LIVE - from Big Bang at CERN to Blegdamsvej – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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05 January 2010

LIVE - from Big Bang at CERN to Blegdamsvej

A light installation, a Colliderscope, which transmits signals from the physics experiments at CERN in Switzerland, has been installed on the facade of the Niels Bohr Institute at Blegdamsvej. The Colliderscope consists of nearly a hundred diode lamps, which in a stream of lights shows signals from the collisions in the particle accelerator at CERN.

The light installation is an accurate reflection of the actual events in the LHC-accelerator. The tracks from
the LHC in CERN move across the facade in ever changing patterns. Some lamps light up brightly for a
moment, others glow faintly and slowly fade out all according to the individual particle’s mass and energy.
In the same way, the orbit of the particle determines which lamps light up. Sometimes there is a long time between the individual events, other times they come pouring in on top of each other.   

The Colliderscope was created by visual artists Christian Skeel and Morten Skriver in collaboration with physicists Clive Ellegaard and Troels C. Petersen. The intention with placing the light installation on the Niels Bohr Institute building is first, to create a strong symbolic demonstration of the close relationship between the Niels Bohr Institute and one of the world’s most significant physics experiments, as well as to create interest in the experiment and in science in general.

The Niels Bohr Institute is one of the research institutes in the world which has contributed most to the theoretical foundations of the LHC-experiment and researchers from the institute have developed significant parts of two of the enormous detectors. 

The beginning of the Universe – in numbers and light
The experiments take place in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is a 27 km long underground, circular magnetic tunnel where subatomic particles crash into each other with extreme force. The aim is to find out how our universe looked after it formed 13.7 billion years ago. The violent events inside the accelerator are registered by detectors, which generate millions of data each second. Usually, the physicists see the overwhelming amount of information as numbers and curves.

The Colliderscope, on the other hand, tries to visualize the LHC’s flow of data from the particle collisions in a more immediate and visible way with the almost hundred diode lamps integrated into the facade of the main building of the Niels Bohr Institute. By using all of the parameters found in the flow of data and combining them with the random patterns of the particle collisions the signal from the LHC can be reproduced, like a giant, dynamic light sculpture.

Mysteries of the Universe
The data which the Colliderscope relays comes from the so-called TRT detector, which is one of the two detectors in the LHC accelerator, developed at the Niels Bohr Institute. The detector has approximately 500,000 detector-straws, which give a signal when a charged particle passes through and one can determine the energy and origin of the particle from its orbit and reconstruct what happened in the collision.

With the collisions in the ATLAS-detector researchers hope to find answers to some of greatest unsolved mysteries of physics, for example, what creates gravity. They are looking for the so-called Higgs particle, which, according to the theoretical standard model, gives all things mass. The Higgs particle is an important piece in the puzzle of physics – and researchers hope to determine whether it exists with the experiments at CERN.

See the experiments live on the facade of the Niels Bohr Institute at Blegdamsvej. The Colliderscope is currently scheduled to run until 2011. The project is supported by the Danish Arts Agency, the Velux Foundation and the Niels Bohr Foundation.

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