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ArtSci Affair: Muons & Meters

February 28 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM

“ArtSci Affair: Muons & Meters” brings together art, technology, physics, and astronomy in three talks by members of Pratt’s STEAMplant initiative for interdisciplinary collaboration. Talks will be given by Helio Takai (Chair of Mathematics & Science), Sara Morawetz (multimedia artist), and Joseph Morris (Form Tech Lab Manager, School of Design).


Learn more about STEAMplant.

Talk information

Helio Takai (Chair of Mathematics & Science)
“Cosmic rays, messengers from the edge of the universe”
Bang! A star goes supernova, ejecting matter into the vast universe. Some of the remnants from these energetic events reach us at planet Earth after traveling millions of light years. When they penetrate our atmosphere something magical happens. They produce a shower of elementary particles, the basic constituents of matter. Every second 1,000 of those particles fly through your living room, and yet we don’t know they are there. In this presentation, I will discuss what cosmic rays are and how these tiny, microscopic objects interact with our world.

Sara Morawetz (multimedia artist)
“How to measure a meter on Mars”
Measurement is not so benign an act. It is inevitably bound up in ideas of judgement and comparison. Of how one length or scale measures-up to another, whether one is more precise or correct, or ultimately better. Measurement is not impersonal – it is a human construct, reflective of our desire to order and control.
How then should we measure beyond the Earth? Do we take our existing Earth-bound metrics with us, or offer other worlds agency in the determination of their own systems and standards?
In this talk, I will discuss a generalized framework for measurement throughout the solar system and present a series of new ‘meter’ lengths devised for each planet.

Joseph Morris (Form Tech Lab Manager, School of Design)
“Space between Spaces”
My STEAMplant residency collaboration with theoretical nuclear physicist Professor Ágnes Mócsy and designer/architect/artist Che-Wei Wang is an outdoor, public art installation that will interact with incoming stellar rays. Using muon particle detectors mounted on a Pratt campus building, a computer will process the incoming data and control a series of outdoor, hanging string lights suspended in the courtyard below. Based on the particle information gathered, a custom coded algorithm will articulate and abstract the data, creating a generative pattern choreographed with the fading and flickering string lights as stellar rays move around us in real time.
As a piece of contemporary art, the work engages concepts of space and place. It invites the viewer to consider one of the smallest interior spaces: the emptiness inside our atoms as passing cosmic rays move through our bodies. The work’s physical objects and installation occupies space, but its sense of place is both negative and positive, voids and expanses with magnitudes of dimensionality.