Multimedia Conversation between
Theoretical Physics and Graphic Design

Masters thesis.

"Multimedia Conversation between Theoretical Physics and Graphic Design." Masters in Graphic Design (MGD) Thesis, Department of Graphic Design, School of Design, NCSU, Raleigh, 1994.

Multi-media conversation between theoretical physics and graphic design.

L. Koonts
Department of Graphic Design / School of Design / North Carolina State University / Raleigh, North Carolina / May 2, 1994 / Masters in Graphic Design




Multi-media conversation between theoretical physics and graphic design.

report text

paper given Dec. 1993

A multi-media conversation between theoretical physics and graphic design.
script from multi-media presentation Feb. 1994

How I got to what I said and why I said in the way I did.



Following three images from review in School of Design Graduate Publication, 1996

Multi-media conversation between theoretical physics and graphic design.

Discussion of design in design terms is often insular. A
conversation between physics and design will generate new ways of
thinking and talking about design. Time is a construct, something we
agree upon as constant in order to do things. Awareness of existence
of constructs leads us to question how we think and solve problems.

Although time is mathematically different for everyone -- depending
on their velocity compared to the speed of light -- the difference
is so small that we can, and do, act as though time is constant. So
we can say, as in deconstruction, that everyone sees a work
differently, but the differences are small enough that viewers get
something similar out of the piece. There is enough commonality of
experience that we can design to communicate messages.

Given any random set of information, a person will organize that
information into some order. In graphic design, we control the
presentation of information to try and communicate a certain message
to the observer. Graphic designers study the components of their
visual world in the same way physicists observe the world, make
guesses, experiment, and generate equations.

In physics, the idea of complementary opposites can be found in the
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Complementary opposites can apply
in talking about design. Choosing two things, such as idea and form,
and talking about them as if they were complementary opposites
provides a framework for discussion and understanding relationships.

This conversation will generate thought/discussion, different ways
of seeing, and an awareness of how we deal with information as we
move between theoretical and applied work in graphic design: the
applied to see if the theories work and to produce work, the
theoretical to look at the applied and to become aware of the
construct. Such internal/external conversations will increase
knowledge of the work itself and expose constructs in
thought/discussion of design.






	understanding through metaphor

	derrida isn't design theory either

	scientific theory is how we think


	so, physics

	Newtonian physics defines only part of reality
		Newtonian physics is old

			MACROSCOPIC atomic / MICROSCOPIC subatomic

			MICROSCOPIC is the realm of the very small

	Objective reality is a fallacy
		objective reality is obsolete


		reality is a closed watch

	Early quantum views as either/or
		a quantum can be seen as a particle or as energy

			particle, energy, particle/energy 

	Western thought deals with dichotomies or polarities
		Derrida criticizes Western metaphysics

			yes vs. no

			Being as presence

		Barthes criticizes Neither-Nor

			heavy, defective words vs. light, pure, immaterial words

			representation of reality = not = reality

	Eastern thought is aware of limitations of language
		Eastern metaphysics

	Einstein on reality
		Einstein says


	What physics says about reality
	Theory of relativity
		before we studied atoms, there was no Theory of Relativity

		MACROSCOPIC atomic / MICROSCOPIC subatomic
		what is matter made of?

			atoms, nuclei, electrons, protons, neutrons/nucleons

		the Theory of Relativity


			E is for ENERGY

			motion, heat, gravitational, electrical, chemical, and so on..

			conservation of energy

			m is for MASS

			mass was believed to be conserved like energy

			but no, mass is a form of energy


			articles are seen as bundles of energy

			space-time in relation to graphic design


			radiation vs. particle, line vs. dot

			line and dot, radiation and particle

	Quantum physics

		no connection between the future and the past ?

		lost in space; gone, not forgotten; buried, not gone

		energy  as information

		lost in space; gone, not forgotten; buried, not gone


	information in terms of thesis research

	recording information

	no objective observer

	information + structure of information + changes in the structure

	Derrida says

	physics, again

	Other examples
		parallelactic shift

		chaos theory
		frame, boundary, information

	Example of physics applied to understanding in design

last words



   +           This presentation focuses on the physics and theoretical aspects 
               of my thesis. The visual exploration will result from this 
               exploration, but I don't know exactly what that will be yet. 
               Physics asks basic questions about our world and these questions 
               relate to our lives and our work as designers. We live in a 
               scientific age. The science of any period affects human thought 
               and identity. When the theory of relativity entered our culture, 
               things became "relative", "it's all relative". The latest modern 
               physics breaks traditional ideas about the frame of our existence.
               The structure of this presentation is loosely linear. All of this 
               functions on many levels. I can't address all the levels and their 
               connections at once. It is not necessary to understand detailed 
               physics to grasp the content of this presentation.
understanding  For me, it seems more straightforward to take the theory from 
metaphor       another subject and apply it to a discussion of design than to 
               talk directly about design. How do we talk directly about design 
               anyway? What vocabulary, what philosophy? 
derrida isn't  The theories of deconstruction, come from Derrida's literary 
design theory
either         theory. This is (quote)"outside" theory applied to design. Just as 
               some physicists have drawn parallels between the most recent 
               modern physics and Eastern philosophy, so does Derrida talk of 
               Western metaphysics. 
theory is how  Science and design deal with change in both applied and 
we think,
especially in  theoretical framework. Shifts in technology, our idea of beauty 
this scienti
fic age        and our perception of the world affect construction and 
               interpretation of our work. Science has a lot to do with how we 
so, physics
               understand our world and how we see ourselves. Physics seeks to 
               answer basic questions about life and reality.
Newtonian      Scientists are realizing that Newtonian physics describes reality 
physics is old
               within a boundary. A set of rules can explain the path of an 
(show ball in  object in motion. We can mathematically know where the object will 
               be in space over a period of time.   Newtonian physics is a closed 
               system. This does not mean it is no longer valid as a description 
               of reality; but that is defines only a part of reality. We apply 
(show air      this physics every day to fly airplanes and build buildings . 
               Parallel lines are theoretically not straight, but the difference 
(show building)
               is so small in the framework of reality within which we build 
               buildings that the applied physics of parallel and perpendicular 
               lines functions.

[ball in motion] [airplane] [building] [newtonian framework] [cathedral dome]

(show newton The concepts of quantum physics are outside of the Newtonian ian framework, with frame) system. The recognition of lack of definitive knowledge in this scientific age has made us look at the framework through which we view the world. There is an awareness that there is more than one framework. The old idea of objective reality is obsolete. MACROSCOP Newtonian Physics does not work to define reality on IC atomic / MICROSCOPIC MACROSCOPICatomic/MICROSCOPICsubatomic levels subatomic MICROSCOPIC For example: (Zukav. 57) The dome of Saint Peter's basilica in the is the realm of the very small Vatican has a diameter of about fourteen stories. Imagine a grain (show of salt in the middle of the dome of Saint Peter's with a few dust cathedral dome) particles revolving around it at the outer edges of the dome. This (show grain of salt and dust gives us the scale of subatomic particles. It is in this realm, particles) the subatomic realm, that quantum mechanics is required to explain particle behavior. objective In Zukav's book, The Wu Li Masters : An overview of the new reality is obsolete physics he says: (Zukav. 55) The concept of scientific objectivity rests upon the assumption of an external world which is "out there" as opposed to an "I" which is "in here". According to this view, Nature, in all her diversity is "out there". The task of the scientist is to observe the "out there" as objectively as possible. To observe something objectively means to see it as it would appear to an observer who has no prejudices about what he observes. The problem that went unnoticed for three centuries is that a person who carries such an attitude certainly is prejudiced. His prejudice is to be "objective", that is, without a preformed opinion. In fact, it is impossible to be without an opinion. An opinion is a point of view. The decision itself to study one segment of reality instead of another is a subjective expression of the researcher who makes it. It affects his perceptions of reality, if nothing else. Since reality is what we are studying, the matter gets very sticky here. and later : NEWTONIAN (Zukav. 101) The real problem is that we are used to looking at PHYSICS vs. QUANTUM the world simply. We are accustomed to believing that something is PHYSICS there or is not there. Whether we look at it or not, it is either there or it is not there. Our experience tells us that the physical world is solid, real, and independent of us. Quantum mechanics says, simply, that this is not so. (show table of comparison)

               (ZUKAV. p 66) 
               NEWTONIAN PHYSICS

               Can picture it.

               Based on ordinary sense

               Describes things; individual
               objects on in space and their
               changes in time.

               Predicts events.

               Assumes an objective reality
               "out there".

               We can observe something without
               changing it.

               Claims to be based on "absolute
               truth"; the way nature really is
               "behind the scenes".
(ZUKAV. p 66) 

Cannot picture it.

Based on behavior of subatomic
particles and systems not
directly observable.

Describes Statistical behavior
of systems.

Predicts probabilities.

Does not assume an objective
reality apart from our own

We cannot observe something
without changing it.

Claims only to correlate
experience correctly.
               (Zukav. 35) Albert Einstein wrote : Physical concepts are free 
               creations of the human mind, and are not however it may seem, 
               uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to 
reality is a   understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand 
closed watch
               the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving 
(show a
watch)         hands, even hears its ticking, but has no way of opening the case. 
               If he is ingenious he may form some pictures of a mechanism which 
               could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may 
               never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could 
               explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his 
               picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the 
               possibility of the meaning of such a comparison.
a quantum can  Depending on the way it is observed, a quantum can be seen as a 
be seen as a
particle or as particle or as energy. 
               (Zukav. 103)[..the wave and particle characteristics of light are 
               unified by quantum mechanics, but at a price. There is no 
               description of reality.
               The fundamental theoretical theory in quantum physics is the wave 
               function. The wave function is a dynamic (it changes as time 
               progresses) description of possible occurrences. But what does the 
               wave function describe, really? According to western thought, the 
               world has only two essential aspects, one of which is matter-like 
               and the other which is idea-like.
               The matter-like aspect is associated with the external world, most 
               of which is conceived to be made up of inanimate stuff that is 
               hard and unresponsive, like rocks, pavement, metal, etc. The idea-
               like aspect is our subjective experience. Reconciling these two 
               has been a central theme of religion throughout history. The 
               philosophies which champion these aspects are Materialism ( the 
energy         world is matter-like, regardless of our impressions) and Idealism 
               (reality is idea-like, regardless of appearances). The question 
               is, which one of these aspects does the wave function represent?
particle       The answer, according to the orthodox view of quantum mechanics, 
               is that the wave function represents something that partakes of 
               both idea-like and matter-like characteristics.]
Derrida      Derrida criticizes the Western use of this same either/or thinking
Western metaphysics
               (Derrida. Dissemination. viii) Derrida follows Nietzsche and 
               Heidegger in elaborating a critique of "Western metaphysics," by 
               which he means not only the Western philosophical tradition but 
               "everyday" thought and language as well. Western thought, says 
yes vs. no
               Derrida, has always been structured in terms of dichotomies or 
               polarities: good vs. evil, being vs. nothingness, presence vs. 
               absence, truth vs. error, identity vs. difference, mind vs. 
               matter, man vs. woman, soul vs. body, life vs. death, nature vs. 
               culture, speech vs. writing. These polar opposites do not, 
               however, stand as independent and equal entities. The second term 
               in each pair is considered the negative, corrupt, undesirable 
               version of the first, a fall away from it. Hence, absence is the 
               lack of presence, evil is the fall from good, error is the 
               distortion of truth, etc. In other words, the two terms are simply 
               opposed in their meanings, but are arranged in a hierarchical 
               order which gives the first term priority, in both the temporal 
               and the qualitative sense of the word. In general, what these 
               hierarchical oppositions do is to privilege unity, identity, 
               immediacy, and temporal and spatial presentness over the distance, 
Being as pres-
ence           difference, dissimulation, and deferment. In its search for the 
               answer to the question of Being, Western philosophy has indeed 
               always determined Being as presence.
               Barthes says, in criticism of 'Neither-Nor'
Barthes criti-
cizes Neither- (Barthes. Mythologies. 81) We are dealing here with a mechanism 
               based on a double exclusion largely pertaining to this enumerative 
               mania...the word, ballasted by a prior culpability, quite 
               naturally comes to weigh down one of the scales. For instance, 
               culture will be opposed to ideologies. Culture is a noble, 
               universe thing, placed outside of social choices: culture has no 
               weight. Ideologies, on the other hand, are partisan inventions: 
               so, onto the scales and out with them! Both sides are dismissed 
               under the stern gaze of culture (without realizing that culture 
               itself is, in the last analysis, an ideology). Everything happens 
               as if there were on one side heavy, defective words (ideology, 
heavy, defec-  catechism, militant), meant to serve for the ignominious game of 
 tive words
    vs.        the scales; and on the other, light, pure, immaterial words, noble 
light, pure,
 immaterial    words, noble by divine right, sublime to the point of evading the 
               sordid law of numbers (adventure, passion, grandeur, virtue, 
               honor), words placed above the sorry computation of lies.
representation How we think is our reality:
  of reality   
   = not =     (Capra.28) For most of us it is very difficult to be constantly 
               aware of the limitations and of the reality of conceptual 
               knowledge. Because our representation of reality is so much easier 
               to grasp than reality itself, we tend to confuse the two and to 
               take our concepts and symbols for reality.
Eastern meta   On the other hand:
               (Capra. 44) Whenever the Eastern mystics express their knowledge 
               in words--be it with the help of myths, symbols, poetic images or 
               paradoxical statements--they are well aware of the limitations 
               imposed by language and 'linear' thinking. Most physics has come 
               to exactly the same attitude with regard to its verbal models and 
               theories. They, too, are only approximate and necessarily 
               inaccurate. They are counterparts to the Eastern myths, symbols 
               and poetic images, and it is at this level that [Capra draws] the 
               Mathematics is a language of physics. And 
Einstein says  (Capra. 41) Einstein says: As far as the laws of mathematics refer 
               to reality, they are not certain; and, as far as they are certain, 
               they do not refer to reality.'
before we      What we think of as reality is really conclusions made from 
studied atoms, 
there was no   observation that work within a certain framework. Before study of 
Theory of
Relativity     the world of atoms, there was no theory of relativity. 
               (Capra. 199)Physics in the twentieth century has been 
MACROSCOP-     characterized by an ever progressing penetration into this world 
IC atomic /
MICROSCOPIC    of submicroscopic dimensions,down into the realm of atoms, nuclei 
what is        and their constituents. This exploration of the subatomic world 
made of?       has been motivated by one basic question which has occupied and 
               stimulated human thought throughout the ages: what is matter made 
               of? {(Zukav. 45) The idea that the atom is the indivisible 
               building block of nature was proposed about four hundred years 
               before Christ, but until the late 1800's it remained just an 
               idea.) }
               ...With the help of a highly sophisticated technology, physicists 
               were able to explore first the structure of atoms, finding that 
               they consisted of nuclei and electrons, and then the structure of 
               the atomic nuclei which were found to consist of protons and 
               neutrons, commonly called nucleons. ..and then the structure of 
nucleons       the nucleons--the constituents of the atomic nuclei--which, again, 
               do not seem to be the ultimate elementary particles, not seem to 
               be composed of other entities.
               ..in the world of atomic nuclei,...we deal with dimensions that 
               are a hundred times smaller than the atomic divisions, and 
               consequently the particles such small dimensions move considerably 
               faster than those confined to atomic structures. They move, in 
               fact, so fast that they can only be described adequately in the 
               framework of the special theory of relativity. 
the Theory of  ...The characteristic feature of the relativistic framework is, as 
               mentioned previously, that it unifies basic concepts which seemed 
               totally unrelated before.
               For example: the equivalence of mass and energy which is expressed 
               mathematically by Einstein's famous equation E=mc2
               ..To understand the profound significance of this equivalence we 
               first have to understand the meaning of energy, and the meaning of 
E is for       Energy is one of the most important concepts used in the 
               description of natural phenomena. As in everyday life, we say that 
heat           a body has energy when it has the capacity for doing work. This 
electrical     energy can take a great variety of forms. ...Whatever the form is 
and so on..    it can be used to do work. ...In physics, energy is always 
               associated with some process, or some kind of activity, and its 
               fundamental importance lies in the fact that the total energy 
of energy      involved in a process is always conserved. ..The conservation of 
               energy is one of the most fundamental laws of physics.
m is for MASS  ...The mass of a body, on the other hand, is a measure of its 
               weight, i.e. of the pull of gravity on the body. ...mass [also] 
mass was       measures the inertia of an object, i.e. its resistance against 
believed to
be conserved   being accelerated. ...In classical physics, mass was ..associated 
like energy
but no         with an indestructible material substance, i.e. with the 'stuff' 
               of which all things were thought to be made. Like energy, it was 
               believed to be rigorously conserved, so that no mass could ever 
               get lost.
mass is a form Now relativity tells us that mass is nothing but a form of energy. 
of energy
               Energy can not only take the various forms known in classical 
               physics, but can also be locked up in the mass of an object. The 
               amount of energy contained , for example, in a particle is equal 
               to the particle's mass, m, times c2, the square of the speed of 
E=mc2          light; thus E=mc2. Once it is seen to be a form of energy, mass is 
               no longer required to be indestructible, but can be transformed 
               into other forms of energy.]
               (Capra. 202)...mass is no longer associated with a material 
particles are  substance, and hence particles are not seen as consisting of any 
seen as
bundles of     basic 'stuff', but as bundles of energy. ...To understand this 
               better, we must remember that these particles can only be 
               conceived in relativistic terms, that is, in terms of a framework 
               where space and time are fused into a four-dimensional continuum. 
               The particles must not be pictured as static three-dimensional 
               objects, like billiard balls or grains of sand, but rather as 
               four-dimensional entities in space-time. Their forms have to be 
               understood dynamically, as forms in space and time.Subatomic 
               particles are dynamic patterns which have a space aspect and a 
               time aspect. Their space aspect makes them appear as objects with 
               a certain mass, their time aspect as processes involving the 
               equivalent energy.
               These dynamic patterns, or 'energy bundles', form the stable 
               nuclear, atomic, and molecular structures which build up matter 
               and give it its macroscopic solid aspect, thus making us believe 
               that it is made of some material substance. 
space-time in  The ideas of space-time can be applied to the way we view graphic 
relation to
graphic        design. The design is often a 2-dimensional piece. The x,y plane. 
               The z plane the distance from the viewer (book, poster). The 
               designer seeks to influence in the space-time aspect by means of 
               visual hierarchy.
quantum        Earlier, I threw out the unexplained statement:
               Depending on the way it is observed, a quantum can be seen as a 
 radiation     particle or as energy. 
 particle      A quantum is a discrete entity, (Zukav. 45) a quantity of 
  line         something, a a specific amount, the equivalent of the mass/energy 
  dot          needed for a jump of a photon from one level to another. It can be 
line and dot   seen as radiation or as a particle depending on the way the 
radiation and  experimenter observes it. 
               Radiation/particle, line/dot ??? think of a pencil, turn it so it 
               looks like a dot, so it looks like a line. The dot(particle) is 
               essentially the end of the line while the line(radiation) is the 
               side view of the line.
BLACK HOLE     Now questions like what happens to the energy escaping from a 
               black hole push at our ideas of reality 
               (Hawkins. 100) All present physics is based very heavily on the 
               assumption that you can recover the past from the present--in 
               principal, if not always in practice. ...black holes seem...to 
               break this rule.
               Physicists like to be able to follow particles back in time. With 
               a particle accelerator, for example, they smash subatomic 
               particles together, the retrospectively piece together the details 
               of the collision from the resulting spray of newly produced 
no connection  ...it would be a very basic blow,...to the whole philosophy of 
between the
future and the science if there weren't a unique connection between the future 
past ?
               and the past.
lost in space  ...Physicists fall into three camps over the eventual demise of 
               black holes. LOST IN SPACE the radiation escaping from the hole 
               says nothing about its past history
gone, not for  GONE, NOT FORGOTTEN things falling into the black hole interact 
               with the radiation. The information escapes encoded in the 
               radiation in a way we can't yet decipher
buried, not    BURIED, NOT GONE when a black hole explodes it leaves behind a 
               horn-shaped remnant containing information about everything that 
               ever fell in. None of it, though, can ever escape
energy  as     Physicists often talk about the energy as information. If we think 
               about the energy escaping from the black hole as information, we 
lost in space  can, on a surface level, talk about information escaping from a 
gone, not for  piece of work. Design is about discovering the past from the 
               present, the intention from the finished piece. The three theories 
buried, not    of the demise of the black hole provide a way of thinking about 
               what happens to information in design. Design in many ways tries 
               to establish some present presence of some space and time.
information    RESEARCH AND RECORDING RESEARCH (everything relates to the thesis)
in terms of
thesis         The acts of researching this thesis, and recording the research 
               reflect issues within the thesis. If there is no objective 
information    observer then I must realize that I am a subjective observer. I 
               cannot study from a viewpoint outside of human experience, or my 
no objective
observer       personal experience. 
               The need for research documentation led to questions about how to 
information    record the event of research. Trying to catalogue not only the 
structure of   information itself, but the structure and changes in relation of 
     +         information. Since the event is occurring in me, I began to feel 
changes in
the structure  that, if I am to be consistent with the idea of the non-existence 
               of the objective observer, there is no way to avoid a certain 
               self-centeredness, even though this feels uncomfortably self-
               And then I read Derrida and he says:
Derrida says:
               (Derrida. Acts of Literature. 34) 
               "Autobiography" is perhaps the least inadequate name, because it 
               remains for me the most enigmatic, the most open, even today. 
               Still today there remains in me an obsessive desire to save in 
               uninterrupted inscription, in the form of a memory, what happens--
               or fails to happen. What I should be tempted to denounce as a 
               lure--i.e., totalization or gathering up--isn't this what keeps me 
               going? The idea of an internal polylogue, ...of keeping a trace of 
               all the voices which were traversing me--or were almost doing so--
               and which was to be so precious, unique, both specular and 
               ...I don't dream of either a literary work, or a philosophical 
               work, but that everything that occurs, happens to me or fails to, 
               should be as it were sealed (placed in reserve, hidden so as to be 
               kept, and this in its very signature, really like a signature, in 
               the very form of the seal, with all the paradoxes that traverse 
               the structure of a seal). The discursive forms we have available 
               to us, the resources in terms of objectivizing archivation, are so 
               much poorer that what happens (or fails to happen, whence the 
               excess of hyper-totalization). This desire for everything + n--
               naturally I can analyze it, "deconstruct" it criticize it, but it 
               is an experience that I love, that I know and recognize. ...As 
               soon as things become a little sedimented, the fact of not giving 
               anything up, not even the things one deprived oneself of, through 
               an interminable "internal" polylogue (supposing that a polylogue 
               can still be "internal") is also not giving up the "culture" which 
               carries these voices. At which point the encyclopedic temptation 
               becomes inseparable from the autobiographical. And philosophical 
               discourse is often only an economic or strategic formalization of 
               this avidity.
               In his lecture at Duke, Derrida, in an apparent effort to record 
               things un-recordable, talks of the idea of specter, apparition, 
               (Derrida's lecture at Duke) If it exists, it corresponds to name. 
               If it is essence, this thing defies semantics, psychology, 
               philosophy. It is invisible, cannot be seen when one speaks of it, 
               but it has been seen. ...It is so strange, this thing that one has 
               to approach it with metaphysical and theoretical eyes. 
physics, again ok, BACK TO PHYSICS:
               Examples of more things ways the philosophy of physics parallels 
parallelactic  parallelactic shift -- repetition of same, same, same then same 
               but 2 degrees off. the change draws attention to the thing 
chaos theory   chaos theory -- chaos and random are not the same. for example: 
               your coffee is a seething of brownian not random motion; and the 
               things that make up the coffee cup are chaotic but still hold 
               together and contain the coffee. Is this not amazing.
boundary       concepts reflected in terms -- frame, boundary, information
INFORMATION    The ideas of energy and information in physics are interesting and 
               relate well to design:
(draw          If a thing is low on information it will seek information. It 
               takes energy to get information, loosing information will increase 
               energy. A thing not only seeks information but tries to retain it. 
               The information knows about each other and how to hold each other.
               Information is organization.  It takes energy to RETAIN and to 
               SEEK information. There is a conflict if the energy to bring in 
               new information is greater than energy available. Then some energy 
               needs to come from the energy retaining the structure. There is a 
               resistance to loosing the structure; to new information.
               This idea of a system can be applied to many areas:
               DNA. The structure of DNA is not only about what is in the strand 
               but the TOPOLOGY of the folded strand. The overlapping, 
               intertwining strands of DNA form a hole for other structures to 
               fall into. 
               In design, a hole for people to fall into, to hold them while 
               giving them information. Not a thing the viewer accesses from 
               Or:  If a viewer has to expend energy to get information, how get 
               him to expend the energy?
               If, there is not a lot of free energy, how get the viewer to loose 
               information so can gain the information you want him to gain.
               Also: If information in a piece is in a similar 
               structure/organization to the information in the viewer, will he 
               be more likely to pick it up, will it be easier to assimilate.
               Discussion could continue, there is much research not included, 
               but it's time for the:
last words     WORDS AT THE END
               When we talk in physics about -- hydrogen atoms, for example, 
(show the      (Zukav. 38) "Hydrogen atoms" is a speculation about what is inside 
watch again)

               of the watch. We can say only that the existence of such entities 
               nicely explains certain observations that would be very difficult 
               to explain otherwise, barring explanations such as "the devil did 
THE DEVIL      it", which may still prove to be correct. (It is this kind of 
               explanation that drove Galileo, Newton, and Descartes to create 
(show the
devil)         what is now modern science).
[watch] [devil]

These sentiments have strong parallels in graphic design.


A multi-media conversation between theoretical physics and graphic design.
script from multi-media presentation Feb. 1994


video script : 
Hello. Welcome to a conversation between theoretical physics and graphic design. I will be your guide for the evening. I would like to thank theoretical physicist , Mr. Knowledge for joining us. You have entered the door of objective reality, please continue around the circle and exit at the door of subjective reality. Please follow me down the stairs to room 202. the site of our multi- media conversation.
conversation between theoretical physics and graphic design we could take any two things, talk about them and how we think about our world how we think about design we start at objective reality, continue around the circle to subjective reality and return to objective reality; realizing that objective reality is really a construct, things we agree upon and act as if they are real This is a THEORETICAL discussion. It is important to go back and forth between THEORETICAL and APPLIED. if you have a project due tomorrow you might heed this Buddist story story script :
A man is walking down a path. He walks off the path into the woods. He is shot by an arrow. He is sitting against a tree dying when a doctor comes along. The doctor says, if you pull out this arrow you will live. The man says no wait, first tell me what the feathers are made of, tell me type of wood the arrow is made of, tell me the DNA of the poison. The doctor says, you don't have time for this discussion. Just pull out the arrow so you can live.
so --> sometimes you need to apply your knowledge and pull an arrow out of your piece of work -->having had theoretical discussion you will be more aware of your work, and less blindly accepting of constructs within the work and the way we think about design MOVE TO ROOM 202 (the site of our multi-media conversation) ROOM 202 LIGHTS--OFF, PROJECTORS--ON, POWERS OF TEN--ON audience enters and is seated SLIDE PROJECTOR-ON SLIDE [TEXT: PHYSICS + DESIGN] (cue for films off) PROJECTORS--OFF, POWERS OF TEN--OFF physics + design surrounded by physics physics is a fairly good definition of "reality" still, it is all a construct just rules that we agree upon in order to: SLIDE [BALL IN MOTION] chart the path of a ball SLIDE [AIRPLANE] fly airplanes SLIDE [HOUSE] build houses SLIDE [TEXT: THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY] ball in motion airplane house
the Theory of Relativity as Mr. Knowledge will soon explain, even time is a construct. we think of time as a constant. but time varies, as our speed varies compared to the speed of light. I'll let Mr. Knowledge explain. SLIDE PROJECTOR-OFF, VIDEOhouse right[MR. KNOWLEDGE SPEAKS]--ON script Mr. K :
There is no such thing as absolute length or absolute time in relativity. This contradicts our intuition, or what we call common sense. However, common sense ideas are based on everyday experiences, which ordinarily do not involve speed-of-light measurements. The speed of light has the same value for all observers, independent of the motion of the light source or observer. The speed of light, c = 3.00 X 10 to the 8 m/s. If we are moving at the same velocity, time is the same. If someone is moving away from us at some velocity, we see his time to be different from ours. This is because his velocity is different compared to the speed of light from ours. For Example: a person throws a ball in a moving boxcar, the speed of the ball relative to a stationary observer is u+v, where v is the speed of the ball relative to the person in the boxcar Another Example: if a person sends out a pulse of light in a moving boxcar, the speed of light is c, the velocity of the boxcar is v, the speed of the pulse of light will be c+v relative to the stationary observer. Yet Another Example: now. no matter how fast or slow the rider is going, they perceive time as constant. If she is going very fast, closer to the speed of light than you, you will look at her and from your point of view her time will be slower. Another example would be someone on the earth, observing an > astronaut traveling in space. The phenomenon of time dilation was also measured by comparing very stable atomic clocks in jet flight with reference clocks on the ground. (time differences on the order of 10 to the -9 s were observed) thats 1/1000000000s, one billionth. This concludes our discussion on the theory of relativity. I'm Mr. Knowledge.
VIDEOhouse right[MR. KNOWLEDGE SPEAKS]--OFF Thank you Mr. Knowledge. OK. so 1/billionth m/s is small it is so small that even though time is different, we can (and do) act as if time is constant. also. even though time is different, we can mathematically, using equations, figure out how time is different. so we can say -- as in deconstruction -- that everyone sees a piece of work differently -- but the differences are small enough that they get something similar out of the piece SHOW COFFEE CUP no inherent existence We can deconstruct this coffee cup, talk about particles, how its time is different, ... construct we call a coffee cup perhaps. we understand more about form the coffee cup is a construct, but we use it to drink coffee out of! NOW, 2 AUDIENCE PARTICIPANTS, 'I SQUASHA YOUR HEAD' EXAMPLE. she is moving away from him and sees his time as slower. he is also experiencing the same velocity separation and sees her time as slower DON"T TAKE EXAMPLE TOO LITERALLY WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? VIDEOhouse right-ON, VIDEOhouse left-ON script videos :
(house right) First I say, time is a construct -- objective reality. (house left) Then I say, time is different for me than it is for you -- subjective reality (house right) Then I say, OK its different, but we all act as if it were the same, its a construct
VIDEOcenter-ON script video :
(center) What we call objective reality is only a construct we agree upon so we can do things. What does it all mean? Aaaaauuuuggghhhh!!!
VIDEOhouse right-OFF, VIDEOhouse left-OFF VIDEOcenter-OFF OK. so time is a construct, we act as if time were the same for everyone (because in our normal range of movement, it practically is) and, we can do things like .. plan to meet at cup-a-joe's 3pm on Sunday VIDEO SCREEN-UP CHALKBOARD so, we did this: obj to subj to constr obj start at any pt. on circle we can also draw this circle and time dist. event time and distance of observer, observing event. or a piece of work and dots are viewers. they take in information from the work AND INFORMATION INFORMATION we are constantly taking information and making some sense out of it. that is what we do. given any random set of information, we will organize that information into some order in graphic design, we try to find the right balance between TOO MUCH and TOO LITTLE information. we control the amount/ type,color, size... if information in an effort to communicate a certain message to the observer talk about circle again. circle we want to control the info and way of presenting it, so that all people at diff. pts. on circle --->know the essential information EX. SPEAKER 5PM MONDAY JULY 20TH, 1994 JOHN SMITH, SUBJECT OF LECTURE ----> and, some tone of information so. even though, everyone's time is different we act, as though time is constant. even though, everyone sees things differently there is enough commonality so we, can design to communicate information also use the circle circle again say that if each pt. is looking at a different part of the design it doesn't matter where the observer starts but, that when he see's ALL of the parts, HE HAS THE INFORMATION FROM THE PIECE. so what does this mean? say a poet writes a poem
the poem has something, 
a tone, 		
say a B-flat
sees the piece
sees many different 
things in the poem
can agree 

this is graphic design
we've talked about the circle we can also talk about : subjective reality objective reality theoretical physics graphic design theoretical applied position momentum as complimentary opposites measure position momentum -----> -----> particle fast * * slow in physics, the idea of complimentary opposites can be found in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. PHYSICS AGAIN. We need Mr. Knowledge. VIDEOhouse right[MR. KNOWLEDGE SPEAKS AGAIN]--ON video script, Mr. K speaks again :
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle If you were to measure the position and velocity of a particle in motion you would always be faced with experimental uncertainties in your measurements. Since radiation and matter have a wave particle dual character, is is fundamentally impossible to make to make simultaneous of the partlicles position and velocity with infinite precision. This statement, known as the Uncertainty Principal, was first proposed by Leonard Heisenberg in 1927. It is physically impossible to measure simultaneously the exact position and exact momentum of a particle. The more certain you are of one the less certain you are of the other. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal allows us to better understand the dualistic wave particle nature of both light > both light and matter. The wave description is quite the opposite of the particle description. For example, if an experiment is designed to reveal the particle character of an electron, such as the photoelectric effect, its wave character will become fuzzy. Likewise, if the experiment is designed to accurately measure the electron's wave properties, such as diffraction from a crystal, its particle characteristics will become fuzzy. Compilmentary opposites, we say that the wave character and the particle character are complimentary opposites. We can use the idea of complimentary opposites in talking about design.
VIDEOhouse right[MR. KNOWLEDGE SPEAKS AGAIN]--OFF so: complimentary opposites... Russian Filmmaker, Andrey Tarkovsky, in his book, "Sculpting in Time : Reflections on the cinema" says :
"The true artistic image is always based on an organic link between idea and form" "Any imbalance between form and concept will preclude the creation of an artistic image."
so: for the purpose of talking about design, we say: AI = idea X form --> in all combinations --- some area we consider successful --> too MUCH idea or form --- piece that doesn't work it is in TALKING ABOUT THE WORK\ using these complimentary opposites that we UNDERSTAND MORE ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING we can't measure light w/o changing it. seeing it as particle or wave particle or wave but in talking about particle/wave particle/wave we have a better understanding of WHAT IS LIGHT pick any 2 things and have discussion light dark type image idea form and then take discussion itself and make complimentary opposite of something else this discussion is about c.o. of THEORETICAL <------> APPLIED ideating on paper brainstorming design important to go back and forth APPLIED just as physicists study the world and come up with a best guess, make experiments, and generate equations that allow us to : chart the path of a ball, fly airplanes, build houses, talk about the construct of time SO DO WE -- graphic designers do experiments and find out what works and what doesn't -- size, typefaces that are more readable. so. THEORETICAL <-----> APPLIED we tend to think about things as c.o.'s a conversation about BLACK WHITE and gray in between how much of one, ... the APPLIED to see it the THEORIES WORK and TO PRODUCE WORK the THEORETICAL to look at the applied and to become aware of the construct so that, we are not making decisions in our work based on assumptions of truths, that do not hold TYPE computer type on any surface - typewriter write - on anything THE MORE WE BECOME AWARE OF OUR CONSTRUCT, THE MORE --- WE ARE ABLE TO QUESTION IT AND COME UP WITH NEW ANSWERS TO PROBLEMS idea of conversation between PHYSICS & DESIGN will generate new understanding of design in a way that A CONVERSATION OF DESIGN IN DESIGN TERMS will not in talking about design using 2 arbitrary "complimentary opposites" such as theoretical physics and graphic design we become more aware of the constructs inherent in our discussion of design. SHOW COFFEE CUP (mention coffee cup again) NOW. we will leave this multi-media conversation of theoretical physics and graphic design and return to the ROTUNDA in completion of our evening's entertainment LIGHTS--OFF, PROJECTORS--ON, POWERS OF TEN--ON LEAVE ROOM 202 (the site of our multi-media conversation)


How I got to what I said and why I said in the way I did.

I better understand design when I take another subject and apply it
to concepts in design. On an applied level, similarities exist
between physics and design. We can talk about the proportion,
symmetry and mathematics of a design. I felt I could learn more
about design by taking concepts in theoretical physics and applying
them to the way I think about design.

Research on theoretical physics and conversation about the
relationship between theoretical physics and graphic design served
to reinforce my intuition of their connection. The perceptual
difference of the two subjects made the conversation, the act of
talking about them, important. In the "Why?" presentation, I say
reading Derrida influenced how I looked at my research. Physics
research about the impossibility of an objective viewpoint
underlined the reality of the subjective observer. This attempt to
record what was happening from the viewpoint of the subjective
observer (me) led to a preoccupation with the idea of performance.
Not necessarily a theatrical performance -- although the model of
such interaction has value in discussion of both physics and design
-- but the performance of an exchange of ideas. I began to realize
that the conversations I was having as part of my research were
central to the research. This led to recording the conversations and
being more aware of what was happening as ideas were exchanged
during the course of conversation.

On a practical level, talking with people in different fields such
as physics, poetry, computer science, theology, engineering,
theater, and design helped me choose what examples worked to explain
the theories and relate them to design.

The conversation was about thinking and problem solving. Solving
problems is basic to both physics and design. Although many
different concepts of physics apply to design, I had to narrow my
focus to communicate clearly in my presentation. The material
finally seemed to come together around the idea of the construct
(objective, subjective observer/reality), using time as an example
and the concept of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. These ideas
worked with one another, and indeed seemed to repeat the same idea
from different ways of talking. Theoretical physics and graphic
design fit neatly into the principle of complementary opposites.

Reduced to a few concepts, I constructed a multi-media presentation
that would recreate the conversations I was having with individuals.
In performing a conversation, it was possible to incorporate visual
examples such as video and film.

The diagrams I drew on paper became the part of the presentation I
drew on the chalkboard. This direct conversational way of talking
and giving examples worked in this rough form, where any other, more
"produced" way of detailing information felt contrived.

During a conversation with Dr. Reynolds, associate professor of
physics, NCSU, we spoke of how to talk about physics without
intimidating or alienating the audience. The thoughtful but easy
quality of the presentation and the use of humor such as Mr.
Knowledge were the results.

When I gave my presentation for thesis prep. in December 1993, the
presentation turned into a kind of performance. My committee thought
my performance provided a method to convey my message. I was
uncomfortable with the idea of me "performing." I am more
comfortable behind the camera, but agreed I would cast myself into
the final presentation.

Spontaneous presentation, use of humor, use of myself as
performance, and recreation of conversation are elements of my

The instructional physics films running on entrance to room 202 were
to provide a visual and audio envelopment of the participants. The
films place the spectator inside of the physics, reducing its
overwhelmingness by making it part of the performance.

Using complementary opposites generates a circular discussion,
making it difficult to reflect this interaction of ideas in a
linear, time defined manner. This was dealt with in part by having
people physically move.

Moving the participants (audience) between the two rooms had them
experience spatially, two complementary opposites: to echo
physically the mental experience. Traveling people around the
"circle" from objective reality to subjective enforced understanding
of reality as a construct. The rooms are complementary opposites:
the round, clean, spacious, quiet rotunda vs. the rectangular,
cluttered, crowded, noisy room 202. In the video piece using house
right, house left and center video I actually ran in a circle from
video camera to video camera. The sound of the running evoked a
circle while the watchers viewed it in a rectangular format,
side-by-side in a rectangular room.

This conversation is to generate thought/discussion, different ways
of seeing, and an awareness of how we deal with information as we
move between theoretical and applied work in graphic design.
Following the performed conversation an interactive conversation
took place. The audience remained and talked about the concepts
presented for more than an hour. This conversation reflected that I
successfully conveyed the content and concept of my presentation to
the audience.



film :

Anderson, Lauri, dir. Home of the Brave. Multi-media performance by
Laurie Anderson. A talk normal production. Warner Reprise Video,
1988. (color, 90min)

Reggio, Godfrey, dir. Koyaanisqatsi. Score by Philip Glass. 1988.
(color, 87min)

Morris, Errol, dir. A Brief History in Time. Based on the book by
Stephen Hawking. Paramount, 1992. (color, 84min)

Capra, Bernt, dir. Mindwalk. Paramount, 1991. (color, 110min)

Morris, Errol, dir. The Making of A Brief History in Time.
Paramount, 1993. (color, 30min)

interviews/conversations : 

Baker, Lee. Masters of Divinity.

Bailey, Ruffin. Minor in Religion.

Beck, Lisa. Masters of Landscape Design, SOD, NCSU.

Bratton, Charlie. BS in Electrical Engineering, project engineer
Capitol Information Systems. Current project : Interpath,
information access project through internet. e-mail, cbratton @

Brody, Elizabeth. Graduate student in Architecture, SOD, NCSU.

Brown, Donna. Graduate student in Geology, NCSU.

Buda, Natalie. Graduate Student in Graphic Design.

Elwahad, Amgad. BS in Electrical Engineering. Graduate Student in
Computer Science, integrated manufacturing systems, NCSU.

Lowrey, Austin. Professor of Graphic Design, SOD, NCSU.

Olin, Sam. Graduate student in Architecture and Landscape Design.

Parker, Belva. BS Speech Communications. Manager of rock bands and
theatre technician.

Dr. Reynolds, Stephen. Associate professor of physics, NCSU and
concert violinist.

Roland, Chris. Researcher in Physics Department, NCSU.

Rooney, Jeff. Graduate student in Graphic Design, SOD, NCSU.

Saavedra, Lisa. Student of Speech Communications, Minor in Spanish.

Spadaro, Joani. Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, NCSU.

Snider, Mike. English teacher turned poet.

Stewert, Jim. Student in physics, NCSU.

Valero, Jeff. Student in architecture, SOD, NCSU.

Veladota, Christy. BFA in creative writing, Emerson. Poet.

Whitt, Mike. Telecommunications Analyst, Office of Science and
Technology, Office of the Governor > Governor, North Carolina.

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Davis, Philip J. and Reuben Hersh. Decartes' Dream : The World
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