The difficulty in visualising what takes place in the quantum world has a close relationship to the artist attempting to express their ideas and emotions about the world. Both are concerned with “making the invisible, visible.”

“In-Public” a new community arts group co-founded by Ian Andrews and Sarah Fortes Mayer have been collaborating with the particle physics group at the University of Birmingham to develop a series of workshops for schools.

The workshops, developed with particle physicist Kostas Nikolopoulos are designed to operate at different levels for different participants and explore the relationship between art and science and more specifically between fine art and particle physics. This effort is in the context and supported by the H2020-funded CREATIONS project.

The exercises explored in the workshop attempt to use artistic visualisation techniques to give visual form to quantum phenomena to aid understanding and hopefully stimulate further interest.

A successful pilot was run with Marling school on March 3rd 2017 where the team, joined by the School of Physics and Astronomy school liaison officer Maria Pavlidou, experimented with activities including,

  1. Drawing: working with an eraser in a charcoal surface to reflect the trails left by particles in cloud and bubble chambers.
  2. Hot glue guns: introducing a moving line two more closely reflecting the interaction of the particle and the detector. Referencing the work of Jackson Pollock who famously tried to work in a trance-like state to access deeper levels of the mind.
  3. 3-D constructions: exploring the idea of the enormous spaces involved within the structure of an atom. Referencing the work of Alexander Calder, who invented the “mobile” a hanging, sculptural arrangement that moved.
  4. Performance: using the movement and interaction of participants as they perform short routines designed to express the ideas about interaction of particles, collision events, creation of new particles and transference of energy. Students performed behind a screen casting shadows referencing the work of William Kentridge and his recent films using shadows.
  5. And finally a period of self-directed activity where the students could combine any of these elements together to attempt to express some of these quantum concepts more clearly.

The team are working to develop the next workshop with ideas and information that have emerged from the pilot and a revised lesson plan is in production. The team are also hoping to run workshops for teachers to help develop the project further.