The Best Descriptor is Fuzziness
For most physicists the work of communicating a theory beyond a peer-reviewed publication is left to editors, journalists, and graphic artists. The creative arts are not typically seen as integral to the field of physics the same way math is considered integral. Although most scientific institutions employ graphic designers and artists to produce book layouts and artistic renderings, their contributions lack the criticality present in other creative professions as well as the academic environment.
Visually physics hasn’t changed in thirty years. But the science hasn’t stopped, it’s progressed by leaps and bounds and the tools used by artists have also evolved. In the case of scientific illustration many new images dealing with physics are patched up replicas of images made before.
As a designer with a physics book problem, I quickly became frustrated with the absence of critical design in physics. In the age of gravitational waves and black hole photographs, it is more important than ever to explain why these achievements are so important as well as how they fit into physics, science, and life as a whole.
For an information designer it is a wonderful challenge to find new ways of representing the theories of quantum gravity in an accurate yet more approachable way. Storytelling and interaction turned out to be the best ways to convey the concept of fuzziness that scientists talk about. Using fuzziness as a touchstone I worked to develop an installation that focuses on using non-visual methods to capture the essence of quantum gravity.
This project consists of a water vapor fog that is used exclusively to visually and physically detach people from their everyday world. As a person wanders in the fog a narration plays, seemingly coming from all directions at once. The narration is the manifestation of quantum gravity. It describes the nature of qunatum gravity and invites the person to imagine the impossible: What would quantum gravity feel like if you could touch it, walk through it, or breathe it.
Before entering the installation the audience is asked to don shoe covers in a short hallway. This brief stop helps to psychologically prepare the viewer for a new experience of reality, one which needs special clothing and a new mindset.
Accompaning the installation is a short lookbook which provides some background and further context to quantum gravity.