SciArt Magazine - All Issues - Page 39

SAiA: Collaborations between scientists and artists are an interesting possibility in sciencebased arts. What was this experience like for you as an artist, and what do you think you ultimately gained? SM: It’s difficult to communicate in words (perhaps I can do this through my art) the stimulation and pleasure of working with scientists. At Rockefeller, Rod was extremely generous in granting me access to his notebooks and research imagery. I also got to ask countless questions about how ions move through the body. For the record, they cross cell membranes at a hundred thousand to a million per second. When you learn facts like that, your mind is blown. This makes me want to know more about how this can be true. Fortunately, in 2002, I caught Rod before he won the Nobel so gaining access, as a non science person, was available to me. He would make studio visits where he could look at my response to his research. As an artist, I was getting my education on the front lines of science and I was interested in introducing into my art ideas and images from science before they made it into text books. So my concept was the viewer could glean, from my paintings, ideas that were only available in scientific journals but not to the general public.  In January 2012, the physicist, Sebastian White, arranged for me to spend a week at CERN. While the scientists had not yet determined with statistical certainty the presence of the Higgs, they knew where they should be looking when the LHC was to be put back on line. During that week, 30 stories underground, I got to visit three out of four experiments on the LHC—ATLAS, CMS, and ALICE. In addition I spent time speaking with scientists at the anti-matter experiment and with their cosmic ray detectors. One lunch with Sebastian included the leading theoretical physicists, John Ellis and my host Luis Alvarez-Gaumé. During this lunch I got to ask any question imaginable about the Higgs which was answered with patience and clarity. At one point, I spent two hours with Luis in front of his notebooks in his office. That week at CERN was the most exciting imaginable . I gave a lecture to the Theory Group and had my ideas about art and science challenged by their questions to me. Later, in one on one interviews with other members of the Theory Group more information was collected on understanding about ways to present particle physics. I looked at the PowerPoint presentations from John Ellis and downloaded them to my thumb drive and learned about how this science gets presented in his lectures and how I might poach that information for my own aesthetic purpose. Of course, what I gained was a vastly richer understanding of particle physics and it’s importance to our position in the universe. I now know that we live in the Higgs Field. This gives me the exciting challenge to present this investigation to a larger audience that would never have access to these concepts about our subatomic life. Visit Miller's website at The Atlas detector at CERN with a chalk board from an office of the Theory Group. Image courtesy of Stever Miller. SciArt in America December 2013 Want to hear more? Continue the conversation with Steve Miller on Twitter, @stevemillerart, on December 12th, 3pm for a Q&A hour, hosted in conjunction with @CPNAS. #NAStalksArt 39