Thoughts & Insights

Winds, Turbulence and the Power of the Unseen

No one can see the wind. Wind is an invisible but extremely potent force. It shows its power in the far reaches of the universe just as on our planet by moving and transforming. The mariners of former centuries steered huge sailing ships across the oceans of this world. They were experts in the wind and knew how to set their sails to extract maximum effect from its power.

Calm weather was as undesirable to them as a hurricane. They knew that the whole point of the exercise was to get just the right measure. This is what present-day sail gliders and hang-gliders also know, who enjoy snaking their silent course through the downdraughts and up currents of the wind.

Over the past 130 years, the invention of a slew of different engines has brought forth ships, vehicles and planes which move under their own power, independently of the wind and controllable by humankind – as long as we accept the basic laws of physics.

And yet the wind has lost nothing of its power and importance. It tends to the reproduction of plants by carrying grains of pollen in its currents. It refreshes us as a cool shoreline breeze. It blows through our hair and caresses our skin on warm summer days. It blows through the trees, producing a marvellous rustling sound in their leaves. It brings tears to our eyes when its icy blast blows in our face in wintertime. It literally shakes us when our plane passes through turbulence. It whips the waves into a surging storm tide, chases the clouds across the sky and drives the flames of burning forests before it. And when it reaches land as a hurricane and howls across villages, towns and cities, this is the moment when we have direct experience of its deadly devastating strength.

The power of the wind is an expression of dynamic complexity. Complexity is one of the central issues to which OUBEY devoted his whole life, both as a scientific inquirer and an artist. The dynamic interplay of chaos and order – in the cosmos just as on Earth – was a constant source of interest and fascination to him. From galaxies of truly staggering dimensions in our universe to the crystalline beauty of tiny ephemeral snowflakes. In a short 3 minute video you can see how complexity is expressed in OUBEYs art.

In their dynamic complexity, winds, whirlpools and turbulence follow the laws of physics which we might understand but cannot control. They are natural phenomena and as such for us humans they form part of the primeval environment in which we exist. But also as such they are our mentors for what we have increasingly forgotten and repressed over the last decades and centuries in our mad rush to gain control and dominance – respect and humility before nature of which we are a part.


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