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Of Interest

See archived entries

April Fool

Da Vinci's (clearly) impossible drawing

The story we published on Saturday 1 April on "Da Vinci's impossible 'tokamak drawing'" was indeed ... impossible. No such document has yet emerged from the Renaissance artist and polymath's notebooks and the extraordinary rendition of his drawing style owes everything to Hungarian fusion physicist Daniel Dunai and to the use of an AI software called Midjourney. In publishing the story, Newsline followed the well-established tradition of April Fool's pranks, which several institutions such as CERN honoured last week.

The Da Vinci's ''tokamak drawing'' was created by Hungarian plasma physicist Daniel Dunai, using AI software called Midjourney. (Click to view larger version...)
The Da Vinci's ''tokamak drawing'' was created by Hungarian plasma physicist Daniel Dunai, using AI software called Midjourney.
Pretending that Leonardo Da Vinci (1452—1519) could have drawn a machine that uncannily looks like a tokamak was Daniel Dunai's idea. A senior research fellow at the Fusion Plasma Physics Department of the Hungarian Centre for Energy Research, Daniel has worked in fusion for more than 20 years. He participates in the Wendelstein 7-X and MAST-U research programs and is presently the project leader for the development of ITER optical diagnostics for shattered pellet injectors.

The Hungarian physicist has also developed an interest in AI-generated drawings. "I began experimenting with this technology, using different software platforms to create illustrations for the public science talks and presentations I occasionally give," he explains. From there, it was not a large step to try and generate a Leonardo-style tokamak sketch, which proved quite difficult. "However, after about a dozen image 'generations' the result was very close to what I had imagined." This is putting in mildly: despite its inherent impossibility, a tokamak drawing by Leonardo would have been very close to what Daniel produced using AI software.

A good April Fool's news item needs to be both plausible when you come across it the first time and totally outlandish on second thought. As it had been discovered a few weeks ago that Leonardo had devised experiments to investigate the nature of gravity, could he have also explored ways of harnessing fusion energy? Reason said no, of course. But something, for a few seconds, said: "Why not, after all?"

And that's what the fun was all about.

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