The science of turbulence falls back on qualitative, descriptive accounts

To understand turbulence we need the intuitive perspective of art.

. . . [T]o fully articulate and understand turbulence we need to add the intuitive, contemplative perspective of art to the detailed analysis of science. There is a long-standing dialogue between art and science on this elusive problem. It is no coincidence the science of turbulence has often been forced to fall back on qualitative, descriptive accounts, while art that celebrates turbulence sometimes resembles a quasi-scientific gathering of data and idealization of form: a search for underlying patterns and regularities.

The interplay of the two perspectives can enhance both. Intuition of turbulent flow can serve the mathematician and the engineer, while careful observation and even experiment can benefit the artist. Scientists tend to view turbulence as a form of “complexity,” a semi-technical term which just tells us there is a lot going on and that everything depends on everything else—and that a reductionist approach therefore has limits. But rather than regarding turbulence as a phenomenon awaiting a complete mathematical description, we should see it as one of those concepts, like life, love, language, and beauty, that overlaps with science yet is not wholly contained within it. Turbulence has to be experienced to be grasped . . .

Read the full article in Nautilus.