Archives for posts with tag: cosmic ray detector

When cosmic rays smash into the nuclei of gases high up in the atmosphere a variety of secondary particles are created but the only ones typically long-lived enough to make it to the Earth’s surface are muons. Muons are heavy electrons with a lifetime of 2.2 millionth of a second before they decay into an electron and a neutrino. Muons are typically produced around 15 km up in the atmosphere, a distance which takes around 50 millionths of a second to cross at the speed of light. This is over 20 muon lifetimes so they shouldn’t be able to get to Earth’s surface before they decay. However, since they are travelling approximately 98% the speed of light, time in their frame of reference is significantly stretched relative to time we experience on Earth. This means that they can travel much further in a shorter period so many Muons do make it to the surface. Special relativity is mind boggling.

Particles that arrive on Earth can cause computer processor bits to flip from one to zero or zero to one. The larger the computer is and the higher the altitude where it operates the more data corruption can occur. There are procedures to enable high altitude supercomputers like those at Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb, to detect when a bit is flipped and raise an alarm to force a crash and system reset. The big problem is silent corruption that neither the computer or human notices that could occur in sensitive data such as nuclear weapons stewardship and modelling for national security, space exploration, climate change, disease transmission, new drug trials etc.

This is all research and stills from my video commission Cosmic Chiasmus for Queen’s Hall Digital which will be going live soon.

Further work on sculptural piece 90 light years home joining all the individual tiles to make raster patterns of fragmented data transmissions. Made from a combination of screen print on textile, dye sublimation print and chinagraph pencil.

These are scrambled messages to outer space. This work is based on the raster patterns of the first TV signals when images were transmitted in a series of lines. It is a systematic process of covering an area progressively, one line at a time. It is similar to how one’s gaze travels when one reads lines of text. 

HD 70642 is a star about 90 light years away. It has roughly the same mass and radius as our sun. It has a companion planet that orbits in a circular motion very similar to how the planets orbit in our solar system. Waves like FM radio or television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. The first radio and TV signals from Earth will be reaching this solar system about now.

The work for my planned cosmic ray detector interactive artwork is still at the sourcing components stage. I am gradually gathering many small packages containing mysterious miniscule parts with worrying warning labels. No mention of the handling precautions in the HOW TO video! Also certain items seem to be difficult to get hold of at the moment with shipping dates set to next spring.

I have sent off for the custom printed circuit boards from China with fingers heavily crossed.

The detector works on the basis that when a charged particle passes through a scintillating material, part of its energy is absorbed and re-emitted as photons. A light sensitive device called a silicon photo-multiplier (SiPM) coupled to the scintillator observes these photons. A single photon can make a measurable signal in the SiPM and can be amplified to shape the signal in such a way that it can measure both how many photons were observed and at what time they arrived using an Arduino Nano. I am hoping to divert that signal to set off a script controlling a layering of on screen images which generatively decay as each cosmic ray pulse is recorded.

In 2019 for the exhibition Reading Stones I created the site specific installation Time Crystals in the ancient St. Augustine’s Tower in Hackney. The nature of time itself was a concept that St Augustine of Hippo grappled with in his philosophical texts sixteen centuries ago and is still perplexing us today; namely, how to equate the subjective experience of time with an objective understanding.

In the news recently is the actual realisation of time crystals, a wholly new phase of matter to add to solids, liquids, gases and plasma that we are familiar with. Solid crystal structures repeat patterns across space whereas time crystal patterns repeat over time. Google researchers in collaboration with physicists at other universities have used Google’s quantum computer to produce this special phase of matter that changes constantly between states, but doesn’t appear to use any energy. All other known phases of matter are in thermal equilibrium meaning their their properties don’t change with time if the temperature is constant and settle into a low energy ambient state. Electronic computers use the binary system of 1s and 0s, on or off to process data. In a quantum computer, quantum bits have more possible states than just on and off adding uncertainty to outcomes. Qubits are unstable, acting differently when they’re under observation but time crystals remain stable while constantly flipping states and may be a huge breakthrough for complex computing and data modelling.

Pleased to announce work has finally been installed through Dais Contemporary at the impressive new Taj St James Court Hotel. Two screen print pieces from the everydaymatters series which are informed by the percentages of visible matter, dark matter and dark energy in the universe, and C-type on aluminium Pairi Daêza based around the refencing by Plato of the dodecahedron as the Aether holding the stars in the heavens. Dissecting landscapes to discover the hidden structures of the universe.

Expanding my etching skills with photopolymer process under the expert eye of J. Yuen Ling Chiu. It’s all in the inking up. Ling is such a great teacher.

Trying more new skills with a Super 8 workshop run by knowledgeable enthusiast Ben Slotover who packed a lot into one day. I really enjoyed trying the different cameras and the dreamlike spattered effects of the final films. Definitely something I want to try again though I think there will be lots to learn to achieve good results. I think it might work well to revisit my paradise works with this medium. The nostalgic ethereal quality appeals for this especially with the expired Kodak film as this needs to be flooded with light to work well.

Enjoyed the super/collider hosted zoom presentation Finding Asteroids with Dr Maggie Lieu research fellow in Machine Learning and Cosmology at the University of Nottingham. As of April 2021, there are over 25,000 near-Earth objects and many of these are a potential risk to life here on Earth, but in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, there is believed to be over 2 million asteroids, some of which can reach 1000km in size! Scientists are actively searching for new, and tracking known asteroids. Often, they won’t know for sure where an asteroid will hit or how big an impact it will make until a few days before the collision. Machine learning is being used to keep a look out for potentially hazardous asteroids heading towards Earth. Interesting to hear how cosmic rays interfere with the data searches for asteroids by mimicking the traces made by asteroids but at such a different scale.

I joined Aphra Shemza for her online digital painting and co-creating workshop. The workshop was great fun, centered around the shemza.digital project which is a collaboration with computer artist Stuart Batchelor. Shemza.digital is based on the work of Aphra’s grandfather, the well-known British/Pakistani painter Anwar Jalal Shemza. It was inspiring and at times shocking to hear the family history and his struggle for recognition against the racism of the institutions he came into contact with as a young art student at the Slade and beyond.


Rewarding visit to Night Shaking with The Ingram Collection at The Lightbox, Woking. A spinetingling collection of objects dredged from the subconscious on a Night Sea Journey accompanied by enlightening and poetic text

“On the ‘Night Sea Journey’, what we think we know is held up to be an illusion. Our minds cannot fully grasp the changes of consciousness that take place during this ordeal. Ego and persona are forced to give way. This difficult inner terrain holds within it a hidden potential to experience a dramatic transformation of consciousness”

Objects and paintings made by Chantal Powell and Dean Melbourne are brought together with chosen artefacts from The Ingram Collection as the artists draw us into the Dark Night of the Soul and the Night Sea Journey narrative.

Chantal talking here on the symbolism of crowns and boats in alchemy and transformation.

We are made of carbon, it is the basic building block in virtually every cell in our body. Most of the carbon in the world is carbon-12 which contains six neutrons and six protons. However about 15 miles above our heads radioactive carbon-14 is formed as neutrons from cosmic rays interact with the atmosphere.

Protons and atomic nuclei created by events such as exploding stars speed across space and collide violently with the Earth’s atmosphere creating a chain reaction of cascading particles. Some of these tiny travellers may come from distant galaxies or be created by phenomena that we are yet to discover. Our body is continuously permeated at a subatomic scale by these particles fired into our world – an almost tangible contact with outer space.

Carbon-14 has six protons and eight neutrons and has a half-life of 5,730 years. This means that after 5,730 years dead matter which absorbed Carbon-14 when alive will contain half the amount it had when it died and after another 5,730 years that amount will have halved again. Radioactive decay is random but in a sample there are enough atoms to work out an average time it will take for the nucleus to lose the extra neutrons.

This radioactive carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants which are eaten by animals and humans.

Cosmic ray activity gives us carbon dating techniques.

I am working on a video, Cosmic Chiasmus, meaning crossing, which I was hoping would be part of Queens Hall Digital programme but now I am not sure they are going ahead with the commission.

Plant time lapse filming is fascinating to see how plants are so animated just at a different time scale to us. Also I have recently finished reading Richard Powers Overstory, a very powerful sobering read, which celebrates the slow yet socially active time of trees.

At Coniston. We are left to imagine the past majesty of this ancient giant which was lopped so it didn’t drop branches on the cars in the carpark.

Carbon dating is performed by measuring Carbon-14 in organic matter. Radiocarbon decays slowly while an organism is alive but is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.

When an organism dies no more Carbon-14 is absorbed and that which is present starts to decay at a constant rate.

By measuring the radioactivity of dead organic matter, the current carbon-14 content can be determined and the time of death established.

The oldest matter that can reliably be carbon dated is about 50,000 years old. Currently techniques are being refined as they have often relied on the assumption that Carbon-14 levels in the atmosphere are constant but they are not.

The burning of fossil fuels which have lost all their radiocarbon dilutes the amount of Carbon-14 with carbon dioxide and nuclear explosions add huge amounts of ‘bomb carbon’ to the atmosphere. During planetary magnetic field reversals more solar radiation cosmic rays enter the atmosphere producing more Carbon-14. Also the oceans suck up carbon circulating it for centuries.

There are a number of uncertainties for dating shell.

On the surface of the earth two to three Muons pass through your hand every second, underground this is reduced to about once a month.

I collected a selection of images from the 1930’s including some from family, including my Mum aged 3, which I have tinted blue and had printed on sublimation dye paper for transfer to the tiles making up the raster pattern in the work in progress 90 Light Years Home. FM radio and television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. The first signals will have travelled about 90 lightyears now to arrive at a solar system very similar to our own. Fragments travelling through space for light years with the potential for alien life to decipher.

While searching for images to use as fragments of our world as it appeared about 90 years ago in old National Geographic magazines I came across some articles about balloon voyages in the 1930’s to the stratosphere to record cosmic ray activity.

Intrepid explorers. These early explorations were innovative but also dangerous. In July 1934 a flight developed tears in the balloon fabric at about 57,000 feet and began to break apart, as it did so the hydrogen in the balloon exploded and the crew had to parachute to safety.

Physicist Victor Hess had already made a series of daring ascents in a balloon to take measurements of radiation in the atmosphere. In 1912 he made an ascent to 17,000 feet during a near-total eclipse of the Sun to determine if the source of the radiation was coming from the Sun and made the discovery that it had to be coming from further out in space.

The stratosphere balloon Explorer II was designed to carry heavy instruments for cosmic ray measurements to a height of 13 miles and more above sea level.

Scientists designed a system of cosmic ray telescopes to record the numbers of cosmic rays coming in from several angles above the horizon. Most of the cosmic rays counted are secondary particles shot out from the atoms of the air by the primary rays entering and colliding from space. During this flight the height at which most secondary cosmic rays are produced was determined and the first records of bursts of energy from atom disruption by cosmic rays was made.

Also, the first track ever made directly in the emulsion of a photographic plate by an alpha-particle cosmic ray with enormous energy of 100,000,000 electron volts was achieved. Two boxes of photographic plates coated with special emulsion were wrapped in light tight paper and attached to the balloon gondola. When the plates were developed there were no visible images but when put under a microscope tracks could be seen where the particles had ploughed through the emulsion.

Early google earth. They also took the highest altitude photographs of the Earth ever made.

To record data they had a series of cameras set to take automatic photographs of the dials on the different apparatus.

Analysing air captured from the stratosphere.

On Earth we are protected from most radioactive particles by the atmosphere and the magnetic field.

It has been clearly demonstrated that birds are able to sense the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field and that they can use this information as part of a compass sense. It may be possible humans retain some residual magnetoreceptor in our eyes that once allowed us to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. Current research suggests that some people do indeed perceive magnetic fields, albeit unconsciously.

Work in progress on navigation by magnetic receptors. Working on a soft ground etching of my iris with aquatint. Not sure yet if I will use the plate or the print in the final work which will have iron filings activated across the surface.

First components have arrived from America for my attempt to build my own cosmic ray detector to create an interactive artwork. The plastic block converts the energy of the charged particle passing through to a photon which can be read by a silicon photo-multiplier and the information fed to an Arduino processor. Daunting and exciting.

Visit to Sutton Hoo where the ever increasing accuracy of radio carbon dating has provided astonishing clues to the past history of this intriguing site. Archaeologists can determine the age of objects in decades as opposed to centuries.

Sutton Hoo is the site of two early medieval cemeteries dating from the 6th to 7th centuries near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, England. In 1939 landowner Mrs Edith Pretty asked local archaeologist Basil Brown to investigate the largest of several Anglo-Saxon burial mounds on her property. Inside, he made one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of all time.

Past, present and future finds. Ancient trees. Burials of Kings. Amazing sword of beaten twisted wrought iron and steel. Basil Brown’s star charts.

The agency and aura of objects was investigated with the intent to generate new relations between objects and their associations with the world around them in the beautiful group show Can We Ever Know The Meaning Of These Objects curated by Sarah Sparkes and Kevin Quigley at Gallery 46.

Eileen Agar Angel of Anarchy at Whitechapel Gallery exposing the subconscious entwined with the material of nature. Enjoyed the decomposition of space into lines like foliations and contour lines. Which angel would you choose? Anarchy or Mercy?

I joined a zoom presentation from Sophie Williamson on her current project undead matter which dips into the deep time entanglement of geological ancestry. Leaving a mark in the past as a way of communicating with the future and creating a lineage for ourselves. Eras mingle with each other as ancient footprints resurface, ice melts, secreted narratives emerge. The permafrost holds vast amounts of carbon. Whole forests.

Zircon crystal contains radioactive uranium with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, which makes it useful for dating extremely old materials much much older than those containing Carbon-14. These crystals may hold clues to the origin of life. The carbon necessary for life may have arrived here in space dust from outer space via asteroids or comets.

WHAT ON EARTH group show from artists including Victoria Ahrens, Melanie King and Diego Valente using photographic processes with an emphasis on the material environment, tactility and sustainability.

Michael Armitage – Paradise Edict at the Royal Academy. Digital images do not do justice to the glow and vibrancy of these paintings. Can feel the heat pulsating with unsettling shape-shifting undercurrents.

180 The Strand with Ryoji Ikeda’s digital showcase was an intense assault on the senses using light and sound as medium to create immersive experiences. Brightness is the number of photons per second hitting your eye. Pushing the limits of what our senses can tolerate.

Took a trip to the Lake District to visit Brantwood, John Ruskin’s beautiful home to see Carol Wyss The Mind Has Mountains and Crown of Creation installations. Having seen the work that went into the printing of the large etchings at Thames-side Print Studio it was wonderful to be able to see the work finally installed and step inside the mysterious depths of the human skull; a space echoed by the surrounding mountains. The light installation is suspended in the dark chill of the Ice House vault, viewed from the top of rugged steps carved into the rock. Here the fragility of the human skeleton fades and glows accompanied by an evocative soundscape made by Natasha Lohan capturing the echoing chamber and the water that courses through everything.

Sensory overload on the Lizard Point Artist Residency hosted by Mayes Creative and Lumen London. Serpentine rocks, wide horizons, sparkling sea, dark starry skies swept by the dazzling beam of Lizard Lighthouse.

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We are here to research the communication heritage of this dramatic coastline once plagued by shipwrecks and pirates.

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Rachel Holder from the National Trust guided us along the cliff path and told stories of the treacherous seas and lives lost on the hidden rocks. We heard about the history of Lizard Lighthouse and other methods of communication across distances.

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We visited Marconi’s radio station hut which was full of wonderful scientific equipment like spark transmitters and Morse code machines. In the early 1890s, Marconi began working on the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires. An early experiment was a storm alarm made up of a battery, a coherer (an early form of radio detector consisting of a glass tube loosely filled with metal filings whose bulk electrical resistance decreased in the presence of radio waves), and an electric bell, which went off when it picked up the radio waves generated by lightning.

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The message ‘WE ARE ONE’ was filmed on 29th March {non} Brexit Day signing with entanglement semaphore flags across the ocean

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The plan is to make a film exploring communication across distances, relating it to entanglement theory where two paired electrons mirror each other. This will then be back projected onto a frosted Fresnel lens as used by lighthouses.

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Joanna Mayes gave us a warm welcome to Cornwall on arrival as we witnessed the molten sun colour the whole sky before dropping out of sight.

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Sitting in the receding warm glow of the sunset we listened to the electromagnetic musical collaboration between sound artist Justin Wiggan and some house plants.

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The meteor viewing pod created by artists Andrew Bird and Christina Romero-Cross was installed in the YHA grounds where a series of Deep Time films commissioned by Mayes Creative were screened with the sequence to be controlled by a cosmic ray detector.

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Two Geiger counters with lead between them identify those particles coming from outer space.

1903 cosmic ray detector

Astroarchaeologist Carolyn Kennett led us along a section of the Southwest Coast Path from Ruan Minor to Cadgwith via Poltesco Old Serpentine Works.

1903 Kuggar bay

Carleon Cove is full of Kennack gneiss, giant pebbles of pale pink granite and dark grey basalt banded together during enormous geological upheavals as the Lizard was thrust northwards and the melted rocks were fused together.

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Constant swirling sea sculpting

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organic micro rock constellations

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The Sky Disc of Nebra is a Bronze-age astronomical disc possibly used to determine the seasons for sowing and harvesting in the Halle area of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is the oldest depiction of the cosmos yet known from anywhere in the world. It was discovered in 1999 by metal detectorists working illegally who sold it onto the black market where  it was later recovered in a police sting operation. Analysis shows the gold and tin used in the disk were from the Carnon Valley in Cornwall. Evidence of ancient links between communities.

Digital StillCamera

Workshops during the residency included looking at found matter under the microscope

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A Chemigram workshop which involves painting various resist materials such as toothpaste, suncream and honey onto photographic paper before exposing to sunlight, fixing and developing.


Astrophotography; learning the camera settings to use to capture the extraordinarily starry night sky we were fortunate to experience. This shot was using bulb mode, focus infinity, 2.8 aperture, 3200 ISO, 30 sec exposure.

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We did have to try and escape the sweeping beam of the Lizard Lighthouse but for some shots the added exposure gave some interesting results.

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On the trip down to join the art and science Lizard Point artist residency we found ourselves serendipitously having a delicious afternoon tea at The Cornubian Arts & Science Trust (CAST)

The original Science and Art School was built in 1897 by Cornish philanthropist John Passmore Edwards at the request of local people.

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The disperse papers left over from making the entanglement semaphore flags have good wormhole portal potential

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Two great resources discovered:

Design Me print studio where I have tracked down a large format heat press available for open access.

Fat Llama a rental resource for practically anything and everything.

I rented an EF 100 f2.8 USM macro lens and set up a mini green screen in the studio. Apparently black tourmaline is good at cleansing negative energy so I sourced a pendant to use to create a hypnotic state of relaxation encouraging the release of negative energy to power the transformation wormhole. Have changed the chain to leather thong.

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Not sure what the backdrop will be yet. Also tested the movement of iron filings against the green screen.

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I made a frozen ice disk and tested back projecting particle trails onto it. This was tricky to film as rather slippy but I can see this could be a good effect showing the detail in the ice.

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Cosmic rays stain icey asteroids red.

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Tested filming the cloud chamber with the macro lens and although the depth of field maybe better because it’s such a small area in the viewfinder I didn’t capture many trails.

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I’m not sure the result was better.

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Got some good air turbulence though

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The plan here was to have dry ice vapour coming through the perforations

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I made a site visit in heavy rain to Salisbury Arts Centre

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I will be installing Pentacoronae hanging sculpture for the Insatiable Mind exhibition as part of Salisbury International Festival.

1809 Pentacoronae

It was great to meet everyone and hear about their ambitions for the space. Being an old Church the ceilings are very high. It’s going to be a challenge but they do have their own cherrypicker.

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In preparation for the launch of the high altitude balloon with a cloud chamber in the payload students from Imperial College Space Society experimented with the mini DIY Cloud Chamber kits I provided.

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They are testing outcomes to design a prototype chamber that can withstand low pressure at high altitude, also they must ensure the base plate is kept extremely cold to create the supersaturated environment but any batteries onboard are kept warm enough to function and that turbulence doesn’t cause a whirlpool effect in the cloud.

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It looks like we might be launching from an airfield near Oxford.

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The New Materialisms Reading Group I attend are currently reading Scale. Geoffrey West’s research centres on a quest to find unifying principles and patterns connecting everything, from cells and ecosystems to cities, social networks and businesses. Full of interesting facts about heartbeats and energy, lifespans and growth cycles.

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It has been alarming to read about the terrifying unpredictable phenomenon of exponential growth. At the beginning growth is slow, but this soon accelerates to such a rate that it becomes out of control, unstoppable and then collapses under its own weight.

I am also still trying to understand entropy as explained by Carlo Rovelli in The Order of Time. So, the universe began with low entropy and it has been increasing ever since, the past leaves traces in the present caused by the irreversible process of energy degrading into heat from which our brains create extensive maps of past events and this is what gives us the sensation of time passing.

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Out of Studio

A packed gallery for Ray Richardson‘s entertaining talk and screening of award winning Our Side of the Water at Thames-side Studios shows how much he is held in our mutual esteem.

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Fun night with Andy Holden at The Cinema Museum.

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Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape uses live green screen filming allowing the narrator to interact with clips from hundreds of cartoons. The film proposes the world is best understood as a cartoon through examining the formation of ‘laws’ within cartoons as a way of making sense of the world we inhabit, a space where anything could potentially happen.

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I joined some students from Imperial College Space Society and other High Altitude Balloon enthusiasts at Wormwood Scrubs for the launch of a couple of Pico balloons that they are testing tracking with the aim of making a complete circuit of Earth.

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Anxious moments as the balloon barely gains height but soon it has vanished from sight

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The next couple of hours are spent listening in for the tracker system transmissions which can drop in and out of range; travelling at something like 60metres/second both balloons made it to Belgium before the transmissions ceased.

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Work resulting from an unexpected encounter that demands attention in By The Way at Lewisham Art House had some ephemeral photopolymer etchings of found seashore plastic by Sam Hodge.

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I also liked this work by Mark Sowden who photographed found frames and then mounts the resulting image in the frame.

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Great show Undertow at Sluice HQ. When prevailing discourses tip towards hyperbole, generalisations or simplification, there is a need to swim against the current, to carve out a space that allows for ambiguity, correspondence and a quieter voice. In the employment of few words, a scale of action or use of minimal materials, understatement can be both a way of confronting moments of crisis, or of evading them.

Alex Simpson Scratching the surface    /    Lauren Ilsley Fluvial Additions

 

Time Tries All Things video installation at the Institute of Physics by Grace Weir explored time and our human relationship with it.

1903 Grace Weir Time Tries All Things

Two narrators consider time from different perspectives against the backdrop of a stone carver replicating a plaque, repeating time.

DAVID:
I think when people talk about time they often confuse two sorts of thing.
There is time itself and there is what’s called the arrow of time, which is
direction, and its perceived nature as a human being.

FAY:
Being or becoming is an ancient question.
Ever since we have records of people thinking about the world, in ancient
Greek philosophy for example, there have been people on both sides of
this debate.

The complete audio transcript is available here.

There is a very impressive diffusion Cloud Chamber in the foyer at The Institute of Physics. Lots of activity but it was hard to see the particle trails clearly through all the reflections. 1903 Diffusion cloud chamber

They also have a cosmic ray detector on the roof which has scintillator plates containing molecules of a substance which emit a tiny flash of light when they are hit by a high-energy particle.

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