A visual representation of the Big Bang

The Island Universe is a piece born out of a long-standing collaboration between artist Josiah McElheny and physicist David Weinberg. Although it is not necessary to enjoy the artwork, here is a description of what it represents (taken from this article):

From the central sphere outwards, we adopted a logarithmic mapping between radial distance and cosmic epoch. So the shortest rods, at about 1 metre long, end 100 million years after the big bang, and they support either faint quasar lamps or clusters of a few small glass pieces with a disc-like form representing the earliest galaxies. Moving outwards towards the present, the glass pieces become larger, tracing the growth of galaxies as they attract gas from their surroundings and process it into stars.

Glass spheres representing elliptical galaxies formed by the chaotic collisions of stellar discs become increasingly common in the sculpture, especially in the dense central regions of the clusters. The clusters themselves grow in size and complexity, acquiring the extended filamentary structure seen in cosmological maps showing the distribution of galaxies. Lamps become brighter and more numerous, then fade in the outermost zone, tracing the rise and fall in the number of quasars.

The 5 different sculptures in the picture below represent different possible realization of the Universe, i.e., a pictorial representation of a corner of the Multiverse.

I find this work an excellent example of art and science working towards a common goal: produing beautiful pieces that can suprise the public with their aesthetic, while at the same time being infused with a great deal of science. The important part is that the latter is so to speak in the background, i.e. it is not necessary to know about the Big Bang and all the rest to enjoy the artwork.

Some more pictures here.

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