CONSTRUIT 2017 | Looking behind the Sunflower Image

Looking behind the Sunflower Image


Making construals is a way of using computers that supports the imagination. Our thought-world often contains many disparate ingredients jumbled together – illustrated in this picture of a sunflower.

The composite image symbolises how our minds can integrate, ot least hold together, multiple viewpoints of different agencies and contexts by blending the patterns of observables and dependencies through which they interact.

Bringing together many experiences within one and the same experience is the basis for a construction of shared understanding that has a fundamental role in all computing. This is rather a bold claim – how could it be justified? Do you think it is true? What do you think of it?

We describe the elements we think are portrayed here as follows, starting at the top and moving clockwise, using abbreviations for compass point directions to help.

NNW and N:   part of a botanical drawing of a sunflower

NE: simple photo-realistic image of sunflower petals

E: image of a setting sun – presumably giving the name of ‘sunflower’

SE: detail from one of numerous famous paintings by Vincent Van Gogh

S: drawings of spirals (clockwise and anti-clockwise) on which the florets lie that form the centre of the flower (see below)

SW:  another Blake poem refers to ‘emanation’, and these yellow ‘streams’ may be suggested by this.

W:   commercial fields of sunflowers illustrating the effects of heliotropism (all flowers facing in the same direction)

General: Around the centre of the flower (in white lettering) are the first two lines of a famous poem, ‘Ah! Sunflower’ by William Blake.

The spirals formed by the florets of a sunflower are found to be usually arranged in pairs of consecutive Fibonacci numbers (such as 8 and 13). This is explained in books such as ‘Nature’s Numbers'(by Ian Stewart, see p.135 ff). Such pairs of numbers are well known to be associated with the golden ratio denoted usually by a capital Greek letter phi ( ). This letter appears at the centre of the image.

The central florets eventually become sunflower seeds (one is depicted at the edge of the image).

Many of these themes (such as heliotropism, the sunflower spirals and Fibonacci numbers, golden ratio, the Blake poem, the Van Gogh paintings) have good Wikipedia pages.

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