"My profession is to be forever journeying, to travel about
the Universe so that I may know all its conditions."

Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna), 980-1037,
physician, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer


There is an old joke about a theoretical physicist who was charged with figuring out how to increase the milk production of cows. Although many farmers, biologists, and psychologists had tried and failed to solve the problem before him, the physicist had no trouble coming up with a solution on the spot. "First," he began "we assume a spherical cow..."


Dear friends,

If you happen to be in Vancouver sometime between now and November 2nd, I invite you to drop in at the Presentation House Gallery to take in the new art exhibition entitled SPHERE that opened this past saturday.


There among the various explorations of "the sphere" by contemporary artists, you will find a video installation by myself on Cosmological Spheres, which makes use of numerical simulations by two collaborators, Tom Quinn at the University of Washington and Josh Barnes at the University of Hawaii, as part of a larger study on the formation & evolution of structure in Universe. The image on the right is a still from the installation.    The installations were created with assistance from Lynda Gammon and Steve Gibson (Dept of Visual Arts, UVic).   Lynda Gammon's works are also on exhibit.

Click on the image above to find out more about my exhibit and to preview the video installations on display, To be fair, viewing this clips on a computer screen does not do full justice to the actual exhibit.

You may be asking yourselves: What do images/videos from actual scientific work have to do with art?

Very briefly,  the construction and use of imagery in Physics is a long and valued tradition, whose importance is only now starting to be more generally recognized - at least in the formal sense [1]. Real processes in nature are often complex, with the underlying organizing principles shrouded in a confusing cacophony of details. At its heart, "Physics" imagery seeks to, in the first instance, to abstract away all the non-essensial features of a phenomenon [hence, the running joke about the "spherical cow"] in an effort to distill out its essence and render it amenable to "intuitive understanding". One can argue that this imagery truly straddles the boundary between Physics and Art. It is typically visual and, more often than not, symbolic representations of Ideas (in the Platonic sense) and Aesthetics of the natural world. One can argue that a scientist is a medium through whom Nature makes her works known. The works, once observed and experienced can engender a multitude of responses, from curiosity to awe, from the obvious to sublime.

As part of the above exhibition, I will also be presenting a public lecture at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre on Saturday Oct 4th, 7:30pm. The lecture will be about our current efforts to understand how observed structure in the Universe has come to be.

See http://www.hrmacmillanspacecentre.com/special_detail_babul.htm

A. Babul,
Professor and Director, Canadian Computational Cosmology Collaboration
Dept of Physics and Astronomy, University of Victoria

Relevant WWW URLS:
                                          Babul's homepage
                                          Astronomy Group homepage
                                          Department of Physics and Astronomy homepage
                                          University of Victoria homepage

[1] Imagery and Formal Thinking: Approaches to Insight and Understanding in Physics Education.
      Text of lecture by Manfred Euler