This project is a blend of art and science which is aimed at exposing the underbelly of physics to the world at large, in order to negate some of the fear which seems to follow this particular science around. "Say to someone, 'that's physics', and they run a mile," said one of the contributors. The project was engineered by the Institute of Physics - I learned during the discussion session later that CERN even has artists on-site full-time to engage with scientists. So the blend of mind-sets is clearly considered to be of some worth.
Why is this show called Superposition?'
Superposition' is a physics concept describing two different phenomena:
- when two waves meet they overlap and interact, sometimes they will add to make a bigger wave, sometimes they will cancel each other out, and often it is a combination of both. The single resulting wave is a superposition of the two original waves
- in quantum mechanics, instead of thinking about a particle being in one state or changing between a variety of single defined states, particles are thought of as existing across all the possible states at the same time. This situation is known as a superposition of states and means that a particle can be thought of as being in two or more places at the same time
I asked a couple of questions at the audience-participation session which others in the audience also asked in different ways. Where is this collaboration going? Does it signify the dawn of a new destiny for physics, where artisan imagery is dovetailed with equations? Are the old constraints and constants heading for the door, in the wake of opportunities to expand the world view?
Physics has a choice - to stick on a hand of familiar formulas and pre-moulded mathematics, or cash in some of its chips in exchange for a path of uncertainty and oscillation. Quite clearly the neutrino would lean towards the latter, probably agreeing with the artist in so doing. At this moment in current spacetime the two camps in the relationship seem equally uncertain of each other.