Wind as Art


In like a lion, out like a lamb.

In March I came across a couple of very cool art projects that use the wind as an active visual medium. Fascinating on many levels, not the least of which is using the invisible to create things visually appealing. The video above uses wind direction arrows, much like you might mount on the top of a mast, to show the constantly shifting patterns of air currents and eddies across a flat plane.


This piece, a web site, does something similar on a continental scale, and as a sailor I find it even more interesting:


April 1, 2012 at 10am. Click on the photo to see a moving map for right now, or click on this link to go to the site: 

Wind Map

It was created by the two person data visualization team of Flowing Media, who now lead Google’s “Big Picture” visualization research group in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Every hour, wind strength and direction data is gather for the entire US from NOAA. The info is then mapped into a flowing visualization of wind patterns across the country throughout the day.

You can follow weather systems across the continent throughout the day. For example, this is a snapshot of March 22 in the morning:



And the same day only hours later:



As a sailor, especially of small boats, you learn to pay acute attention to the wind. You can’t see it directly, so you look for signs of it everywhere. The turning of leaves and bending of limbs along the shore. Flags flying. Cat’s paws blooming across the surface of the water. Telltales. You feel it in the down on your cheek – which side is cooler? Listen to the sounds it makes passing through the rigging.

Like dim stars, blind to us in the Fovea Centralis when we look at them directly, the wind is visible only when we look away and see it in our peripheral vision. It’s a sort of sensory parallax, where you can only perceive something by looking away from it.

I like that.




One Reply to “Wind as Art”

  1. How awesome. Loved that wind map. And you picked March 22 as a test date, that’s my birthday! What are the odds? (Okay, 1:365, but still). Thankx for collecting some interesting examples of science blending with art.

    Have a great forever!

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