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About the Artist

Eric J. Heller

Eric Johnson Heller (b. 1946) lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a member of the Physics and Chemistry faculties of Harvard University, where he also received his Ph.D. in 1973. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Physical Society. Eric was selected as the 2005 recipient of the American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry sponsored by IBM Corporation. In 2006, Eric was honored to be elected into the National Academy and will be installed in April 2007. He is currently visiting colleges and universities around the US as a Phi Beta Kappa lecture series speaker. Eric's current research involves theoretical investigation of wave behavior, chaos and quantum mechanics, and collision theory.

Artist Statement

Art has a unique capacity convey insights, intuitively and emotionally, about complex subject matter. If there is a short circuit to wisdom, it is through art. I try to exploit the powers of art to relate secrets of Nature only recently uncovered. A key element in my work is exploitation of Nature's almost narcissistic self-similarity, her repetition of pattern on vastly different scales and in radically different contexts. Consider, the motion of the planets around the sun and electrons orbiting a nucleus, or waves on water and electron waves in a semiconductor. With such repetition, Nature provides her own windows into otherwise secret worlds.

The images I produce always relate to concurrent research. Since September 2004, I have been investigating freak or rogue waves in the ocean. The Rogue image series arises from the complex branching patterns of energy flow that result as ocean waves negotiate a sea filled with complex currents (like the Gulf Stream and the eddies that it spins off). Almost exactly the same patterns arise on a scale one hundred billion times smaller in as electron waves negotiate paths through semiconductors. Both phenomena generate branching patterns familiar from trees and erosion landscapes. The branches are the danger zones: places where rogue waves are more likely to develop. The branches result from an unexpected focusing of wave energy. These images, at the same time abstract and literal, convey some of the mechanisms, the complexity, and the awesome danger of rogue ocean-wave formation.

Computer Process in Art

The images I create go through several stages. The first stage is generation of a raw file that comes from computer simulation of a physical phenomenon. I use several different computer algorithms simulating quantum and classical phenomena. Usually, I write in Fortran©, or use programs written in Mathematica© or Interactive Physics© . The result is a grayscale image consisting of perhaps 25,000,000 pixels of data.

Generation of this raw image is semi-deterministic, somewhat similar to what happens when an artist applies watercolor to paper. The properties of the medium (here the underlying physical phenomenon) do much of the work in creating the image, just as green pigment will fan out to look like grass when applied to wet paper. But first the brush must be loaded and applied with intent! In other images, the original is not grayscale, but rather the process being simulated predetermines the colors.

In the second stage, the raw data file is read into Photoshop, where transformations in color and value take place. In some cases, I combine layers from more than one grayscale rendering. In this stage, while shape and form are maintained, edges are emphasized or suppressed, and color gradients are applied. In some cases, the image starts out as a vector based rendering, which I can transform into line art before rendering as pixels.

The last stage involves a preview on screen that accurately simulates the contrast and color gamut of the final media. In this stage color and contrast adjustments are made which optimize the final print.

All the images are produced on Fuji Crystal© photographic paper from a digital file containing approximately 600 megabytes of data. A LightJet© renders the image, using lasers to expose the paper. Finally, the image is developed in the traditional photographic process.


Ordered Motion and Crystals || Quantum Random Waves || Classical Electron Flow || Quantum Modes and Classical Analogs || Quasi Classical Correspondence, Quantum Scars || Quantum Resonances || Classical Collisions || Quantum Quasi Crystal || Maps || Caustics || Rogue Waves || Screen Savers || Sound

Presented Online by:
Resonance Fine Art

201 Center Hill Road
Plymouth, MA 02360
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