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Sharing cats with the Neutrino guy (Physics Art)

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My background is broadly in Materials Science, but the subjects of my drawings and paintings range all over the Physical, Biomedical, and even Social Sciences with a little Engineering for good measure.  Perhaps I should explain.  A lot of my friends are scientists too.  So are their friends.. and so on.  It doesn’t take too many handshakes to wind up deep in another field, and I’ve always been interested in what other people do, why, and how they got there.

For example, I share a home, 3 cats and my precious set of screwdrivers and wrenches with a man whose background is in theoretical Physics.  (sharing household tools with a theorist can be an interesting proposition)   I worked on Biopolymers; Plamen worked on neutrino oscillations.  In a strange way, we met because of solar neutrinos.  He brought them up; I knew what he was talking about because the HEP group at Tufts was right downstairs from my friends in Condensed Matter Physics; we managed to date.

Plamen with Becky, the jealous cat

Many of my more “Physics with a capital P” pieces were painted with Plamen in mind.  When I work on something outside my expertise, I’ll bring him in somewhere in the middle of the painting just to make sure I’m getting it right.  We both recognize that there’s a creative interpretive component to painting too.  These aren’t technical diagrams, but they do communicate.  Even if we’re the only two people in the world who know that that painting “got it right” as  far as the Physics.  They are abstracts, after all.

Some examples of “Plamen-inspired” paintings and drawings are below:

Vacuum Energy                                                                           Song of Solar Fusion
20 x 24 inches, oil on canvas                                                     18 x 24 inches, oil on panel


Vacuum Energy is an artists interpretation of SPace-time “foaminess”.  Since I have an active visual imagination, I can’t help but see that foaminess bubbling up into fleeting subatomic entities in the energy of a high vacuum.  Song of Solar Fusion is an artists interpretation of mapping all of those complex solar processes onto a simplifying grid to see what emerges.  Many of the models and coarse graines descriptions I’ve encountered seemed to have an odd music about them.

ink on paper, 11 x 14 inches

Dance of the Gauge Bosons in Vacuum
36×48 inches, oil on linen

Tadpole Diagrams at Play
Oil on linen, 16 x 16 inches

D-Branes, Dance of the Gauge Bosons in Vacuum and Tadpole Diagrams at Play involve creative and somewhat whimsical re-use of common symbols and symbolic ideas in Physics (with that capital “P”).  Ever since I was a girl, there’s always been a corner of my mind that imagined numbers and symbols as animate. I’ve often caught myself assigning personalities and backstories to my mathematical objects.  What do they do when they finish working for us, and where do they go home to chill?  I believe these works of art give appropriate neighborhoods to some hard working mathematical ideas.  I’m not sure the tadpole diagrams are actually hard-working, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Rube Goldberg abstract
42 x 48 inches, oil on canvas

Music of the Spheres
30 x 30 inches, Oil on canvas

Rube Goldberg Abstract and Music of the Spheres both use geometric motifs that are vaguely CERN-ish.  I walked past great big mounted collider beauty shots every day for about a decade, thanks to the HEP group downstairs.  The imagery gets into one’s brain.  If we look at how our understanding of the universe has progressed, there were theories that became increasing complex and kludgey until a new insight once again created an apparent simplicity and elegance.  Sort of like the glass shells containing all the heavenly bodies moving with the “Music of the Spheres” gave way to a heliocentric solar system.  In our own time this process seems to be accompanied by discussions about the “End of Science”.  With a new insight possibly on the horizon it feels like the right time to contemplate the Music of the Spheres.