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Physicist's Approaching Chaos on view in Compton Gallery

"My brush is the computer; the paints I use are algorithms based on the flow of electrons, the collisions of molecules and the properties of random waves. I'm trying to convey the mystery and beauty of discovery, and the pleasure and delight of the quantum world." So says Harvard physicist E.J. Heller, whose work is on view at the Compton Gallery through May 6.

Approaching Chaos: Visions from the Quantum Frontier festures striking images in which applications such as acoustics of concert halls and mesoscopic physics are interwoven with artwork -- depicting Dr. Heller's attempts to understand waves and the wave nature of matter (i.e., quantum mechanics).

Dr. Heller's brilliant megascale images -- many 50 inches or larger -- are printed by laser on photographic paper at ultra-high resolution. Inspired by themes coming directly from his own NSF-funded research, Dr. Heller applies deliberate transformations and variations intended to blur the line between science and art.

"Although the work does come out of computer algorithms that Heller writes to mathematically describe scientific phenomena, the result is anything but dry," wrote David Wildman for the Boston Globe (February 11, 2001).

"What I'm doing is more impressionistic," Dr. Heller told Mr. Wildman in comparing his work to fractal art. "Not that I'm comparing myself to him, but it's more like Van Gogh doing a painting of the trees. It's a whole new quantum frontier that I am exploring and bringing to life."

A member of both the physics and chemistry faculties at Harvard University, Eric Johnson Heller is also an accomplished landscape photographer. He has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Physical Society.

"Creating Chaos," a F.A.S.T. Sunday (Family Adventures in Science and Technology) program featuring computer simulations and hands-on activities created by Dr. Heller and MIT physics students, will take place on Sunday, March 25 from 2-4pm at the MIT Museum.

The Compton Gallery in Rm 10-150 is open weekdays 9am-5pm. For this exhibit, there are special weekend hours from noon-5pm.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 8, 2001.

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