Archives for posts with tag: Brian Cox

An occasion on which one is reminded of the state of things in the real world.

Carlo Rovelli was at Second Home discussing his book Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey To Quantum Gravity which presents the story of the human imagination and reveals how the atomic world view first proposed by Democritus nearly 2,500 years ago can be found interwoven through history into our cultural life. It tells the story of what we know about our universe and how we came to know it, from the early atomic intuitions of Greek and Roman thinkers who observed the world about them and came to the conclusion that objects could not be a continuous whole but must be made up of lots of tiny parts.

1706 Susan Eyre Diazographo photo Sara Lynd

Susan Eyre Diazôgraphô photo Sara Lynd

The book goes on to show evidence of the ancient ideas now emerging from the Planck satellite and CERN, to the genuinely new knowledge being offered by Loop Quantum Gravity, of which Rovelli is a founding theorist. He was a generous and thoughtful speaker. When I started his book  I was a little upset to find Plato to be considered obtuse and an obstacle to the progression of physics for ignoring the atomic theories of Democritus and questioning the benefits to itself of why an object should take a particular form, but then in chapter two Plato is absolved of criticism for his pioneering understanding that mathematics is at the root of all scientific truths that ‘Number governs forms and ideas’

1706 Susan Eyre Diazographo 2 photo Sara Lynd

Susan Eyre Diazôgraphô photo Sara Lynd

The talk moved on to discuss the nature of time and how we experience it. Someone quoted Nelson Goodman from 1951 in The Structure of Appearance. ‘A thing is a monotonous event; an event is an unstable thing’.


I found this clip of Brian Cox explaining time travel  sort of helpful in that I can follow his explanation but it still leaves me confounded.

1706 Brian Cox

In his book Rovelli equally values the thoughts of poets and physicists who contemplate the same questions about the structures of the universe.

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Marvelling at correlations between Dante’s plan of paradise, possibly inspired by the cupola ceiling of the Baptistery in Florence, that speaks of a spherical universe made of ever increasing circles that reach a point where the outer circle appears to be enclosed by those that enclose it – a poetic description of a 3-sphere.

Rovelli believes the universe cannot be infinite – ‘that’s too big ‘ – and he seems aligned with the 3 sphere universe theory that the universe is not infinite but has no boundaries.  I found myself thinking – surely this must still sit within something? Still it was gratifying to find that this in line with Jean-Pierre Luminet and the Poincaré dodecahedral space  which I have been fascinated by –

A positively curved universe is described by elliptic geometry, and can be thought of as a three-dimensional hypersphere, or some other spherical 3-manifold (such as the Poincaré dodecahedral space), all of which are quotients of the 3-sphere.

Another name for the Poincaré dodecahedral space is the soccer ball universe…..

1705 Yinka Shonibare at York Museum

Yinka Shonibare’s work at York Art Gallery as part of Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf

We are still waiting for any definitive answers about the shape of the universe, whether it is infinite or finite, whether it is flat, positively curved or negatively curved, whether it is simply connected as in Euclidean geometry or like a torus which is flat, multiply connected, finite and compact among many other contributing possibilities. I have been doing some research on the Poincaré conjecture, mostly looking at the diagrams of the mathematical theories.

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I came across the story of Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman whose theories ultimately  proved the Poincaré conjecture and he was awarded the Fields medal. He declined the award saying he wasn’t interested in fame. Other quotes have him saying if he can control the universe why would he want to claim a million dollars prize money. Perhaps some myths have been built around him, as seems to happen with a person who doesn’t conform to expectations.

1706 Grigori Perelman

An earlier visit to Second Home was for a talk on Super Massive Black Holes by Dr. Meghan Gray.

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I found her description of what a black hole is really helpful to try and visualise what is happening. The idea that space curves around matter. That really dense and heavy matter condensed into a small object makes a deeper pocket in spacetime.

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The largest black holes are called “supermassive.” These black holes have masses greater than 1 million suns combined and would fit inside a ball with a diameter about the size of the solar system. Scientific evidence suggests that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its centre. The supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way is Sagittarius A*, it is 4 million times as massive as the sun and 27,000 light years from Earth. The smallest ones are known as primordial black holes. Scientists believe this type of black hole is as small as a single atom but with the mass of a large mountain.

The most common type of medium-sized black holes is called “stellar.” The mass of a stellar black hole can be up to 20 times greater than the mass of the sun and can fit inside a ball with a diameter of about 10 miles. Dozens of stellar mass black holes may exist within the Milky Way galaxy.

Information overload awaits you at sixtysymbols

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Made a trip to Whitby for a site visit to Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum ahead of our Laboratory of Dark Matters exhibition opening this summer.

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We were given a very warm welcome and are looking forward to bringing our work to the North East. We are delighted that along with Arts Council England funding we have now received the support of The Institute of Physics and The Science and Technology Facilities Council to take our project to the mining museum.

1706 LODM exhibition supporters

I will be running some more cloud chamber workshops.

1706 Cloud Chamber workshopMy second Open Studios and the first with the new management Thames-side studios who did an excellent job promoting the event, running activities and guiding visitors around what is quite a big site now.

1705 Open Studios Pairi Daeza

Susan Eyre Pairi Daêza

The word Paradise originates from ancient Iranian pairi daêza meaning around and wall.

The work everydaymatters is informed by the discovery that the matter we know, that which is visible to us and includes all the stars and galaxies is only about 5% of the content of the universe, dark matter making up about 25% and the remaining 70% being dark energy, it dissects landscapes to discover the hidden structures of the universe.

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Spent an interesting evening at Treadwell’s listening to Lore and Belief in the Case of the Talking Mongoose, a lecture by Chris Josiffe.

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In the early 1930s, an isolated Manx farm family became international celebrities after claiming their home was inhabited by a weasel-like animal. Gef the Talking Mongoose could speak coherently, shape-shift and perform telepathy. Investigators came in their multitudes, and improbable though it may sound, many were convinced. It was a time when spiritualism was strong, and psychic investigation popular.  Gef was purported to live between the walls of the house. This made me think of Gregor Schneider and his double walled rooms, lead lined, claustrophobic passages.

1706 Totes Haus u r Keller Venedig Gregor Schneider

I made a trip to Brockley to see In Conversation with (7): Beyond Controls; a drawing and print collaboration between Neil Ferguson & Carol Wyss.

From an initial line, each drawing was scanned, emailed and printed out to be developed further by hand. The repetitive nature of these procedures regularly exposed the limitations and idiosyncratic qualities of the scanners and printers. The structure of “Beyond Controls …” would always be infinite, sequences without final drawings, but rather statements held in digitalized time. Cycles of series that cannot be closed, circles that cannot be joined.

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The result was 10 sets of 32 drawings, 10 inkjet monoprints and a captivating video of  each set of drawings digitally layered and edited with Photoshop making the decision on visibility of content through its own algorithms. Wonderful.

Another visit was to  a new project space HEWING WITTARE in Walthamstow to see Shapeshifting – tactics to combat drowning featuring works by Chudamani Clowes, Rebecca Glover and Anna Liber Lewis.

1706 Chud Clowes rescue blanket sea

The artists use the watery world as a metaphor for our current political climate in which the fight for survival, shelter and equality is growing tougher by the day….

Chud Clowes engaged in a perambulative performance dressed as an Urchin to highlight the journeys made across the globe by thousands of migrants often at the mercy of the oceans and elements as well as political currents that sweep them from place to place

1706 Chud Clowes Urchin performance

We were led to Lloyd Park, site of  the William Morris Gallery, for some squid and fish printing on one of the hottest days of the year.

Later the same day entering Edel Assanti gallery to see new work from Jodie Carey – Earthcasts the visual and the physical collided. In this white space 50 gnarled and towering sculptures created a landscape hinting at the cool depths of a silver birch tree glade or the snowy trunks of an alpine forest while the heat of the day still pulsated in my body and hung heavy in the atmosphere.

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It was a rich experience oscillating between ancient responses to the multiple upright monument, the rituals of the standing stone yet could also be the concrete posts from some deconstructed enclosure, the high wire fencing removed. Jodie Carey’s painstaking process of burying old timbers in the earth to create casts that are then filled with plaster and subsequently excavated echo the temporal and material nature of our lives lived on soil and imprinted with our own encounters.

Along to SHOW 2017 at the RCA to be swept even further away. The heat more in keeping with the surface of Mars images presented as part of the final research of Luci Eldridge’s PhD by thesis; Mars, Invisible Vision and the Virtual Landscape: Immersive Encounters with Contemporary Rover Images 2017

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Luci Eldridge ‘Stepping into the Image of Mars’

Images captured at the Mars Yard being used to test the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover, due to launch in 2020. Courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space.

‘ The eyes of the Mars rovers provide viewpoints through which we regard an alien terrain: windows upon unknown worlds. Rover images bridge a gap between what is known and unknown, between what is visible and invisible. The rover is our surrogate, an extension of our vision that portrays an intuitively comprehensible landscape. Yet this landscape remains totally out of reach, millions of miles away. This distance is an impenetrable boundary – both physically and metaphorically – that new technologies are trying to break.’ Luci Eldridge

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I am reworking the dodecahedron frame for the mining museum. Sanding, then darkening with my favourite black Stabilo pencil.

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The images of cosmic trails now sit behind Perspex facets which has added another layer of reflection, the outer world, the universe surrounding and surrounded by itself

Diazôgraphô = Greek for to embroider. As to embroider the stars on the heavens…


In my first brush with particle physics I discovered the language to be quite like that of mythology, full of mysterious characters like the charm quark and strange quark, the muon neutrino and the tau. These characters are governed by fundamental forces like the strong force and the weak force that cannot be seen or explained other than by their attributes – just like the mythical gods.  I have recently been working my way through The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. It attempts to explain the theories of quantum physics.

1512 The quantum UniverseI’m not sure how this will ultimately feed into my work and the maths is way beyond me but I am excited by the possibilities it explores. I find this unpredictable world that operates on an unimaginably tiny scale fascinating. It is hard to grasp certain concepts as the theories cannot be visualized. Subatomic particles, physicist Richard Feynman tells us, do not behave like waves, they do not behave like particles, they do not behave like clouds, or billiard balls, or weights on springs, or like anything that you have ever seen.

Back in 1927 scientists Davisson and Germer did an experiment firing electrons through two slits in a screen. They expected a certain pattern to appear on the screen on the other side as the electrons hit that surface. The interference pattern that did appear gave the impression that a wave had passed through the two slits rather than a series of particles yet on the collecting screen were tiny dots not a continuous wave like surface. Something very strange was happening – and from then on physicists have had to rethink how things move around the universe.

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Anders Jonas Ångström discovered in 1853 that each element emits its own unique spectrum of coloured light when heated. This is spectroscopy. There is a handbook on this by Heinrich Kayser – Handbuch der Spectroscopie which is online but not the simple colour chart I was hoping for. Quantum physics has been able to explain why these coloured lights are unique to each element and astronomers have been able to use these codes to work out the chemical composition of the stars.

I signed up for a sunrise walk with Royal Society Research Fellow Lucie Green as part of Tate Modern’s weekend of events – Light and Dark Matters. Lucie researches the activity and atmosphere of our nearest star. The walk however was marked by the extreme absence of sun. Horizontal sleet whipped at us as we stood on the millennium bridge, blustery snow forced us to huddle under the arches of the Bank of England.

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Soaked through and bitterly cold we contemplated the effects on our economy of the massive hot plasma ball and the space weather it produces.1512 Sunrise walk (1)

Geomagnetic storms with massive solar flares can send huge surges of electric currents to course through the earth and knock out the electric grid of cities that sit on a solid rock base where the current is trapped.

In the afternoon was a panel discussion Are we darkened by the light? with Catherine Heymans, Katie Paterson and Marek Kukula chaired by Asif Khan.

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The artificial light that floods our lives hides from us the magnitude of the night sky. Astrophysicist Catherine Heymans gave a moving account of how a chance internship in the Australian outback opened her eyes to the stars and began her love of astronomy.

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There were so so many stars – she, like many of us, had been robbed of this amazing experience for years, so yes we are darkened by the light.  The universe is an arena of extremes; the longest timescales the hottest temperatures, the largest voids of utter emptiness. An astronomer can only observe what the universe chooses to reveal through light. For most people darkness is the absence of light, it is light being absorbed by something. For scientists darkness means that the object doesn’t emit light. Dark matter does not emit light, it should really be called invisible matter. Millions of dark matter particles flood though us all the time yet we still haven’t managed to identify even one particle.

There is so much unknown about the fundamental truths of our universe but with new technology more and more is revealed to us. The gravitational bending of light is one way to ‘see’ dark matter. In the next few years the European Space Agency are launching a new super powerful telescope Euclid that will image the whole sky in its quest for Dark Matter.

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Katie Paterson spoke about her work while burning a candle that released scents in ever disturbing layers beginning with wet basement as we projected through our atmosphere towards interstellar space.

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The candle’s 12 hour olfactory journey though earth smells includes geraniums, tar, old pennies, raspberries, rum and sulphuric acid finally snuffing itself out on reaching the scentless void of a black hole. Katie Paterson was the first artist to launch a piece of art into space.1512 melting

Working at the sort of extreme temperatures found in the conditions of creation within the universe  she undertook melting and re-casting a meteorite. She was resetting the meteorite’s inner cosmic clock.

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Reformed, the meteorite was launched back into space to reach the International Space Station returning once again to earth perhaps this time burning up in the atmosphere on re-entry.1512 launch

It is usual to think about what is revealed to us by light but Marek Kukula also wanted to show what can be revealed through shadow and darkness.  In Dark Frame, made by Woolfgang Tillmans while visiting the European Space Observatory in Chile, the image displayed on the screen is of the digital camera chip before an image is captured.

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It reveals the flaws and aberrations in the dark space of the camera itself. Darkness is not always as dark as we expect.

Galileo Galilei shocked 17th Century society when he pointed a telescope at the moon and made drawings of the shadows he observed. His drawings demonstrated that the moon was not the smooth and perfect celestial object set in the sky that people had believed.1512 galileoThe movement of the shadows showed a lumpy pitted surface rather like earth. Maybe we weren’t so special after all.

We still use darkness and shadow today to understand what the universe is like.1512 starWith ever more powerful telescopes we have been able to determine that all the visible stars in the universe have their own solar system. We know this because as a planet moves across a star the light dips by a tiny amount, enough to be registered. The shadow of the planet gives it away.

What he told us next I found quite hard to grasp and I keep thinking about how can this be true and what does it mean for us. Astronomers chose a tiny piece of sky that looked black with no stars in it – from earth it would be the size of a grain of sand.  They pointed the Hubble telescope at this piece of sky for 10 days. It cost £50,000 an hour to do this. It collected light for 10 days and this is what it saw….

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This tiny fragment of sky was full of galaxies. In extrapolation this means there are at least One Hundred Thousand Million galaxies in the observable universe.

The scale is beyond imagining yet in this image there is still blackness between the galaxies, this tells us something fundamental. If the universe was infinite and had been around for ever then every part of sky would be filled with stars – the image would be would be completely bright. So as there are still black parts we can deduce that the universe hasn’t been around forever and is not infinite. We understand that our universe hasn’t been around for ever from the big bang theory but does this prove there was nothing before?  Does this prove there is an  edge with nothing beyond? It is hard to grasp as the distances are so vast.  Would light from so far away have got here by now – was 10 days long enough to look?  I keep thinking about it.

In the image of all the galaxies we see some areas of distortion caused by gravitational lensing that is the clue to dark matter existing. How do we represent what we can’t see? Here dark matter is shaded in as a blue haze but it gives a false impression of what dark matter is.1512 blue dark matter

Scientists often colour space images using black and orange as the human eye is good at seeing detail in this combination. For the Planetarium Show Dark Universe at the Greenwich Observatory the American scientists decided to use a different colour scheme. Inverting the black sky to white and the dark matter to black the bright conglomerations of galaxies are shown nestling within filaments and tendrils of dark matter. 1512 dark matter

This new image gives a poetic insight into how our universe is bound together by unseen forces. Marek ended his talk quoting a poem by dark matter research astronomer Rebecca Elsen who died in 1999.

Let there Always be Light (Searching for Dark Matter)

For this we go out dark nights, searching
For the dimmest stars,
For signs of unseen things:

To weigh us down.
To stop the universe
From rushing on and on:

Into its own beyond
Till it exhausts itself and lies down cold,
Its last star going out.

Whatever they turn out to be,
Let there be swarms of them,
Enough for immortality,
Always a star where we can warm ourselves.

Let there be enough to bring it back
From its own edges,
To bring us all so close we ignite
The bright spark of resurrection.

Rebecca was hoping for a rebirth of the universe but it’s not what looks like will happen. Dark energy is causing the universe to expand at a faster and faster rate. Dark matter doesn’t look like it will be able to prevent it reaching a point of collapse.

Dark energy is not a force but it is having an effect.

How do we explain these phenomena of the universe when we do not have the words?  Physicist Werner Heisenburg replied – fortunately mathematics isn’t subject to this limitation. Marek Kukula concluded – Perhaps art is not subject to this limitation either?

It was good to see an exhibition of works entirely devoted to finding ways of expression for our experiences of the universe.
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Mahal de Man

Melanie King and Louise Beer not only collaborate as super/collider with Chris Hatherill but also run Lumen with Raymond Hemson  – an artists collective based in Bethnal Green that once a year heads up a residency in the small village of Atina, Italy away from light pollution that hides the stars from Londoners.

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Nettie Edwards

They aim to inspire a dialogue about how humanity understands existence in providing an opportunity for artists to encounter the night skies and make work in response to their experiences.

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Peiwen Li

Lumen iii LA LUCE DELLE STELLE at the Crypt Gallery, Kings Cross was the result of the last residency.

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Eva Rudlinger

Exhibiting artists: Naomi Avsec, Louise Beer, Molly Behagg, Samuel Brzeski, Alice Dunseath, Nettie Edwards, Jaden Hastings, Osheen Harruthoonyan, Raymond Hemson, Emilia Izquierdo, Elena Karakitsou, Melanie King, Claire Krouzecky, Peiwen Li, Mahal de Man, Yaz Norris, Lisa Pettibone, Marta Pinilla, Natasha Sabatini, Alice Serraino, Joshua Space, Eva Rudlinger, Sisetta Zappone, Qing Zhou

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Melanie King

I am hoping I have put the right name to the right work but I couldn’t quite get to grip with the map so apologies if I got any wrong.

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Sisetta Zappone

As I learnt at the Princes School of Traditional Arts looking for patterns in nature leads to geometry.

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Manifold Design ‘345 in RGB’

Manifold Design exhibiting at the 56th Venice Biennale are an architects studio that questions the relationship of physical materials and properties to conceptual constructions.

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Manifold Design ‘345 in RGB’

‘345 in RGB’ supposes a landscape composed of fundamental elements.

In the context of interconnectedness Eduardo Basualdo makes work that tests our understanding of material. Generating  elements that work together to reflect the way the universe  connects through opposing forces and results in a precarious act of balance. As in quantum physics we must look at the world differently.

1512 Venice Eduardo Basualdo

Eduardo Basualdo Grito

These quotes from Eduardo Basualdo about his work Grito are taken from an interview with Javier Villa

“The pieces shown in Venice are practical exercises to test strengths we humans have to interact with the material world and modify it. In this case the question was how to break an iron bar using pencil and paper, and where to do it…this happens, from my point of view, in the plane of the imagination”

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Eduardo Basualdo Grito

“The paper is an X­ray, it becomes a lens through which we view that metal and we see it as a different state of matter, as in a dimensional leap. The Biennial spoke of the possible futures and the actions that we may exert on matter, the violence on the material is a way you have of building your own future. Of nor depositing it either in the hands of religion, or of technology, or of politics.”

A piece from my series everydaymatters was selected to show in Space Between at The Stone Space, Leytonstone. This was a group show of work which inhabits the space between perceived reality and abstraction.

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Susan Eyre everydaymatters (palm SW4)

The gallery also hosted an afternoon of artist talks. A good chance to explain and exchange ideas.1512 Space Between

My interest in the origins of the idea of paradise and wondering what exactly I was looking at when I went out to photograph locations led me to the CERN website. From reading about the standard model and dark matter I discovered some amazing theories about what we can and can’t see. Now I have been reading about how electrons leap about exploring the entire universe in an instant on their journey. I have a lot of questions.