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Domenico Oricchio: on 11/24/12 at 11:04am UTC, wrote I do not read Chinese, or Japanese, but I consider the oriental calligraphy...

Georgina Parry: on 11/22/12 at 11:02am UTC, wrote More great photography. Milkyway panning timelapse, over Lake Tekapo this...

Georgina Parry: on 11/22/12 at 0:40am UTC, wrote Though writing too can be a form of art in its execution. Such as medieval...

Domenico Oricchio: on 11/21/12 at 23:28pm UTC, wrote What is Art? The writing are spoken words in history. Art is a human...

Georgina Parry: on 11/14/12 at 3:38am UTC, wrote Very unusual camera emphasises time over space Here is another link to...

Georgina Parry: on 11/14/12 at 3:20am UTC, wrote Slit camera 'time' images by Jay Mark Johnson Quote: "an object is...

Georgina Parry: on 11/11/12 at 11:07am UTC, wrote Thank you Domenico and Shawn. Its nice to know you have seen and liked the...

Vladimir Tamari: on 11/7/12 at 11:35am UTC, wrote Thanks Zeeya for reporting on this interesting foray into the art of...


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September 22, 2021

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Jiggling Atoms: The Art of Physics [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Oct. 15, 2012 @ 21:58 GMT
Race for the Higgs
Particle physicists may often feel like their lives are part of a game of chance: A roll of the dice determines whether they will find the data they need to discover the Higgs particle--or whether their accelerator will even run at all. Nonetheless, the fun of the chase to uncover the nature of reality is worth it. That’s the take of particle physicist Ben Still at Queen Mary University, London and artist Natalie Kay-Thatcher, at least. Together they have designed a board game, “Race for the Higgs”, that captures some of the luck involved in scientific discoveries.

The board game is one of many pieces of physics-based art that were on show at the Jiggling Atoms exhibition in London, earlier this month. Paintings, sculptures, models, comic strips, and sound pieces were also on display. Some of the artists who contributed to the exhibition, and the physicists who ran a lecture series to introduce them to some advanced concepts in quantum theory and particle physics, were kind enough to speak to me about the goals of this science-art collaboration, which was originally conceived by Kay-Thatcher, for the October 2012 podcast.

Physics can be such an abstract, mathematical science, that it’s often difficult for physicists themselves to visualize the concepts they use everyday in their research. Is it possible to have a clear picture of a wavefunction, for instance? We often talk about ideas that are in tension--objects that behave as both waves and particles, for instance--and which defy our intuition. (See, for instance, “Time Dilation Gets a Quantum Twist.”) So perhaps, physics, more than the other sciences, is ideally suited for interpretation by artists, who earn their crust by by striving to bring out the hidden essence of their subjects.

Paintings by Penny Klein
Artist Penny Klein chose to tackle competing and contradictory views of the atom. She painted two versions of the same hilltop and lakeside landscape: The first represents the chaotic quantum randomness that governs the atom, while the second, is a more ordered visualization that encourages you to contemplate the mathematical structure of physical laws underpinning objects. Her two pieces complement each other, lying on either side of the quantum-classical divide. You can listen to her describing what inspired her on the podcast.

Three pegboards created by Peter Nencini
Others chose to represent the act of doing physics itself. One of the defining features of the scientific method, which struck artist Peter Nencini, is that it is an ongoing endeavor, creating a continuing body of knowledge, with old ideas giving way to new, in light of experimental evidence. At the start of the exhibition, Nencini’s installation consisted of 12 empty pegboards, hung along a wall. Each day, Nencini continued to listen to introductory physics lectures by Still and others (which are available on the Jiggling Atoms website), and added pieces to the pegboards to reflect what he had learned. He also talks about his evolving piece of art on the podcast.

Bruno, Menocchio and Galileo, by Zeel
Historically, this aspect of science has at times clashed with religion because it challenges the acceptance of given truths. In one of my favorite pieces, artist Zeel tells the story of one of the lesser known figures at the centre of one of such conflict: Menocchio, a medieval Italian miller who read 11 books during his life and pondered about how the world came into being. His unconventional views on cosmology--including the notion that angels were created from the bulk of earth, air, fire and water, like worms emerging from rotting cheese--led to him being put on trial for heresy and burned at the stake. Zeel delightfully models his figure along with cheese and worms, flanked by two more famous thinkers, astronomers Galileo Galilei and Giordarno Bruno, who also clashed with the Church. (String theorist and FQXi-member Brian Greene, among others, has compared the multiverse to swiss cheese; so Menocchio, despite being a peasant rather than a scientist, may have been on to something!) Zeel’s work celebrates this capacity for human ingenuity and wittily compares his “cheese and worms” cosmology with modern scientific views in a vibrant cartoon that accompanies the sculpture. The artist notes that Galileo and Bruno would probably not have been aware of Menocchio. I like to think that if they were alive today, all three could each have entered the FQXi essay contest, Questioning the Foundations, and debated their ideas on this site.

Menocchio's cosmology by Zeel


The Jiggling Atoms exhibition ran from 1 - 7 October 2012, in London, UK. Visit for more information about the artists involved.

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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Oct. 15, 2012 @ 22:57 GMT
It is interesting this contact between art and science.

I see the advanced theorical research like an artist expression: there is nothing before, there is a sense after the creation; moreover the instant of throw down in the idea (artistic and scientific) is equal.

The common people refuse the numerical theories of the physics, and it is difficult to appeal the youngs and well-reads; then can be useful for the scientific community (to gain respect and neighborhood from the people) the artistic expression to make simple sense (skipping years of intermediate steps) of the research.



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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 17:20 GMT
Dear Domenico,

Yes, I think you're right. The scientific community needs to think seriously about earning the respect of people who have been turned away from science (for whatever reason) -- and art provides a bridge that may help them do that.

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Georgina Parry replied on Oct. 18, 2012 @ 09:15 GMT
Hi Zeeya,

It gets stranger still. Came upon this- So you think you can dance your Phd, winner

"Dr Liddicoat's original PhD came with the title 'The evolution of nanostructural architecture in 7000 series aluminium alloys during strengthening by age-hardening and severe plastic deformation'.But his dance version has a snappier title of "A Super-Alloy is Born'."

"The competition is run by the journal Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It's aim is to turn a PhD into a jargon-free interpretative dance that anyone can understand. His prize is a trip to TEDxBrussells where his video will be shown on the big screen and $1000."

The Australian Oct 18th 2012

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Georgina Parry wrote on Oct. 15, 2012 @ 23:23 GMT
Zeeya, thanks for this.

I took a look at the jiggling atoms site.There is one picture by Jack Hughes that I really like. Shows lots of figures that appear to be thinking but all on separate fragments of world. Which seems to be saying something about the isolation of subjective experience and thought, giving the fragmentation of the world into those individual personal realities. Having seen the wide diversity of thought that emerged in answer to the essay competition question it seems an insightful illustration. I would quite like another version in which some of the figures are holding hands and pulling their pieces of the fragmented whole together, maybe even building bridges.

I wonder whether having artists learn about physics and illustrating it is the best way around. Wouldn't it be interesting to have physicist learn about and carry out various forms of artistic expression to show what they are thinking about? It overrides the necessity to express the ideas with language, which is still the left hemispheres territory, and might still be hard to fathom. Art though appeals to the right hemisphere which deals with the association of concepts, bringing ideas together. It wouldn't then be about artists tying to express physics but physicist finding alternative ways to communicate their ideas that may give some extra insight, maybe even revelation, to themselves as well as others.

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Georgina Parry replied on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 07:48 GMT
Another unusual coming together of different points of view Big bang and religion mixed in Cern debate

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 17:14 GMT
Hi Georgina,

I missed the Jack Hughes piece at the exhibition, but I just had a look, and yes, I like your interpretation of it. It's funny that you mentioned teaching physicists some of these artistic techniques, to enable them to try to express these concepts too. Natalie Kay-Thatcher told me that some of the organisers were thinking about running a follow-up "Atoms Jiggling" project, in which physicists could learn from artists. I believe the idea was first suggested as a joke, but then when they thought about it, they realised it could be interesting. I actually meant to write that into the post above -- maybe I will add a line or two about that. We'll have to see if they go ahead with that.

Thank you for the BBC link. It sounds like a fascinating meeting and I would like to know more about what was said there.

By the way, congratulations on making the final round of the essay contest!

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 10:26 GMT
Hello all,

It is an important article. The religions help the humanity to decrease its bad instincts. The evolution permits to harmonize, to optimize, to spherisize the mass. The higgs are relevant, my theory tells us, that inside a closed, isotropical and homogenous Sphere in evolution, we have the fractal of uniqueness.The number is finite, the spherical volumes are correlated.The...

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 17:18 GMT
Thank you Steve.The idea of religion being a "pure spherization" sounds very intriguing.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Oct. 16, 2012 @ 17:36 GMT
Hello Zeeya,

The Universal sphere and its cosmological spheres and quantum spheres is a project in fact of pure spherization optimization. The infinite light creates the Physical sphere.....we evolve, we are catalyzers of this universal sphere.We are Jedis of The Sphere dear Zeeya. It is evident :) intriguing is not the appropriate word. Fascinating in fact. The religions are human inventions permitting to harmonize the chaotical human comportments. The spherization is above our understanding.

The religions invented on Earth can be harmonized for the well of all.In fact the spherization is universal, it is an answer to a lot of things. We are young, us , the humans.we evolve.

This infinite entropy is intriguing indeed ....we are babies of light....


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Georgina Parry wrote on Oct. 21, 2012 @ 20:28 GMT
I can see a problem with both the painting and dance expression of the physics ideas. That is that both are not just making the science accessible but also "dumbing it down". I wonder how much of the information content that is lost by changing the mode of expression has to be discarded. It would be good if the information content could be kept high and then the viewer will still have to work hard...

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Domenico Oricchio replied on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 13:55 GMT
Thank Georgina for "the information is beautiful" site.

This is an idea of scientific painting that contain all the information in a condensate beautiful way.

If there are hours of work, and a multi-level interpretation, is art.

The more you think the image, the more you open up levels of interpretation: as poetries, poems or paintings that are not trivial (whoever reaches the level that is allowed)



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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 1, 2012 @ 01:16 GMT
TED talk ken Robinson says school kills creativity Entertaining and profound talk about the need to value and nurture diverse human talents. Makes me wonder how much more could be achieved ...See also his talk "Bring on the learning revolution".

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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 4, 2012 @ 10:28 GMT
Primes and Twin Primes: An Awesome Journey Pt.1 of 4 This visualisation of numbers is pretty and amazing. Looks like art to me but full of information.

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Nov. 7, 2012 @ 11:35 GMT
Thanks Zeeya for reporting on this interesting foray into the art of physics or is it the physics of art? As both an artist and physicist I know there must be a connection somewhere but it is hard to pinpoint in words or even images. At least being an artist helped me illustrate my physics papers, one of them in the current FQXI contest. Another FQXI contest paper was written by the world-famous sculptor Kenneth Snelson and both his physics and his art are beautiful.

Have you read two fascinating books that relate to this? Einstein Picasso by Arthur I Miller and Art and Physics by Leonard Shlain.

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Georgina Parry wrote on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 03:20 GMT
Slit camera 'time' images by Jay Mark Johnson

Quote: "an object is registered by the rate of movement as opposed to distance or size so that viewing the image from the left side is effectively viewing backward in time"........... "The slit camera in a fixed-position registers only a moment of a scene - represented visually by a vertical sliver. Over a period of time, which Johnson can control, the photographic method records line after line of his moving subject - resulting in a composite series of strips. this means that an object taking a long time to pass the lens would appear stretched across the canvas, whereas a fast moving subject would appear scrunched up. Johnson says he wants to expand our view of reality through his work, describing the philosophy behind the concept:'it shows us that what we see is a product of our cultural traditions and means of perception.' " 6th Oct 2012

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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 03:38 GMT
Very unusual camera emphasises time over space Here is another link to the same photographer's work but on (Behold photo blog) Further down the page are some amazing photographs of dancers and tai chi movements, that appear bizarre/surreal.I have previously considered time lapse panoramas but not this particular technique.Interesting and thought provoking.

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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 22, 2012 @ 11:02 GMT
More great photography.

Milkyway panning timelapse, over Lake Tekapo this is a wonderful video animation of the Milky way rising made from timelapse photography.So beautiful.

Tekapo-skies-showcase-Milky-Way A very short article giving information about that video.

Wellington-meets-the-Milky-Way Another stunning example of Astrophotography. More on his web site linked in the article.

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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 23:28 GMT
What is Art?

The writing are spoken words in history.

Art is a human intellectual work without writing: poetry is recited words, only remembered with writing (the "books" of Fahrenheit 451).

Music is not the sheet music, it is the performance; poetry is not writing, it's recitation.

The work of art is prior to writing (the last true poet was Homer?), so if this is true, then any work of art must be free of writing in its execution, then the film is nothing more than the remember of the theater, such as writing is the memory of a poem.

A work of art is any human work whose meaning is not immediate (a landscape is not a work of art, but a picture of a landscape is), you need a cultural interpretation.

A sculpure, which is simply a copy of a natural object is not art, unless with the copy you want convey a particular idea (natural beauty, etc.).

The work of art (like poetry) were born at the time when there was no writing, so the only possible cultural transmission was mediated by the work of art (and the skill of the artist was enrich the work of depth).

What we create physical, are abstract concept related to the natural world, and as such have a considerable amount of information, meaning, history, culture and poetry, and the same can be said of philosophy, or of human history: painter often use historical facts in their represantion, as it is a means of transmitting non-verbal (is the transmission of an idea), a story to interpret (the meaning is not immediate but mediated by an historicized culture): a modern person can not interpret a work of a people exinct, with a unknow culture, even if they feel the depth, and the reverberation of the meanings).

So any cultural setting, and therefore also the scientific, can be a source of inspiration of art: it is a waste not to use a source of thousand of centuries of a single human thinking, because all is lost if it is not shared.



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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 22, 2012 @ 00:40 GMT
Though writing too can be a form of art in its execution. Such as medieval illuminated manuscripts or other kinds of calligraphy; such as that of Japanese experts where the flowing presentation of the characters is an art in itself and highly sought after; also the work of some expert graffiti artists.

I have just been reading about Steve Jobs having taken a course in calligraphy. The big difference between Apple machines (after the earliest few models) and those of other companies was the ability to present text in a variety of graphical fonts and styles, as Steve Jobs had insisted they must. That 'artistic' ability was in part responsible for the success of the Apple computers, and emulation by others. Which is a bit off topic but I found it interesting.

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Domenico Oricchio replied on Nov. 24, 2012 @ 11:04 GMT
I do not read Chinese, or Japanese, but I consider the oriental calligraphy art: I do not understand the text (only know some ideograms), that not talking to me, then art is the centuries of change of the pictogram, which has become something more than just painting, is a stylized representation of the objects.

The modification of the Western characters, using calligraphy or programs of Jobs, is on the single character: the character is enlarged to full screen, and is is changed to obtain a proportion, aesthetic, close to perfection; it is no longer writing, is painting a sample to represent.

In ideograms there is a sense in each pictogram, and I can consider it equivalent to a stylized painting, it is very close to art; I think it's just art.

I thought a TV broadcasting a work of Shakespeare is not art, it is a container of art, such as writing, photography, cinematography, three-dimensional printing: so the fundamental arts, the one that took place before the words, the bases of all art are painting and sculpture.

I thought of the three-dimensional printers: if a scanner store a three-dimensional object on a computer, and then print 3D with the right colors, then when it becomes art? When there is not a perfect correspondence between the model and the object (size, or color), when it is manipulated by the photographer, and when you capture a moment full of meaning.

All this is very interesting.



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