Oct 14, 2005

Particle Physics Art

My brain works visually. That's why I prefer geometry to algebra (okay, I like both, but I like geometry more). And that's why I like to put beautiful (at least to me) pictures in the beginning of every post.

Sometimes in physics theories reach phenomena that our eyes cannot. Then we need to rely only on math and have no clear visual picture of what is going on. But I suspect that a lot of other scientists also like visual inputs and that is the reason Feynman graphs and other diagrammatic methods became so popular in physics: they not only give us a better way to calculate things, but they give us some visual picture of the process and we can feel more confortabe with what we are doing. Somehow, we feel that we are understanding it better.

Particle physics is an area where pictures are always welcome, because we can only experiment particles indirectly, by means of paths in accelerator's collisions. Rigorously, quantum mechanics' math treats particles as point structureless entities. But although they're points and has no structure, they have a lot of properties like spin, momentum, polarization, mass and other quantities associated, most of them with the collective name of quantum numbers. The best we can say is that not having images in our brains to visualize those things is boring. Then I saw yesterday an article entitled "gallery: jan-henrik andersen" from where I took the picture in the top of this post (that represents a photon) talking about this designer that worked together with particle physicists to create graphical representations of the particles that would reflect their properties. The article has a lot of beatiful images and you can download a PDF file, althoug the resolution of the pictures in this file is not so good as in the site. I really enjoyed his work.

Just one more observation: these are artistic REPRESENTATIONS of the particles, remember, as I already said, that our view of particles today (at least the elementary particles) is that they are just points.

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