Issue: Volume: 24 Issue: 10 (October 2001)

Quantum Chaos

Heller's scientific research involves the theoretical investigation of wave behavior, chaos and quantum mechanics, and collision theory. He wrote several computer algorithms in Fortran and Mathematica based on classical and quantum mechanics to chart the paths of subatomic particles. The programs automatically translate that data into pixels, resulting in a grayscale or RGB image. Lastly, Heller transfers the file into Photoshop, where he adds color and depth. "It's where science and art are joined," he says.

Heller, who lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts, has had his art featured in various exhibits and collections throughout the country, including the MIT Museum and the National Science Foundation. His recent exhibit, titled Approaching Chaos, is currently touring. A sampling of Heller's work appears on these pages. A comprehensive selection can be found online at
-Karen Moltenbrey

Bessel 21 Heller added 21 plane waves that travel at equally spaced angles and in different directions, yet crest at the same locations. This resulted in a pattern that repeats itself 42 times around the circle, as indicated by the highlighted wedge.

Rotating Rotators Rotators spin and gyrate chaotically as they fly through space. Without gravity, they move smoothly from left to right, leaving "tracks," which have been colored arbitrarily.

Caustic 1 Caustics are areas where objects, such as light, accumulate. When light passes through "random" lenses, such as water, interesting patterns emerge. Here, we see the flow of light in 3D as it is interrupted by the surface of the ocean bottom.

Transport III and Transport VII These simulations are based on the actual flow patterns for electrons, which contain enough energy to glide over a bumpy landscape. Heller used Photoshop to color this bumpy path, and added the fish to the image at left as an artistic element.

Suris II: 2000 Heller repeatedly applied a mathematical "map" that instructed the computer where to place points in this image. Each point is linked to two other points, the previous location, and the next location, resulting in a defined yet intricate pattern.