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Ed Wesly and Lori Napoleon

Wilson Hall

From September 22nd to November 9th, the gallery at Fermilab hosted works of science-inspired art in conjunction with the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society's Quadrennial Congress on November 6-8. The theme of the Congress was "Scientific Citizenship" and aimed at the intersection between physics and society, including education, politics, and the arts. The event was a huge success with over 600 physics students, teachers and professionals in attendance. The final lecturer was director emeritus Leon Lederman!

I was invited to attend the Congress as a visiting artist and give a lecture about the mutual benefits of art and science collaborations and how physics has inspired my work. In addition, I had the honor of being a judge at the Congress' Art Contest! Bravo everyone!!
For more information on Sigma Pi Sigma, go to sigmapisigma.org

Excerpt from DAILY HERALD article, published 9/10/08<link>

"Intersections: the Art and Science of Light" showcases works of holographic and multimedia art by Tevatron operations specialist Todd Johnson, photographer/holographer and former Fermilab researcher Ed Wesly (bubble chamber experiment E-632) , and holography/light artist Lori Napoleon. The show can ultimately be traced back to the Fermilab bubble chamber experiment in the mid-1980s and the part holography played in it.

The artists come from diverse backgrounds - engineering, education, laser optics, and fine arts - but the space where these interests overlap in science-inspired art (combined with Fermilab's part in the convergence of such wide-ranging disciplines) has made it possible for them to meet, collaborate, and celebrate how physics and art can be mutually appreciated. In this exhibit, they present a visual history and documentation of the bubble chamber experiment, as well as individual works.

This convergence of art and science occurs daily in the Fermilab Art Gallery. It is a space for art exhibitions, chamber music concerts and where the top quark and big bang are debated over coffee. It is also a quiet space for contemplation and beauty."

original photograph and hologram of neutrino events from bubble chamber experiment E-632


Holography has been pursued as a hobby by many a physics major, also by artists drawn to it as an expressive medium. At Fermilab it was employed in a neutrino experiment in the 15-foot bubble chamber during 1985. In this experiment, holograms were used in tandem with the more conventional photographs to capture neutrino interactions. In these high-energy interactions, the short-lived particles that were produced would decay in times on the order of 10-13 seconds. Holography was able to give a higher resolution over a long depth of field than the photographic recording technique.

The laser which was employed to carry out the task was, in fact, the most powerful laser ever to be used in holography: a JK Lumonics HLS5 (the only one of its kind made thus far). This was a pulsed ruby laser of 30 Joule output in 20 nanoseconds of time. It operated with an opto-electronic feedback circuit designed at Fermilab to allow the generation of finely tailored pulses to illuminate the bubble tracks without causing the liquid hydrogen to boil. One hundred thousand holograms were recorded for the experiment. On view in the gallery are several of the holograms and photographic images, as a historical testament to the use of bubble chamber tracks as a major tool in the history of scientific visualization, but that their lyrical, calligraphic beauty captivates the appreciation of viewers across all disciplines.

art and physics at Fermilab article

Awards ceremony for art contest during Sigma Pi Sigma Congress on scientific citizenship!

the 15-foot bubble chamber

bubble chamber (cameras are on top)

Ed's electrifying jacob's ladder

view of gallery space

'Diffract' 1 and 2 on display

Understanding the nature of light has led, of course, to scientific innovations and countless applications which have affected the world immeasurably - from revealing the contents and motions of stars to extending our working hours well past sundown. But it also inspires appreciation of structure and our own perception in a way that can be observed in the everyday lives of anyone with two retinas - our own biological interface.

My interests in the “nature of nature” are what led me to my frequent visits to Ask-A-Scientist, on the suggestion of Ed Wesly. His description of the bubble chamber fueled my initial visit, which led to many others and secured physics' influence in my own works to come. I have an immense amount of gratitude to the many people I've met at Fermilab whose tireless explanations and generosity towards me will have a lasting impact on my work and perspective. As a Master's Candidate at New York University's interdisciplinary Interactive Telecommunications Program, I am constantly exposed to the effectiveness of a cross-curricular dialogue between the arts, science, and technology. As all of these develop within our shared societal and cultural framework, all disciplines benefit from such a discourse. It is for this reason that I feel that what both art and science have to offer can be used in tandem to elucidate, educate, and inspire.

One of Todd Johnson's "Shock Fossils"
also known as Lichtenberg figures.