Literature may paint pictures with words, but ultimately, those words are relatively dull creations. Black print on white paper--maybe you go so far as to diagram a sentence--but no matter what, it’s ultimately just text. That is, unless you blow it up.
Moritz Heller is an AVA student who was inspired by the visualizations produced by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, so he coded Wordcollider, a particle accelerator for words that our smashes language into beautiful bits.
“A book is some kind of universe. The matter that describe such a Speech-universe are phrases and words. The elementary particles words consists of are there letters,” Heller tells Co.Design. “So I started thinking about how letters would behave, if two phrases collide with each other at a high reading rate.”
To imagine this inner universe of books, or maybe depict what goes on inside our brains when we read, Heller sets to phrases on a collision course for one another. When they hit, the break up into letters, or their “elementary particles.” So far, this is a relatively simple idea. Letters simply end up floating in simulated 3-D space. But where Heller’s visualization shines is how, much like the LHC, it tracks the trails of colliding particles, mapping letters across space.
The resulting starbursts also sneak in some interesting data. The shapes of these trails designate the how the sounds of each letter are actually made by one’s mouth when spoken. So vowels are straight lines, as their phonemes are created through an unfettered airflow. But plosives, phonemes made from stopped air (think ‘p’ or ‘t’), are rendered in lines with sharp, crash-like redirections.
“Basically, the signatures look how I imagine they would look like based on phonetic descriptions,” Heller explains. These signatures then combine into an array of curves and angles that’s varying and gorgeous to behold, and stuffed with meanings that the viewer is too overloaded to possibly comprehend. Ultimately, the effect to any layperson isn’t so different from the LHC itself, though it’s doubtful that Heller will discover subatomic particles that add mass to various vowels and consonants. (Doubtful, but not impossible*.)
*OK, it’s impossible.
[Hat tip: Creative Applications]