Beauty In Physics

by Jessie Roberts

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Particle physicist Ben Still collaborated with artist Lyndall Phelps on Covariance, the installation for the Superposition project seen above:

The pair were introduced by the Institute [of Physics] and given the brief of creating a physics installation for public display. Rather than focusing on one particular area of physics, they decided instead to look at the machines that make the science happen — particle physics detectors.

“These [are] massive machines used to see the smallest bits of nature,” Still tells Wired.co.uk. The installation aims to show the way in which the detectors build up a picture of how these tiny particles interact with each other on a larger scale, as well as reflecting the way the electronic data collected by the detectors is then used to create plots on computers. …

“I showed [Phelps] some of the plots I was making for an analysis I was developing and again she was quite struck by how we took data from this massive machine and made these colourful plots to try and extract information,” [says Still]. The colour running through the installation, says Still represents “the way in which the data is presented finally”.

Here’s a close-up of the work, which consists of 28,000 glass beads arranged into 20 different designs:

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Covariance is on display in the former ice wells of London’s Canal Museum through October 20th.

(Photos by Richard Davies, whose most recent photography and book project is Wooden Churches)