by Amna Ansari
As we are experimenting ways in which to visualize and represent larger ideas about cities as a blueprint or framework, I began to look at historical diagrams and model representations for larger concepts, and focused the research around ideas about the universe. Some of these are simple line diagrams for concepts and beliefs about the universe that were held for centuries, and others are tested and accepted concepts that translate workings of the universe.
One that came to mind was the mandala, a buddhist circular model representing the structure of life starting from the center. A method of drawing or model building that is also seen as a form of meditation. This method dates back as far as 1st century B.C.E.
Introduced in 100 AD by Claudius Ptolemy, this model places the Earth at the center of the universe. Planets circulate on respective smaller spheres called epicycle, and these circulate on a larger sphere called deferent, while the stars circulate on the most outer sphere. This belief of the universe was held for approximately 1,300 years.
In 1543 Copernicus introduced the idea of a Heliocentric model placing the sun at the center of the universe, in opposition to the Ptolemaic model, a belief held for centuries which placed the Earth at the center of the universe. In this model the planets revolve around the sun.
In 1851 Leon Foucault built a representational model to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth, using a pendulum that tracks the equators position relative to Earth. To depict the rotation, the plane of oscillation of the pendulum revolves an X amount of degrees (depending on the location’s latitude) in one full day. Here a concept is rearticulated through the use of other objects and methods to depict a current and realized concept. The viewer is reminded of their everyday position in space.
Reference: The Marvels and Mysteries of Science published in 1941.
During this research I was reminded of artist Edward Tufte whose work I saw at MIT during a lecture course, when he was explaining his markings on a beautiful plaque that communicates to other civilizations and extraterrestrial life of our civilization. Looking further into his work, he is inspired by Feynman Diagrams, which are pictorial representations of the workings of the universe. These diagrams depict mathematical expressions that govern the behavior of subatomic particles. Feynman introduced the diagrams in 1948 as a way to understand calculations for QED, quantum electrodynamics.
Reference: America Scientist, Volume 93, Pg. 157
HUBBLE DIAGRAM: Expanding Universe to Big Bang
With the help of Edwin Hubble documenting and plotting distances and velocities of stars, in the 1920s scientists realized that the Universe is not static but rather expanding, which led to further inquiries about the beginnings of the universe, known as the Big Bang. Scientists realized that there may be no center to the universe or cannot yet be determined. And recently in 1998 it was discovered that the universe is actually expanding at an accelerated rate. However a full understanding of the universe is still unraveling, as to whether it is finite, infinite, or one of many, and what the fate of the universe will be.