Field Basics to Mechanism
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2016-12-29 tSynsth 系联设计
‘Field’ Research Member:ChieFuyuki 冬木千枝,Lichao Qin 覃立超,Mengyao Zhang 张梦瑶
Diagram:Zehao Qin 覃泽昊 Translation:Tianbao Hu 胡天宝

What is the world made of?

Although the ultimate answer to this question apparently remains unsolved, and is still one of the greatest unknowns in the field of science, any response you do get to the question will depend very much on who you are asking. A biologist might say it is a structure composed of living organisms, while a chemist is likely to insist the world is an enormous collection of molecules formed from atoms. A musician might argue it is a composition of musical notes; and a computer science enthusiast that reality is actually a complex computer simulation, echoing those we have seen in science fiction films like Matrix.

Public Domain. Image by Jamie Zawinski.

In physics, the world has been long explained as being made-up of both particulate matter and force fields. Quantum physics, in particular, holds that everything is formed only of ‘fields,’ and that what we think of as ‘particles’ are just excitations of those ‘fields’, like waves in an ocean. [1] Using this argument, it is easy to imagine our world is simply a series of of numbers, a program running in some vast computer.


Whatis ?

Field, In physics, a region in which each point is affected by a force. [2]

A matrix of invisible energy, or a ‘field’, is a way of explaining, ‘action at a distance.’ Contact forces – forces acted upon when objects are touched (as in friction) – can be explained by Newton’s laws of motion. Non-contact forces – forces acted upon when objects are not touched (as in gravity) – are only described by the field. These fields are invisible, but we need to understand them before we can find explanations for the many natural phenomena of our world.


‘Field’ in Design

We are in the age of building information modeling, however, this does not mean the whole process of design is perfectly automated to achieve intelligence and singularity at every point of space, and especially to reflect its context. The grid system, for example, has, since modernism, been commonly incorporated, as a space basis of design, into many fields of design. It should be noted, though, that in the grid system, both the performative and aesthetic qualities of each cell become rather repetitive and less adaptive. This is where the field itself takes on a new importance with its excellent capacity, with progressive quantification at points of space that are manipulated by strength and directionality.



In the study of Physics, some particular field examples include electricity, gravity and magnetism. In this article, we focus on two of the most abstract forms of the field. These abstract fields exist within the discipline of mathematics, and are some of major classifications of the field – scalar field and vector field, both often used as models of the particular examples described above.

A scalar is an entity which only has a magnitude – no direction. Examples include mass, electric charge, temperature, distance, etc. On the other hand, a vector is an entity that is characterized by a magnitude and a direction. Examples are electric fields, wind and fluid velocity, magnetic field, etc.



Scalar Field

Color value
One of the simplest use of scalar field in design is an example taking different formats of color data in a photograph. The following example first reads brightness of an input image at points of the space then place circles at locations of those points with varied radius defined by the brightness.

Curvature at points of a geometry can be data that design incorporates with. The example below is a design of rib structure thickness of which is determined by curvature.

Sunlight data at points of a geometry is quite exemplary field value to be incorporated in design. The example below uses Grasshopper plugin Ladybug for sunlight analysis. Higher the temperature on surface is, bigger opening each cell has.

Vector Field

In design, the most common component that helps us to make vector field is ‘attractor’. Unless we have a wind velocity map or any other input that is composed of two essential vector field factors at points of our target space—magnitude and direction—, it is common to refer a relationship between points at the space and the ‘attractor’ that can be any geometry of our choice but to represent our interpretation of the space. Magnitude can be fulfilled by distance calculation and direction is simply the direction from points to the ‘attractor’. To understand this process fully, highly recommend to have a look at an exemplary usage of vector field at the Grasshopper Primer website presented by Modelab.

The following example is another example that does the same operation as the example introduced above. Distance as a magnitude is used as a scale factor while direction as an axis of rotation.




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