When the engineering students at England’s prestigious University of Cambridge aren’t using their brains, they are busy capturing the intricate beauty of their work through a lens. As part of the annual photography competition held within the university’s Department of Engineering, Israeli PhD student in Machine Learning, Yarin Gal, took second place for his extrapolated image of Vincent van Gogh’s classic painting “Starry Night.” Sponsored by international optics leader ZEISS, this competition’s images were a beautiful and mysterious sight, to the eye of an untrained engineer that is.
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Though many aren’t aware, van Gogh painted “Starry Night” in 1889 from what he saw from the window of the French insane asylum he admitted himself to after amputating part of his left ear. The painting has since become one of the world’s most famous works of art and Gal wanted to imagine how it would look had van Gogh painted it on a larger canvas. Using an algorithm called PatchMatch that analyzes pattern and style mathematics, Gal expanded the image by extrapolating its contents, envisioning how van Gogh would have viewed the full scenery from the asylum window.
First place went to Indrat Aria for an image entitled “Asteroidea Electrica,” which at first glance appears to be a colored image of a starfish. However, and not surprisingly, the subject is much more complex than it appears. The image is a “false colored low magnification electron micrograph of free-standing graphene foam,” or the open-cell foam made of single-layer sheets of graphene, commonly used in lithium-ion batteries.
In order to participate in the competition, the images must be related to research or teaching within Cambridge’s Department of Engineering and the submitter must be a member of the department. According to the criteria, images must be “beautiful, fascinating, intriguing, amusing, or possibly all of these things.” As Director of Research for the Department Philip Guildford stated, “We continue to be blown away by the beautiful images produced by our students and researchers for this competition,” continuing, “But more than just pretty pictures, these images also show how engineering is helping to solve problems, big and small, all over the world.”
Check out some of the other photos from the competition:
Photos: Yarin Gal/ Indrat Aria/ Calum Williams, Yunuen Montelongo and Jaime Tenorio-Pear/ Long Teng/ James Griffith/Anthony Rubinstein-Baylis/ Mari Ijäs/ Audrey Hon/ Dhiren Mistry/ Nikhil Tiwale and Stanko Nedic/ Jonathon Parkins