When sound drives a piece of art
British artists are shaping the sound waves produced during quantum system simulations, so that the general public may grasp sophisticated mathematical concepts.
22 May 2017
Creating a piece of art inspired by a scientific discovery. That is a challenge embraced by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, a UK artist duo called Semiconductor, who spent a period of time in Finland to collaborate with the Turku Quantum Technology group led by Professor Sabrina Maniscalco. Their hope is to make science more “visible” to a lay audience.
“The collaboration with Ruth and Joe has been great fun and very inspiring,” says Maniscalco, “I’m very interested in the process of communication between people with very different backgrounds, in particular scientists and artists. The attempt to communicate sophisticated mathematical concepts to non-experts always forces us to find useful analogies, and pushes us to go to the core message of what a certain scientific concept is. This very often leads to a better understanding of our scientific research and forces us to take original viewpoints that stimulate creative insight.”
During their six-month stay in Finland the artistic duo graphically represented the sound waves produced by the instruments during quantum system simulations. The artists think it is the sound which drives each piece of art. Without sound, there is no image.
The frequency of the sound waves creates harmonies and dissonances. Sometimes it produces large undulating waves, other times small waves, thus creating complex interference patterns.
The works of art are also aimed at graphically representing the concepts of coherence and decoherence: “Coherence is when a quantum system exists and decoherence is when you lose a quantum system”, says Ruth Jarman.
The artists consider their work as technological sublime. According to this theory, which adapts the concept of sublime expressed in Kant's Critique of Judgement to modern society, the aesthetic concept exalting the beauty is applied to technology that discloses a whole new range of sublime experiences.
The creative duo learnt a lot about quantum science during their Finnish residency, run under the project FEAT, supported by the EU Framework Programme Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). “Professor Sabrina Maniscalco is infectiously enthusiastic about her science,” say Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, “This spreads throughout the labs she works with and has meant we have had really dynamic experiences when visiting the laboratories and the scientists who work there.”
Even complicated mathematical concepts can be a source of inspiration and creativity. After all science and art can overlap, since both are means of investigation.
By Rebecca Parsons