This article focuses on the cognitive function of the image and the role the visual imagination plays in education and the popularization of science. We will look at the possibilities offered in this field created by the modern, moving and programmable digital media. They provide a highly effective, but still not fully utilized tool in popularizing the complex issues of science. The article discusses examples of both the visualizations of didactic character as well as artistic works which relate to the classic problems of mathematics, physics and philosophy in a creative way
According to the German psychologist and art theoretician Rudolf Arnhem, creative thinking is always of a perceptual nature1. The image plays a particularly important role in our understanding. This applies to both the common knowledge and scientific knowledge. Science has, from its very beginnings, been supported by visualization. Historically, the visualization took the form of drawings for the most part. It was not until the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century, that the moving image appeared, which allowed for recording and subsequently the presentation of dynamic phenomena.
Contemporary digital media provides unprecedented opportunities in this field for both the analysis and the visualization of scientific problems. In this article we will look at a few examples of dynamic images, pertaining to the sciences and philosophy. We will start with a classic issue, dating back to the beginnings of the queen of sciences – mathematics.
In geometry, a drawing not only plays an auxiliary role – it is often the core and a direct tool in scientific considerations. A perfect example of this are purely visual, not requiring algebraic operations, ancient proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. Surely the most famous one is the one presented in the first book of Euclid’s Elements2. Here, however, we will be looking at another example of extremely clear reasoning, which can be traced back to one of the oldest Chinese mathematical texts – Zhou Bi Sudan Jing3. The squares shown in the figure below (Fig. 1) have equal areas; they only differ in the internal arrangement of the four identical right-angled triangles.
The above reasoning is not only the visualization of the Pythagorean Theorem. This is its fully correct proof. It is worth pointing out that in order to understand this proof, we do not need to refer to the algebraic record. In this day and age, we are used to symbolic signs, but the ancient mathematicians were able to carry out their analyses in a purely visual manner – solely based on drawings.
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