Here, from time to time, I try to draw together a few threads and give a flavour of what I've been up to.

Wednesday
Jun152011

Some kind of beginning......

This is a tricky thing....how to share my experiences with you, whoever you are.  You might be a physicist or a student of physics (maybe at Imperial College). You may be an artist or an interested layperson or someone who has no knowledge of physics at all - I'm just something that came up when you Googled something else.  

This project is about physics, art and life and all of these are human activities.  So, maybe naively, I am hopeful that you will find something here of interest and keep returning.

So, welcome.  Now, what to tell you?

That on my first few days here, I climbed to the tenth floor of the Blackett physics building at Imperial and as I looked down, I was wondering about where this project will lead, what I will find, how it will change my perspectives.  As I held my glasses on to my nose, this incredible view of the spiralling staircase spoke of beginnings, endings, infinity, circularity, patterns and questions of interpretation.

The arrangement of people from the top to the bottom of this beautiful staircase is a poetic one.  On the tenth and eleventh floors are folks looking at the stars. These are the astrophysicists, maybe they are the archaeologists of the profession. Most of what they see is so old, the light having taken so long to get here.  Some are looking at our very beginnings, the dawning of our world over thirteen billion years ago.  

Going down a level, the ninth floor people are thinking about our earth's atmosphere, tracking, modelling, analysing, predicting.  

Around floor seven, people are seeking to harness energy, I meet creators of fusion here on Earth; then there are people democratising sunlight, figuring out how every person could harvest their share of energy from our great fusion reactor in the sky and nearest star.  

In the middle are theorists.  In fact there are theorists everywhere; people who specialise in setting down ideas and predictions about nature in mathematical forms, the other side of the coin to the experimentalists.  But, here maybe more than anywhere else are a handful of 'unicorn hunters'.....people wondering about the very nature of things, time and space.  The notions we take for granted, but barely understand.

Then there are the particle physicists working with thousands of colleagues at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, smashing protons (tiny constituents of matter) together at incredible energies to find out more about the fabric of our universe and investigate the conditions at the very beginning.

I go on to enter laboratories where others are measuring the shape of the electron to immense accuracies - their findings will have ramifications for important theories. 

And last but not least in a small metal chamber in the basement, there is an atom, which when struck just right by laser light, absorbs, re-emits and shines back at you....the marvel of seeing the single atom. 

In my bid to keep your attention I have missed many wonders, but I am hopeful they will emerge as time goes on.

 

Note on 'finding pattens'

When these two words entered my mind one morning in April 2011, I thought it would be impossible to purchase a website url with this name.  On the contrary, every www.findingpatterns was available.  Which lead me to wonder how something so common to human experience and fundamental to the way we make sense of the world could have been overlooked?

 

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