Wave Mechanics

Here is the latest experiment in visualising the electron beam orbits in the storage ring. As the ‘velocity’ of the movement increases, the wavelike effects and lorentz contractions make the space appear distorted and fluid, and at certain velocities, standing waves appear. However, this is peanuts compared to the actual angular velocity of the electrons moving in the ring at a frequency of 13.3 million cycles per second - ouch!


High Velocity Thoughts

After the installation of the IVU (Intra-Vacuum Undualtor (see below)) I went to take photos in the particle-beam storage ring. I was in a dark part of the tunnel, when for an instant, there it seemed there was a bright beam of light which moved across my face, as I was adjusting the exposure on the camera. I looked up, expecting to see someone there with a torch, but there was nobody else in the tunnel - it was almost like a ghost beam! This reminded me of something I saw on TV (& therefore must be true!) - apparently someone had taken a photo of an empty carpark in some backlot of New York & you could see an ‘infra-red ghost’ of the cars that had been there! That made me think of ghost particles, electron - positron antiparticle ‘pairs’, Einstein’s ’spooky action at a distance’ description of the EPR (Einstein Pauli Rosen) ‘thought’ experiments, and so on.. Thus I began to think of the ‘perception’ of riding on a particle antiparticle pair, in the way in the way ol’ Einstein did almost a century ago… The particle bundles travel at almost 300 million miles a second on their merry way around the synchrotron, circumnavigating the 50 metre radius at 13.3 million times a second, their ultimate fates awaiting them at the ends of the beamlines, with the excited scientists waiting at the ends, an almost measurable buzz in the air. It was almost like a game of experimental Russian roulette - will you get to be IR’d, XRD’d, XANX’d, wiggled & undulated, scraped, grated & polarised, then shoot randomly out one of the chicanes, according to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, where you are Detected, Measured and Certified, and become Real through your interaction with Object X!

How could this be visualized? 2 (or more!) points of perspective (particle and antiparticle)? Multiple frames of reference moving relative (in some way) to another? How to show objects’ and distant observers’ frames of reference simultaneously, and the extreme degrees of scale between the subatomic & ultrafast, and the macroscopic & directly perceptible worlds, and how they interact…? and how to visualise the matter vs energy / wave vs paricle duality!? How did the people who developed the theories that drive the synchrotron approach the issue of interpreting and understanding the world they were exploring?

In the 1920s, the great minds of physics were trying to unravel the riddle of the newly-discovered quantum world, namely (but not only) Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, Dirac and Fermi. Their combined efforts led to the development of such things as diverse things as digital watches and particle accelerators, although they could never (and physicists still can’t!) agree on what’s actually going on in the subatomic realm. Einstein insisted on visualizing the theories, using the ‘thought experiments’ that allowed him to ‘crack’ the classical notions of fixed and absolute space and time, and refused to buy into the ‘quantum indeterminacy’ of the ‘Copenhagen gang’, rebuking them with the now infamous phrase “God does not play dice with the world”. Heisenberg on the other hand, insisted upon the unvisualizable probability based nature of his quantum universe, retorting that he found visualizations “disgusting”! Dirac’s research in subatomic physics led him to the theory of ‘quarks’. He found it such a strange place down there, he named the mysterious particles ‘quarks’, taken from the line “three quarks for Muster Mark” in James Joyce’s irrational classic ‘Finnegans Wake’.

Although all sides agreed on the mathematics involved, they were unable to find common ground for defining the terms they used in interpreting the phenomena of the subatomic realm. Even after decades of debate between Einstein and the particle physicists, the issues were never resolved, because their informal descriptions of the quantum world “implied conflicting notions about the nature of truth and reality and about what is an acceptable type of scientific theory”. This was largely due to the different ways of interpreting the phenomena. Between the poles of Einstein and Heisenberg, Neils Bohr developed a ‘complementarity’ theory from an analysis of such detail that he “plumbed the very depths of knowledge to the formation of ideas themselves” and led to the “discovery that visual thinking preceded verbal thinking” From this epistemological realization Bohr argued that visual thinking was the key to “the aesthetic of the symmetry” of his theory. Niels Bohr was keenly interested in art, and cubism in particular, and was apparently very impressed “that [in cubist paintings] an object could be several things, could change, could be seen as a face, a limb and a fruit bowl”. It has been said that Bohr’s wave-particle duality theory was inspired by such motifs – “depending on how you look at [a subatomic entity] (that is, what experimental arrangement is used), that is what it is”. So it seems perhaps all forms of visual understanding of that which is ‘unvisualizable’ and ‘un-understandable’ have equal footing. No one form can claim to call ALL the shots.

Today they’re positioning the undulator & I will document it (An undulator is a 6 ton electromagnet that makes particles move in little polarized loops & its magnetic field is so strong it can be dangerous to go near it even when it’s turned off!!!)

The human angle of accelerating particles!

Further developments…

Here is a ‘Quicktime VR’ panorama of the storage ring, which has been ‘collided’ into the accelerator ring and itself…
Hold down on the mouse button and drag the cursor around to move through the scene, and use the shift and control keys to zoom in and out (you will need Apple’s Quicktime plugin to view this)

Storage and anti-Accelerator Ring Quicktime VR panorama

Initial plans & experiments

Having just commenced the 3 month artist in residence program at the Australian Synchrotron, here are the first tests for visualising the form of the synchrotron, the processes used in the synchrotron, and the functions of the synchrotron.

Circular LINAC

An image of the LINAC (LINear ACcelerator) where electrons are accelerated into a beam - a bit like a TV but using 80,000 volts. This image has been made into a ‘circular LINAC’.

Storage and Accelerator Ring panorama 1

An image of the accelerator ring & storage ring, where electron beams are electromagnetically pushed around the 100 metre ring at 99.98% lightspeed. This image has been made into a ‘linear’ panorama.