretations of natural and human-made events as examples of cognitive solutions for knowledge visualization. Mathematical description of technological and art related solutions pertaining to the earthly and celestial events is followed by examination of physical concepts versus sports. After that, the chapter explores cell biology versus human habitats; description of natural and human-made new materials at macroscopic, molecular, and atomic scales; an account of carbon as a gem, a molecule, and a heart of nanotechnology; and finally, a text about geography and maps, along with objects and events they represent. The leading format of this chapter is integration of multiple disciplines toward developing an interdisciplinary way of delivering knowledge through visualization-related electronic visuals, needed in every discipline. Issues and materials comprised in this chapter indicate the importance of the visual part of knowledge presentation for cognitive learning.
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Introduction: Duality Of Natural And Technological Approaches In Knowledge Visualization

The title of this chapter indicates the duality of our perceptions and attempts to cope with the nature- versus technology-related problems. In accordance with a description of cognitive learning in Chapter 2, the goal of this chapter is to emphasize the role of the visual approach to natural and scientific processes. Duality in the way we approach the theoretical and practical solutions may become a means to explain these processes as a source of inspiration for creating art and knowledge visualization projects.

Science-based problems can be solved as computer graphics, computer art, algorithms, animations, interactive art, VR, or web art. They become examples of cognitive solutions for knowledge visualization. Knowledge visualization has become an integral part of everyday life because of the presence of applications, which present knowledge in a visual way along with numerical and verbal materials. The ubiquitous, pervasive, and wearable apps, bots, medical equipment, wireless and wired communication means are physically present or can be found online, through the phones, and in many other ways. Knowledge visualization can be also done through composing music, producing video, architecture, or 3D installations. Artists examine problems and their solutions to transform them into visualization compositions, which are beautiful for the eye and the mind because they contain unity, symmetry, patterns, golden section instances, and thus imply serenity and beauty.

We often utilize current technological appliances and applications without thinking about scientific disciplines that have been necessary to create them; on the other hand, our knowledge of science disciplines paves the way for creating nature inspired solutions to high-priority problems and their practical applications. Some laws of physics can be explained and visualized as events, for example sport events. On the other hand, topics about human anatomy, nerve and muscle physiology that are involved in supreme sport achievements can be examined in terms of physics. One may see duality in our approaches to everything we tackle.

When cogitating on one’s everyday contact with objects such as a rock in a garden and a mouse on a desk one can find some duality of the ways these objects are encountered and acquainted. Figure 1 shows a work “Duality” created by my student Cameron Grimes. His take is more psychological. It is about our own perception of us. Evidently, it wouldn’t be possible to demonstrate visualization advantages in all disciplines. Selection of the areas discussed in this chapter has followed history of my research enterprises and related teaching assignments for my students taking computer art graphics and computer graphics courses.

Figure 1.

Cameron Grimes, Duality (© 2013, C. Grimes. Used with permission)


While observing nature, both mathematicians and artists examine and analyze phenomena to extract the essential beauty in mathematics and art. Mathematicians decipher the rules and underlying principles, analyze relations and dependencies, solve problems related to recording or notation, and visualize the world’s structure. Artists familiarize themselves with these solutions by reading up on patterns and repetitions to transform and apply the unity or symmetry in their serene compositions (for example, by examining a Fibonacci sequence, prime numbers and magic squares, a golden section, or tessellation techniques), thus attaining a beauty for an eye and mind. Mathematics and art intermingle in projects aimed at visualizing the world’s structure and our knowledge. Mathematicians, computing scientists, and artists used to apply visual metaphors as a cognitive tool. For example, hierarchical structures are predominantly analyzed with the use of a tree metaphor. Manuel Lima called the tree figure the most ubiquitous and long-lasting visual metaphor, “through which we can observe the evolution of human consciousness, ideology, culture, and society” (Lima, 2014, p. 42).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Fibonacci Sequence: A sequence where each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. The recurrence relation is F n =F n-1 +F n-2 .

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: They refer to very small objects, roughly 1 to 100 nanometers in size.

Pollution: The presence of naturally occurring contaminants or introduction of harmful energy, substances or objects into the environment, physical body, a workplace, or material. Water pollution results from releasing waste products and contaminants into surface water. Water can collect soil contaminants, petroleum, pesticides, or fertilizers, and then run into rivers, drain into groundwater. Liquid waste – domestic, commercial, industrial, or agricultural – if not properly disposed, adds to water pollution.

Evolutionary Computing: Transforms computers into automatic optimization and design tools, utilizing the power of the natural selection mechanisms: reproduction, mutation, Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest through inheritance, selection, and crossover. Various approaches to evolutionary computing include genetic algorithms (that mimic natural evolution to solve optimization and search problems), evolutionary programming (strategies using mutation as main variation operator, where a parent generates an offspring according to survivor selection principle), evolution strategies (using mutation and selection as search operators aimed at optimization techniques), and genetic programming (finding programs that would perform a user-defined task). Evolutionary computing resulted in a progress in quantum computing, search algorithms development, sorting, electronic design, evolvable hardware (containing hardware, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems that change their architecture and behavior in response to its environment), and advances in computer programming.

Adhesion: Adhesion occurs when dissimilar particles or surfaces have a tendency to cling to one another.

Microscopy: In nano scale, microscopy comprises the electron beam-based techniques, such as transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM); scanning probe microscopy (SPM), such as atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning tunneling microscopy (STM, with a spot size of 1 to 10 Å), and near-field optical microscopy (NSOM); polarizing optical microscopy (PM – 2D imaging); and fluorescent confocal microscopy (FCPM, 3D imaging), including confocal laser scanning microscopes, spinning disk confocal microscopes, and programmable array microscopes (PAM).

Algorithm: A mathematical recipe, a sequence of instructions telling how to proceed computation to implement it as a program. Algorithms are actually mathematical equations used to create repetition. An algorithm is a procedure for solving a complicated problem by carrying out a fixed sequence of simpler, unambiguous steps. A recursive process means that an algorithm is applied multiple times to perform operations on its previous products. Such procedures are used in computer programs and in programmed learning.

Pattern: An artistic or decorative design made of recurring lines or any repeated elements. We can see patterns everywhere in nature, mathematics, art, architecture, and design. A pattern makes a basis of ornaments, which are specific for different cultures. Owen Jones (1856) AU204: The in-text citation "Owen Jones (1856)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. made a huge collection of ornaments typical for different countries. He wrote an amazing monographic book entitled “The Grammar of Ornament.”

Isomers: Chemical compounds that have the same molecular formula and mass but different structural formulas. Isomerism may be structural (when atoms are placed in different order) or spatial (when atoms are arranged in different positions in space). They may differ in physical or chemical properties because of different arrangement of atoms in their molecules.

Symmetry: The correspondence in size, form, and arrangement of parts on opposite sides of a plane, line, or point. A crystal shows symmetry when it has s a center of symmetry, rotation axes, or mirror planes (imaginary planes that divide it into halves). There are several types of symmetry: for example, line or mirror symmetry, radial, cylindrical, or spherical symmetry. A figure that has line symmetry has two identical halves when folded along its line of symmetry, and these halves are congruent, meaning they are the same size and shape. An object has a radial symmetry when it can be rotated around the rotation axis. For example, with a fourfold rotation axis the crystal repeats itself each 90°. Angles of rotational symmetry possible for crystals are: 60 degrees, 90 degrees, 120 degrees, 180 degrees, and 360 degrees. The halves of the bilaterally symmetrical animals, for example, butterflies, when seen along the axis, form each other’s mirror images. Most animals and people cannot be divided into two identical halves, even when they look symmetrical from external appearance. Two halves of the human brain display different abilities and ways of learning and thinking.

Precipitation: A product of condensation that results in rain, snow, sleet, hail, and small snow pellets, which usually fall under gravity. It happens when air becomes saturated with water as result of cooling or adding moisture by the weather fronts.

Crystallography: The study of the crystal’s form, growth, physical properties resulting from its structure, the nature of the bonding among its atoms, and its chemical composition. Molecular biologists and organic chemists are often crystallographers when they use crystallographic data to examine the structure of organic molecules and ways to concentrate and crystallize the molecules in plants and animals. For example, James D. Watson and Francis Crick proposed in 1952 the double helix structure of the DNA molecule determined with the use of crystallographic data.

Ontology: A philosophical study about being and existence, and their categories and relations.

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