Quantum sculpture: art inspired by the deeper nature of reality

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Voss-Andreae, J.: Quantum sculpture: art inspired by the deeper nature of reality. Leonardo 44(1), 14–20 (2011)




The author, a sculptor with a background in physics, describes sculptures he creates inspired by quantum physics. He argues that art such as the presented sculptures can indicate aspects of reality that science cannot and therefore has the potential to help liberate us from the deep impact the paradigm of classical physics continues to have on our every perception of reality.

Extended Abstract



T1 - Quantum Sculpture: Art Inspired by the Deeper Nature of Reality

AU - Voss-Andreae, Julian

Y1 - 2011/01/26

PY - 2011

DA - 2011/02/01

N1 - doi: 10.1162/LEON_a_00088

DO - 10.1162/LEON_a_00088

T2 - Leonardo

JF - Leonardo

JO - Leonardo

SP - 14

EP - 20

VL - 44

IS - 1

PB - MIT Press

SN - 0024-094X

M3 - doi: 10.1162/LEON_a_00088

UR - http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/LEON_a_00088

Y2 - 2016/06/09

ER -

Used References

1. J. Voss-Andreae, “Protein Sculptures: Life’s Building Blocks Inspire Art,” Leonardo 38, No. 1 (2005) pp. 41–45.

2. M. Arndt, O. Nairz, J. Voss-Andreae, C. Keller, G. van der Zouw and A. Zeilinger, “Wave-Particle Duality of C60 Molecules,” Nature 401 (1999) pp. 680–682.

3. “Classical physics” refers to physics before the 20th-century advent of quantum physics.

4. See A. Einstein, B. Podolsky and N. Rosen, “Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?,” Physical Review 47 (1935) pp. 777–780 and Bohr’s reply with the same title (but a different implied answer): N. Bohr, “Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?,” Physical Review 48 (1935) pp. 696–702.

5. These models often contain an additional imprecision in that they illustrate only the angular dependence of the wave-function without including the radial one. I am sure many if not most scientists would draw these spherical harmonics if asked to depict “what a hydrogen atom looks like.”

6. Anton Zeilinger’s group homepage: <www.quantum.at/zeilinger>.

7. M. Arndt et al. [2].

8. The double-slit experiment is a beautifully simple experimental setup that consists of a beam of particles or light that is sent through two neighboring openings, the slits. The pattern detected on a screen behind the slits (“interference pattern”) reveals whether or not the beam has traveled as a wave that has passed through both openings at once. Technically, our experiment [2] is not a double-slit experiment, since we used a grating with more than two slits. But the difference is not significant because the wave-function of one buckyball extends coherently over only about two slits in width.

9. Luca Pacioli, De Divina Proportione (Venice: 1509).

10. A very small distance (1.6 x 10-35 m) that is thought to be of fundamental meaning in physics.

11. “Dual Nature,” Science 313 (2006) p. 913; see <www.JulianVossAndreae.com/Artist/resume/images/2006_08_18_Science.pdf>.

12. Richard Feynman’s path integral formalism is a tool for calculating quantum mechanical probabilities by adding up all possible paths (“sum over histories”). This is done by “slicing up time” to parameterize arbitrary paths. The slabs suggest the time slices and the irregularly placed rods the random path points. See also the description of Night Path (2009) in the following section.

13. For footage of the sculpture displaying this effect see V. Patton, “Quantum Sculptures with Julian Voss- Andreae,” Oregon Art Beat (Oregon Public Broadcasting TV) Episode 1012 (2008), see <www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqsQYVFAgPo>.

14. P. Ball, “Quantum Objects on Show,” Nature 462 (2009) p. 416; see <www.JulianVossAndreae.com/Artist/resume/articles/2009_11_26_Nature.pdf>.

15. I was offered the opportunity to exhibit these works at the American Center for Physics (ACP), <www.acp.org>.

16. “Quantum Objects” was the sculpture part of the three-person exhibition Worlds within Worlds (Fall 2009–Spring 2010).

17. See <www.JulianVossAndreae.com> under “Work” and “Archive.”

18. M.F. Crommie, C. Lutz and D. Eigler, “Confinement of Electrons to Quantum Corrals on a Metal Surface,” Science 262 (1993) pp. 218–220. This experiment is also featured in D.S. Goodsell, “Fact and Fantasy in Nanotech Imagery,” Leonardo 42, No. 1 (2009) pp. 52–57 and C. Toumey, “Truth and Beauty at the Nanoscale,” Leonardo 42, No. 2 (2009) pp. 151–155.

19. What is imaged in this experiment is essentially the square of the surface state electrons’ wave-function.

20. The same had been done to prepare all the published images of the quantum corral including the images in the original publication by Crommie et al. [18].

21. P. Ball [14].

22. “Cannot be observed” in this context does not imply the qualification “when nobody looks,” but rather means that an observation is in principle impossible because there is no physical carrier of information (e.g. a photon that could get detected by an observer’s eye).

23. For a more detailed discussion about the relationship between Night Path and the physics that inspired it, see Ball [14] and the Q&A section in Philip Ball’s blog homunculus, <www.philipball.blogspot.com/2009/11/quantum-objects.html>.

24. For quantum mechanical wave-functions the situation is actually similar, since the kinetic energy operator in the Schrödinger equation involves a second derivative, that is, the curvature, of the wavefunction.

25. A. Einstein et al. [4]. Einstein famously called this fascinating phenomenon “spukhafte Fernwirkung” (spooky action at a distance).

26. Many scholars have addressed this idea, including Linda Dalrymple Henderson, The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (Princeton University Press, 1983; new ed., MIT Press, 2009); Linda Dalrymple Henderson, Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works (Princeton, 1998); and Leonard Shlain, Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light (William Morrow, 1991)


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