Where art meets physics

No lab is complete without an artist in residence. We find one at CERN in Switzerland.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
The artist and the physicist - von Bismarck and  James Wells. Guess which is which. Clue in next photo, although you can never be sure when a fulgurator is in town. Bonus points to anyone who can decipher the chalkboard.


Every good physics lab needs an artist in residence, right?

CERN seems to think so.

The Geneva home of particle accelerators, neutron launchers, antimatter traps and other high minded toys will soon reveal the name of the artist to whom it next gives the run of the place.

CERN's first artist-in-residence, Germany's  Julius von Bismarck, recently wrapped up his two month stint, according to a CERN press release (with two conquerors in his name, this guy seems destined for more accolades).

Fulgurate this! Julius von Bismarck plays with his Image Fulgurator.

Von Bismarck won his CERN gig in part by virtue of an astonishing - and of course geeky - artistic creation called the Image Fulgurator. Basically, the thing is a cheeky bit of digital wizardry that, unknowing to a photographer, asserts objects into a picture as the shutter snaps. You didn't realize your girlfriend had a full beard until you looked at the photo you just snapped of her. Don't blame it on a hormone imbalance. Blame it on von Bismarck.


At CERN, von Bismarck teamed with physicist James Wells. It's not entirely clear why, but hey, it's art. CERN works in partnership on the award with Ars Electronica, an Austrian group dedicated to the confluence of art, science and technology.

Earlier this month, as von Bismarck prepared to give his farewell lecture, CERN director general Rolf Heurer was looking forward to the presentation, noting it would "shed light on the creative process that happens when science and art collide."

Collide? Was von Bismarck rooming in CERN's Large Hadron accelerator?

Apparently they all got along.

"The lecture marks the end of the residency, but by no means marks the end of Julius's involvement with CERN," said CERN's cultural specialist, Ariane Koek. "He will always be welcome here. It is certain that the many ideas that were seeded during his time at CERN will be seen and become art works for many years to come."

I imagine you should put in your order now for a framed copy of the The Flight of the Photons. It will make a wonderful holiday gift for the artist - and the physicist - in the family.

Photos: Wells and von Bismarck by Maximilian Brice via CERN. Von Bismarck by Richard Wilhelmer via Julius von Bismarck website.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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