MM: What was a mathematical experience that was important to you—perhaps one when you were young that got you into math?
DC: My father introduced me to math, physics, astronomy and lots of other things in the sciences. He built telescopes and we would design the optical systems together. I was always interested in applied math, which is what physics and astronomy really are…math applied to really cool topics.
MM: How did you come to making the mathematical art you do now—algorithmically-generated art in general, and sine-generated meander patterns in particular?
DC: I’ve been playing with the Processing programming language (processing.org) for several years. It is geared to graphic artists and designers with little programming experience, and it allows you to create interactive simulations easily. One of my favorite artists that uses Processing is Jared Tarbell (complexification.net). I became interested in building a “universe” of interacting “agents” that would move around and respond to each other in visually interesting ways. In the process of trying out different rules for the agents to follow, I just stumbled across this sine-generated curve. The curve was so compelling that I kinda forgot about the original idea which was to have these agents interact with each other. I hope to return to that project soon.
MM: How does being a scientist affect your approach to making art? And perhaps vice versa?
DC: My research focuses on nonlinear dynamics and pattern formation in fluid systems. That is, I study the spatial patterns that arise when fluids are agitated (i.e. shaken or stirred). I think I was attracted to this area because of my interest in the visual arts. I’ve always been interested in patterns. The science allows me to study the underlying physical systems that generate the patterns, and the art allows me to think about how and why we respond to different patterns the way we do. Is there a connection between how we respond to a visual image and the underlying “rules” that produced the image? Why to some patterns look interesting, but others not so much?
MM: Are there any thoughts about math, art, or learning that you’d like to share with students?
DC: Take as much math as you can. I took a math class every semester until I graduated from college. And I wish I had taken even more. Math is power. Our scientific knowledge of the universe is written in the language of mathematics. Studying math gives you access to that knowledge. And, besides, it is fun.
If you have a question for David, please leave it in the comments here, and he’ll be happy to reply!