SoL Symmetries of Light

Causing futurable Universes of light.

From the 20th to the 22nd of September the code_n new.New Festival, an exceptional platform for business, industry, technology, science and art and an excellent presentation opportunity for technology inspired start-ups took place at the center for art and media technology (ZKM) in Karlsruhe.
As part of the code_n festival the main properties of the Electromagnetic Field have been presented to the public within the art installation “SoL – Symmetries of Light” on a 360 degree panoramic screen and with a new approach to the interaction between scientist and art curator.

Electromagnetic phenomena are part of our everyday reality. In fact, light is an electromagnetic wave as well as radio waves, which we use to communicate with other people e.g. with mobile phones. They are the keystones where all our technology is based on.

The art exhibition "SoL - Symmetries of Light"

The art exhibition “SoL – Symmetries of Light”

A new idea, inspired by Peter Weibel the well-known art curator and director of ZKM, which is a founding partner of the Media Solution Center BW (MSC BW), became reality: Fabrizio Tamburini, Scientist in Residence at ZKM together with Freddy Paul Grunert, the Associate curator at ZKM, transcribed this new way of showing the beauty of the hidden properties of the symmetries of electromagnetic fields, namely the Noether’s Invariants.
Those invariants are conserved quantities that fully characterize any electromagnetic physical phenomenon and have such a fantastic beauty, which captures the mathematical perception of Maxwell’s equations in a scientistic and as well in an artistic way. In a certain sense, it is nature itself who is the artist and an art form on its own.

Inside the panorama lab

This idea was concretized in the artistic installation “SoL – Symmetries of Light”, based on the exhibtion design for a 360 degree panoramic screen by Cristina Fiordimela in collaboration with Bernd Lintermann of ZKM.
Through a comprehensive numerical analysis of the EM equations, the software and 85600 numerical simulations of physics, realized by Fabrizio Tamburini, it became a form of art with the deep fusion of the thoughts and concepts arisen together with Freddy Paul Grunert and Cristina Fiordimela. The spectator inside the Panorama Lab interacting with the panorama screen interface became part of an unique event, a two-dimensional toroidal magnetic universe, a universe created by our own manipulation, populated by electric fields, magnetic fields and fields of light. It is like a flat universe wrapped in on itself like the surface of a donut and populated by electromagnetic events.

Inside the panorama lab we explore and play with the invisible symmetries of the invariants. We perceive again the wonders of childhood, remembering the excitement we had in picking up a piece of glass and seeing the light reflections in it, looking at its geometry, touching it with our hands and decomposing light in its colors, so unknowingly highlighting some aspects of the invariant energy.

The parameters, on which the following visualisation is based, and the control panel

This is not only mathematical, physical and artistic beauty. This work is based on the importance of knowing the electromagnetic fields in a more complex way: the knowledge of electromagnetic fields and invariants is a key issue in modern technology and knowledge of our universe.
In fact, electromagnetic fields and especially electromagnetic waves are the main carrier of information in astronomy, engineering and telecommunications, transporting a large set of physical observables and information from the radiation source to infinity.

However, the electromagnetic field is more complex than so far assumed: the symmetries of Maxwell’s equations are described in a 10-dimensional Poincaré group P(10).
According to Noether’s theorem there therefore exist 10 fundamental conserved quantities, our invariants shown in the SoL installation. Moreover there exist 23 exact, plus an yet unknown number larger than 84 of approximate conservation laws/conserved quantities and combinations of them that arise from other symmetries present in the Maxwell’s equations[i],[ii].

Fabrizio Tamburini and Freddy Paul Grunert in front of the panorama lab

In practical terms the use of these invariants can enable us to set up higher information transfer capacities for our communication systems and boost the knowledge of certain astrophysical sources up to understanding of the rotation of black holes[iii].

This is in fact an ongoing project to visualize the processes of research and its imagination at the very beginning, in a sort of an intertwined friendship: artistic, curatorial, scientific immanence of the physically proprieties of unknown and unseen properties and phenomena of the electromagnetic field.

More information about the project, further activities and the talk of Fabrizio Tamburini at the code_n new.New Festival can be found here:

ZKM Globale
“Beyond Einstein’s Dream. Riding the Photons”. As part of the exhibtion »Infosphere«,

Maxxi BNL Media Art Festival 2016, Sculpting twisted light and messaging in spatial memory

Interview with Peter Weibel, by Cristina Fiodimela, 2016:

Arte, media, tecnologia. Intervista a Peter Weibel

Some examples from the installation (please click for a larger version):

sol-energy sol-magnetic

[i] Thidé, B. (2011), Electromagnetic Field Theory, 2nd ed., Dover Publications.

[ii] Fushchich, V.I. and Nikitin, A.G., Symmetries of Maxwell’s equations (1987) Springer.

[iii] Tamburini, F., B. Thidé, G. Molina-Terriza, and G. Anzolin (2011), Twisting of light around rotating black holes, Nat. Phys., 7(3), 195–197.


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