Saturday, June 6, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] artists and atoms: fission and fusion


i wanted to pick up on Guillermos example of the artist working on the
periodic table: ( i note that the section is called nanorealismo which is a nice

the artist is hugo martínez-tormo

and is sound piece on the periodic table is at

the file is safe !! no virus !! ( to veroniki= its almost a
synaesthetic work ?)-
associating a different tone with every kind of atom is as sensible a way to
portray atoms as the kinds of illustrations you see in textbooks= there is
no good way to make a picture of an atom-atoms are always in movement
,dont have surfaces, behave both as waves and particles..every atom of tjhe
same element is indistinguishable from all other atoms of the same kind-
you cant tag an atom

the tormo work reminds me of one of my favorite topics, which is how we make
artistic meaning/sense about worlds on the nano scale- where the dominant
forces are not gravity but van der waals forces between molecules, and electro
magnetic ones, where quantum mechanical effects lead to very non intuitive
phenomena by quantum mechanical tunneling or non-locality. the world where
atomic fusion and fission happen as phenomea are very different that the world
we have experience with our senses and our childhood and adult experience

the nanoworld where fission and fusion are normal phenomena is very foreign-
our vocabularies, ontologies, intuitions are often just not useful or wrong

ramon guardans and nina czegledy have written about this and i often use
their"cheese" diagram that shows a big space of 'the world on all scales'
and a small black area which is the area of the 'world as a whole' where we
have sensory experience and spend most of our time=and is the place
where we have built our ontologies and vocabularies.

one of the examples i like to use of an artists work that tries to make
sensory meaning of the nano world is the sommerer/mignoneau piece
where you wear magnetic gloves and interact with molecules and atoms
that behave in ways that are appropriate to the nano scale-you can move
and shape molecules=but the interactions are those of the nano world

i use the aphorism that modern science doesnt make common sense= things
that make sense to atomic and nuclear scientists are so remote from our
daily experience= that indeed i think one of the things artists are doing is
helping us build vocabularies and cultural sense

here is a thought

atomic fission and fusion only recently entered our cultures-within the last 75
years- they are phenomena that are frightening and promising at the same time

perhaps when our ancestors were first beginning to domesticate fire -there
was a priesthood (much like nuclear physicists today) that controlled the fire=
it took hundreds of thousands of years before every home kitchen had
tame fires =
if you showed one of our ancestors a kitchen with the microwave, oven, stove,
kettle and all the other ways we now control /make fire- they would
not have words
for our world

nuclear fusion will never (never say never) enter the human home
directly but if ITER succeeds
maybe ten thousand years from now fusion energy will be as familiar as
fire is to us today
and will still have a mixture of promise and risk, just as fire does


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