One idea we're exploring is to make an object like the prototype in the below movie. It's related to how the direction of one galaxy's spin direction might get associated with another galaxy's spin direction, if it's connected on the "cosmic web" network that links together galaxies in the universe.
This represents galaxies around a cosmic void (the tetrahedron in the center), with other tetrahedra (that represent galaxies) attached to each vertex. Each tetrahedron is connected to three others by filaments, and when one of them wiggles, so do the others!
We're thinking about how to construct a permanent version of this - the current thing is made out of straws and coffee stirrers, but it would likely be more effective to use a solid (perhaps translucent) object in the center, with attachments to surrounding tetrahedra that would allow them to rotate quite freely, perhaps using taut string to connect them together. My department has a 3D printer, which could be useful for making stuff.
Last week, I also went to a talk about literature and climate change - one thing they stressed there is that science-art collaborations can and should be much wider in scope than just "using art to explain science", which I confess I had mainly been thinking of this as. Hopefully we can do some deep artistry here!
So this week, Mark took over the duty of creating a model to show. He made another dynamic straw and coffee stirrer masterpiece that offers a glimpse of the jitterbug-rotating effect. From our e-mails, Mark says:
Cosmologically, what this represents is the set of galaxies around a void. If a tetrahedron turns in the toy, that represents a change of spin in the galaxy. At least in my origami approximation, the spin of one galaxy would be correlated to other galaxy spins on this network, which I think is pretty cool!
I think this is pretty cool, too! Mark’s post this week explains this connection again in his own words. It looks like we will be exploring this idea further, potentially creating a final-product-type model in more refined materials, which may have a different overall geometry than the current model showing tetrahedra.
I made a GIF of Mark’s video showing just the rotation effect:
In response to Mark’s final mention in his post this week regarding the breadth and depth of sciart collaboration, here’s a snippet of what I sent him in an e-mail:
In my own nascent career, and in watching my role models, I've seen the truth and value in [the sentiment that collaborations can and should be more than just “using art to explain science”]. There's using art to communicate science, and then there's deeper forms of collaboration and communication. I mean, no one ever really talks about using science to communicate art, but it's there too! I've read a few papers on optics studies in Renaissance painting, (there are books on the topic), and there's a substantial theory out there called with Hockney-Falco thesis that claims to have scientifically explained optical effects in the paintings of that time, and how they were able to be so accurate and lifelike. But if you've read any of this year's SciArt Magazine, you'll see glimpses into the more advanced players in the field... They don't just explain something with their work, although sometimes it can serve that role. The work juggles the roles of explaining, raising awareness, and offering poetic insight. Central to poetics and literature is the metaphor. I see myself and other sci-artists oftentimes creating visual metaphors, whether we call it that or not. There's a visual comparison between two unrelated things, that opens up a third space for a completely new perspective on either or both things referenced. It's end result is obviously less "valuable' than a purpose-based creation, in the same way that creations of literature and poetry are often overlooked as frivolous, and yet, they can communicate ideas to the people, and can take the world by storm, in a way that I've never seen any scientific discovery do,
at least in my lifetime…
Mark and I are in different time zones, which makes meeting for a video chat a little challenging. We’ve been doing okay e-mailing back and forth, but I’m looking forward to some phone calls and more video chats. I hope the above snippet of e-mail correspondence gives you some insight into our communication and thought process!
Upon realizing this was the first time Mark had really thought about the importance of deeper collaboration, I’ve let him know a little about my artistic process and how it relates to science in general. I said the process goes something like this, “come up with an idea for a creation [hypothesis], model it [design a and execute an experiment], gauge its success [record results], and either recreate it and refine it, or move onto the next hypothesis [or observation]!” The scientific method is, understandably, taken for granted by those working in science. The methods of artists are less known, and SciArt Magazine does a great job of bringing them to the surface! Our processes, as sci-artists, are often very related and overlapping. From the April 2016 issue, Straight Talk with Jessica Angel:
JA: Most importantly, I have discovered that I am not alone developing the ideas I am interested in,
and that there are multiple perspectives… When collaborating with people from different disciplines, my spectrum of understanding expands. … so if I could be an enabler for these seemingly different disciplines to collide into an all-inclusive vision of art, I would feel very accomplished…”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Jessica!
Check-in next week…
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Lizzy Storm is an artist and owner of Lizzy Storm Designs based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mark Neyrinck is an award-winning astrophysicist and cosmologist, and a postdoctoral researcher at Durham University, United Kingdom.