Earlier this semester I presented a model based on an Alexander Calder mobile. It was fun to build and, oddly, I learned a lot. During presentation Artist-Professor Eric Hagan made a remark which resonated to what another professor said to me during my first semester at ITP. While I forget exactly what he said, both comments expressed the same thought: “OK that’s great. But I’d like to see you go further.” My immediate reaction was, “further than Calder? Not possible.” But it was still a challenge that preoccupied my semester.
Time in graduate school has given me the space to examine much of what has been an endless source of fascination for me since I was six years old, which is pretty much everything!
Specifically though, just now, the preoccupation is with nuclear forces; the movement of sub-atomic parts/units/fields/packets/waves/quanta of energy (electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.) which I am trying to wrap my consciousness into. This is a world whose architecture would seem to be modeled after a celestial map of creation. Every detail seen, appreciated, and missed, possesses significance. I cannot begin to imagine a world as complex as human society on an atomic, cosmic, human-sized scale: that’s more than my pea brain can comprehend. For now I am trying to understand one tiny phenomenon at a time.
This past year I have been thinking more about magnetic fields and how it is that non-magnetic objects are physically moved through space using otherwise invisible energetic agents.
Wandering the streets of London about ten years ago, I discovered a museum which featured Michael Faraday’s laboratory in the basement of a London townhouse. Seeing his old wooden work bench, the tools which he used, a letter to him from Galvani, and a model of the first toroidal transformer, was an extra-ordinary experience. I couldn’t help but think that his work area looked a lot like mine, except that he had more things made with wood, brass, and style.
Faraday discovered a lot things. Electrolysis and electroplating for one (two?). Another find (besides the dynamo generator) was the movement of electrons through copper wire.
That’s the background, how I arrived at creating sculptural objects from something simple while learning and discovering so much in the process: thank you Erics Rosenthal and Hagan for leading this horse to water.
“…. the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible ….” – Albert Einstein
Watching the wire repeat an eccentric orbit without gears, flywheels, pulleys, or sails is fascinating. Magnet + Electrochemical Cell (source of electrons) + Conductive metal (non-magnetic wire) + correct arrangement = Motion.
When I worked on repeating Faraday’s experiment, I learned more than I ever did through reading about him and his work. Experimenting with varying strengths of magnets and cells as well as the diameter of the wire, and how these variables with affect the speed and strength of movement is very interesting.
Putting these experiments in an historical context is interesting for other reasons.
The Wonders of the Invisible World:
The misguided at Salem’s Witch Trials missed the mark. Real magic occurs at the subatomic level. It is a realm where forces which would otherwise remain invisible are made manifest through intensive research, theory, and experimentation.
Every technology which we interact with has beginnings which are no less inspiring now than when they were first discovered.
Without these discoveries, Duracell batteries (cells), copper wire, and magnets would not be the common objects which they are today, as well as the foundations of still developing machines which are fundamental to the world which we inhabit.