When I first came across the term “thought experiment” or Gedankenexperiment, I was reminded of my daydreams which, in a way, are my own thought experiments. While Einstein worked out his ideas in his mind followed by the mathematics to arrive at paradigm-shifting theories, my ideas served as inspiration for my artwork. One of my thought experiments as a child involved wondering what would happen if I blew very hard, making the air particles vibrate, and how far that effect would reach - if I blew so hard that the vibrations would travel around the Earth and when it reached the back of my head a long time later, I wouldn’t know what hit me. Leilhae’s description of gravitational waves and also sharing a link to her presentation about how scientific research affects everyday life, reminded me of this question that I had pondered years ago. I had no idea about black holes, spacetime curvature or dissipation of energy then and enjoyed the pure fun of making up impossible situations. Now, many years later, learning about the scales of the gravitational waves, from its place of origin to when it is detected on Earth, in some ways has been rekindling similar questions.
Leila and I have been exchanging emails about embroidery inspired by astronomy. They were representative versions of astronomical images and it made me reflect on my more abstract process. I am currently working on multiple pieces experimenting with various types of black and white thread using different stitches. Working with a needle and thread on paper is very different from working with cloth as it has certain limitations. The paper is more fragile and requires more careful stitching as the paper could tear, so the process is very precise and slow, giving me an opportunity to observe the details of the movement of the thread through the holes. The thread gets twisted with each stitch and eventually tends to knot up when it is pulled through the paper quickly. The twist reaches a point after a few stitches when it tends to double over or spirals around another strand if it comes in contact with it. This reminded me of turbulence in a fluid as it rushes through a narrow space. The knots resemble eddies and vortices and have to be constantly untangled.
Embroidered Cosmic Design pieces, Work in Progress, Handmade Paper and Thread
Scientific research affects our everyday life in numerous ways. For me, I find many opportunities in everyday life that inspire me to probe and understand deeper scientific questions. Whether it is a slice of beetroot, reflection of circles on a bowl or the self-forming knots as I embroider, my curiosity is tickled, and I continue to ask questions. The more I learn, the more questions I seem to have.
Every year, the University my laboratory belongs to organises the "Festival of Ideas". Researchers, artists, activists and thinkers are invited to share their study with the public to diffuse the state of the art knowledge that fills our worklife to the society. Because when one spends time at the edge of our understanding of the laws of nature, it is to decipher the rules that govern the Universe that hosts us all. Our expeditions on reconnaissance for the logical patterns that lead to our lives and design their fate are to be followed by sharing those discoveries with our fellow living beings. While in the "The Bridge" residency the science is diffused through the medium of art, the Festival of Ideas disseminates it through discussions between intellectuals. To introduce the round table that I animated, named "To see the Universe differently", I have contemplated the impact of scientific discoveries:
"In 1511, Nicholas Copernicus studied the planets in his astronomical observatory located at the top of Frombork Cathedral in Poland and studied their trajectories. He realised that it was not the sun that would revolve around one of them, but the planets that would revolve around the sun, in a movement that astronomers call "revolution". This paradigm shift was so well implemented in the consciousness that the word "revolution" is now used for profound changes related to the governance of states, the organisation of society or any established order in general. In this way, scientific discoveries are spreading in society and the understanding of the laws of nature offers a new point of view on the world order at all scales. A radio signal detected by an antenna in 1965 turns out to be a manifestation of the Big Bang: the Universe is no longer eternal but has a history. A star shows flickering light through a telescope in 1995: the first exoplanet is detected and the Earth finds companions beyond the solar system. More recently, in 2015, four-kilometre-long lasers have their light disturbed: a gravitational wave has passed through the Earth and has been detected for the first time. This new signal, generated by perturbations of space-time itself, was also the first time that an emission was observed from a black hole, those objects that are supposed to absorb everything. By offering us a new way of probing the cosmos, this discovery also points us towards questions that cut across the whole of science: what is the Universe around us made of? How do these new astrophysical channels complement observations from telescopes? And how can we continue to transfer the knowledge of physicists at the cutting edge of scientific discoveries to a society eager for knowledge and understanding?"