Art draws out the beauty of physics

When it comes to quantum mechanics, it’s easier to show than tell.

That’s why artist residencies at particle physics labs play an important part in conveying their stories, according to CERN theorist Luis Alvarez-Gaume.

He recently spent some time demonstrating physics concepts to Semiconductor, a duo of visual artists from England known for exploring matter through the tools and processes of science. They’ve done multiple short films, museum pieces and festivals all over the world. In July they were awarded a CERN residency as part of the Collide@CERN Ars Electronica Award.

“I tried to show them how we develop an intuition for quantum mechanics by applying the principles and getting used to the way it functions,” Alvarez-Gaume says. “Because honestly, I cannot explain quantum mechanics even to a scientist.”

The physicist laughed when he made that statement, but the artists, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, are comforted by the sentiment. They soaked up all they could during their two-month stay in late 2015 and are still processing interviews and materials they’ll use to develop a major work based on their experiences.

“Particle physics is the most challenging subject we’ve ever worked with because it’s so difficult to create a tangible idea about it, and that’s kind of what we are all about,” Jarman says, adding that they are fully up for the challenge.

Besides speaking with theorists and experimentalists, the artists explored interesting spaces at CERN and filmed both the construction of a new generation of magnets and a workshop where scientists were developing prototypes of instruments.

“We also dug around a lot in the archives,” Gerhardt says. “It’s such an amazing place and we only really touched the surface.”

But they have a lot of faith in the process based on past experiences working in scientific settings.

A 2007 work called “Magnetic Movie” was based on a similar stay at NASA’s Space Sciences Laboratories at UC Berkeley, where the artists captured the “secret lives of invisible magnetic fields.” In the film, brightly colored streams and blobs emanate from various rooms at the lab to the sounds of VLF (very low frequency) audio recordings and scientists talking.

“Are we observing a series of scientific experiments, the universe in flux or a documentary of a fictional world?” the artists ask on their website.

The piece won multiple awards at international film festivals. But, just as importantly to the artists, the scientists were excited about the way it celebrated their work, “even though it was removed from their context,” Jarman says.

Picturing the invisible

At the Department of Energy’s Fermilab, another group of artists has taken on the challenge of “visualizing the invisible.” Current artist-in-residence Ellen Sandor and her collaborative group (art)n have been brushing up on neutrinos and the machines that study them.

Their goal is to put their own cutting-edge technologies to use in scientifically accurate and “transcendent” artworks that tell the story of Fermilab’s past, present and future, the artist says.

Sandor is known as a pioneer of virtual photography. In the 1980s she invented a new medium called PHSColograms, 3-D images that combine photography, holography, sculpture and computer graphics to create what she calls “immersive” experiences.

The group will use PHSColograms, sculpture, 3D printing, virtual reality and projection mapping in a body of work that will eventually be on display at the lab.

“We want to tell the story with scientific visualization and also with abstraction,” Sandor says. “But all of the images will be exciting and artistic.”

The value of such rich digital visuals lies in what Sandor calls their “wow factor,” according to Sam Zeller, neutrino physicist and science advisor for the artist-in-residence program.

“We scientists don’t always know how to hit that mark, but she does,” Zeller says. “These three-dimensional immersive images come closer to the video game environment. If we want to capture the imagination of school-age children, we can’t just stand in front of a poster and talk anymore.”

As co-spokesperson of the MicroBooNE experiment, Zeller and team are collaborating with the artists on virtual reality visualizations of a new detector technology called a liquid-argon time projection chamber. The detector components, as well as the reactions it detects, are sealed inside a stainless steel vessel out of view.

“Because she strives for scientific accuracy, we can use Sandor’s art to help us explain how our detector works and demonstrate it to the public,” Zeller says.

Growing collaborations

According to Monica Bello, head of Arts@CERN, programs that combine art and science are a growing trend around the globe.

Organizations such as the Arts Catalyst Centre for Art, Science & Technology in London commission science-related art worldwide, and galleries like Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, present contemporary art focused largely on science and technology.

US nonprofit Leonardo, The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, supports cross-disciplinary research and international artist and scientist residencies and events.

“However, programs of this kind founded within scientific institutions and with full support are still rare,” Bello says. Yet, many labs, including TRIUMF in Canada and INFN in Italy, host art exhibits, events or occasional artist residencies.

“While we don’t bring on full-time artists continually, TRIUMF offers a suite of initiatives that explore the intersection of art and science,” says Melissa Baluk, communications coordinator at TRIUMF.  “A great example is our ongoing partnership with artist Ingrid Koenig of Emily Carr University of Art + Design here in Vancouver. Koenig tailors some of her fine art classes to these intersections, for example, courses called ‘Black Holes and Other Transformations of Energy’ and ‘Quantum Entanglements: Manifestations in Practice.’”

The collaboration invites physicists to Koenig’s studio and draws her students to the lab. “It’s a wonderful partnership that allows all involved to discover news ways of thinking about the interconnections between art, science, and culture on a scale that works for us,” Baluk says.

Fermilab’s robust commitment to the arts reaches back to founding director, physicist and artist Robert Wilson. His sculptures are still exhibited around the lab, says Georgia Schwender, curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery.

Schwender finds that art-science programs attract the community through the unconventional pairing of subjects; events such as the international Art@CMS exhibit last year at Fermilab are very well received.

“It’s not just a physics or an art class,” she says. “People who might be a little afraid of the art or a little afraid of the science are less intimidated when you bring them together.”

Fermilab recently complemented its tradition of cultural engagement with a new artist residency, which began in 2014 with mixed media artist Lindsay Olson.

Art-physics interactions

Science as a subject for art has grown since Sandor’s first PHSCologram of the AIDS virus bloomed into a career of art-science collaborations.

“In the beginning it was almost practical. People were dying, and we wanted to bring everything to the surface and leave nothing hidden,” the artist says. “By the 1990s I realized that scientists were the rock stars of the future, and that’s even truer today.”

Sandor relishes being part of the scientific process. Drawing out the hidden beauty of particle physics to create something scientifically accurate and artistically stunning has been one of the most satisfying projects to date, she says.

Like Sandor, Semiconductor works with authentic scientific data, but they also emphasize how the language of science influences our experience of nature.

“The data represents something we can’t actually see, feel or touch,” Jarman says. “We reference the tools and processes of science and encourage the noise and the artifact to constantly remind people that it is man observing nature, but not actually how it is.”

Both Zeller and Alvarez-Gaume have personal interests in art and find value in the similarities and differences between the fields.

“Our objectives are very different, but our paths are similar,” Alvarez-Gaume says. “We experience inspiration, passion and frustration. We work through trial and error, failing most of the time.”

Like art, science is abstract but enjoyable, he adds. “Theoretical physicists will tell you there is beauty in science—a sense of awe. Art helps bring this to the surface. People are not interested in the details: They want to get a vision, a picture about why we think particle physics is interesting or exciting.”

Zeller finds her own inspiration in art-science collaborations.

“One of the things that surprised me the most in working with artists was the fact that they could articulate much better than I could what it is that my research achieves for humankind, and this reinvigorated me with excitement about my work,” she says.

Yet, one key difference between art and science speaks for the need to nurture their growing intersections, Alvarez-Gaume says.

“Science is inevitable; art is fragile. Without Einstein it may have taken many, many years, and many people working on it, but we still would have come up with his theories. If Beethoven died at age 5, we would not have the sonatas; art is not repeatable.”

And a world without art is not a world he would like to imagine.

04/12/16

Labs around the world open their doors to aesthetic creation.

https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/art-draws-out-the-beauty-of-physics

 

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Statue of Liberty Nebula

2016 September 28     NGC 3576: The Statue of Liberty Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: S. Mazlin, J. Harvey, R. Gilbert, & D. Verschatse (SSRO/PROMPT/UNC)
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap160928.html

It sounds like something straight out of Ghostbusters … today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is The Statue of Liberty Nebula.  Do you see her?

Explanation: What’s happening in the Statue of Liberty nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming and being liberated. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57. This image showcases dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars. A detailed study of NGC 3576, also known as NGC 3582 and NGC 3584, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun’s formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth. The featured imagewas taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

 

STEM Scholarships to NAU Still Available!

Do you plan to transfer to Northern Arizona University (NAU) into an approved College of Engineering, Forestry & Natural Sciences major Fall 2016?

Do you have a 3.0 or higher GPA in at least 24 transferable credits?

And $2,500 or more in unmet financial need? (2016 FASFA is required)

Then you may qualify for the Transfer-GEMS (Transfers to Graduates in Engineering, Math and Science) Scholarship!

This scholarship is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1260138.

SCHOLARSHIPS ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR THE 2016-2017 ACADEMIC YEAR!

For more information, please contact jen.johnson@nau.edu.

Learn more or Apply now!

 

 

Were the Japan and Ecuador earthquakes related?

 

They may have happened within days of one another, but the devastating earthquakes in Japan had nothing to do with the strong temblor that struck Ecuador over the weekend, experts say.

Both Japan and Ecuador are located along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, which spans the coasts lining the Pacific Ocean. The regions along the Ring of Fire are prone to earthquakes, but it’s extremely rare for an earthquake on one side of the world to trigger earthquakes on the other, said Ross Stein, CEO and co-founder of Temblor.net, a free website and smartphone application that helps people understand locations’ seismic risk.

For one thing, the earthquakes that hit Japan are a completely different type of quake than the one that struck Ecuador, Stein said. On April 14, a magnitude-6.2 earthquake hit southern Japan, and a day later, on April 15, a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck the same region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). [The 10 Biggest Earthquakes in History]

Both of these earthquakes were strike-slip earthquakes, Stein said, which occur when two parts of the Earth’s crust slide against each other. The best way to imagine this is to place your hands together, with your fingers pointing away from your body, and slide your left hand forward and your right hand backward.

Both of these strike-slip earthquakes were shallow — about 6 to 8 miles (10 to 12 kilometers) deep — and both were destructive, killing more than 40 people in total, according to news sources. But the second quake was about 20 times stronger than the first, and released about 400,000 times more energy than the amount unleashed by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945, Stein and Volkan Sevilgen, the other Temblor.net co-founder, wrote in a blog post.

These two earthquakes in Japan were likely related, Stein said. However, it’s unclear whether the magnitude-6.2 earthquake was a foreshock of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake or the magnitude-7.0 earthquake was an aftershock of the magnitude-6.2 earthquake, Stein said.

“So far, the evidence suggests that both are true,” the experts wrote in the blog post. Though it’s rare for an aftershock to be larger than the main shock, it does happen, Stein told Live Science.

Regardless, the first earthquake made the faults near it more likely to rupture, which likely helped to trigger the second, larger earthquake, Stein said.

Ecuador earthquake

On Saturday (April 16), merely a day after the second Japanese earthquake, a massive magnitude-7.8 earthquake rocked Muisne, Ecuador, the USGS reported. [Image Gallery: This Millennium’s Destructive Earthquakes]

Unlike the strike-slip earthquakes in Japan, this one was a so-called megathrust quake, which occurs when one tectonic plate jams under another. In this case, the Nazca Plate is moving under the South American continent at a rate of about 2.2 to 2.4 inches (55 to 61 millimeters) a year, Stein and Sevilgen wrote in another blog post.

More than 400 deaths have been reported from the Ecuador quake so far.

This isn’t Muisne’s first large earthquake. Another magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit almost the exact location in 1942, Stein said. In fact, given that the subduction rate is about 2.3 inches (60 mm) a year, and nearly 75 years have elapsed since the last large earthquake, it makes sense that this is a “repeat earthquake,” Stein said.

Read more at the following site… cbsnews.com

Makerspaces and Meetups in Phoenix

Looking for a makerspace or group in the Valley?  Here is a great place to get started finding inspiration and like-minded creative spirits.

http://makerspaces.meetup.com/cities/us/az/phoenix/

The 7th Row is Complete!

ptPhoto ADAPTED FROM IUPAC BY C. SMITH/SCIENCE

FOUR NEW ELEMENTS COMPLETE THE SEVENTH ROW OF THE PERIODIC TABLE

The newcomers are some of the heaviest elements ever discovered, with atomic numbers of 113, 115, 117, and 118. They will be named by the researchers who identified them.

WOW! Element 113 will become the first element to be named in Asia, with credit going to a group of Japanese researchers at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Wako.

 

David C. Roy’s Kinetic Sculptures

 

roy-1roy-dimensionsDavid C. Roy studied engineering, physics, and chemistry and ended up obtaining a physics degree from Boston University. Although it seems unlikely he gained an interest for art. He was influenced by his wife and his interest in motion which led him to create kinetic sculptures. His work is usually made of wood running on wind-up mechanisms and not on electricity.  He has a studio in Connecticut where people can enjoy his artwork.

-Link to his website

http://www.woodthatworks.com/

-Monica