Superposition: physicists and artists in conversation

First In Conversation event.

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The first of our In Conversation events is being held this Thursday. We've still got tickets available if you want to head down.

The first In Conversation events is hosted by Tom Freshwater, Contemporary Arts Programme Manager at National Trust. He'll be talking with Lyndall about the whole process, from initial conversations to putting in the last disk.

If you can't make we're going to film the event and put it online. Hope to see lots of you there.


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Covariance update

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A little update on Covariance. We held the private view on Wednesday 4th September and we estimated over 180 people attended. There was lots extra going on with canal boat trips running, speeches and ice cream. 

My job for the night was manning the front desk, but later it was so busy I was put down the well to help visitors up and down the ladders. In between pointing out the low ceiling I managed to speak to a few people and the reaction was very positive, with "beautiful" being a common word. See more photos from the event.

Alongside the brochure that accompanies the installation we also have a video which interviews Lyndall and Ben and about their experience of the Superposition project.


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Covariance unveiled

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Today the press release went out along with photos of the installation photos. Covariance looks stunning and it's ready and waiting to receive visitors. The installation opens this Saturday 24th August. Have a look at the booking info for more details about visiting and the In Conversation events.



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Covariance has been chosen as the name for this first artwork commissioned by the Institute of Physics in its Superposistion series which pairs physicists with artists.

The term covariance is itself mathematical but used in physics; it is the measure of the association between random mathematical variables. Put less technically, covariance is a measure of the degree to which a change in any number of unrelated things is unified when their environment changes around them.

Covariance is an apt name for the installation for many reasons. First it reflects the journey Lyndall and myself continue to take together, learning from each other and discovering new ideas. Secondly it speaks of the underlying symbiosis in the piece of the visualisation of experimental and design of particle physics detectors.

Most importantly, however, I feel are the links between the production and location of the installation and that of particle detectors around the World. Every aspect of the design, construction and installation of Covariance draws massive parallels between the design, construction and installation of a particle physics detector. Its home of the subterranean ice wells of the London Canal Museum also fits the homes of the massive detectors.

Come to the London Canal Museum to see for yourself; Covariance opens to the public at the end of this month, tickets and more info here.

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I have been lucky enough play my part in the construction of a cutting edge particle detector and I feel equally privileged to have played my part in the construction of the Covariance installation.

The other weekend I went to visit Lyndall in Ely to play my part in constructing on of the hundreds of elements involved. While there I was surprised to see how much in common the construction of the installation had with that of a particle detector. After some thought though the parallels made perfect sense because they are a very real reflection of the core inspiration behind the piece.


I tried my hand at constructing one of the hundreds of uniquely and intricately patterned  Perspex discs that comprise the main installation. I found the accuracy with which the diamantes must be placed quite tricky and instead realised my calling lie in preparing the brass rods for the glass beads to sit upon.

The micro industrial scale process Lyndall and her team of assistants are employing to create Covariance mimic that of my colleagues and myself when constructing the ND280 near detector for the T2K experiment. Thousands of individual elements are painstakingly hand assembled, over seen by an expert. Jigs and standardised methods ensure accuracy in the alignment of each piece.

Soon will come the stage when all on the intermediary elements will be packaged and shipped to site for installation. The ND280 particle detector comprised of elements constructed by groups all around the globe and came together in the village of Tokai-mura in Eastern Japan. The discs for Covariance are travelling in boxes from Lyndalls home in Ely to Kings Cross, while the support structure and lighting will arrive on site direct from engineers. It will be the coming together of all elements that will make Covariance complete much that same as it takes international elements to complete a particle detector.

I am extremely excited about Monday as I will be continuing this journey to completion when the main support structure arrives on site at the London Canal Museum. This is the most exciting part as the individual parts start to form the whole. It will take less time than installing a particle detector but the principle is the same – elements are passed down a hole and assembled underground into a complete piece.

It is happening!