Audiovisual representation of a Quantum Carpet simulation “QMoss”
I am endlessly inspired to visualize the unseen aspects of the world. It is difficult but not impossible to imagine what exists in our reality in the things that are by default invisible. In fact, it’s moderately easy to come up with visual ideas to concepts such as photosynthesis and collectively we even know how to imagine an atom, thanks to Niels Bohr’s “Planetary model” of the atom where electrons orbit the nucleus at fixed distances, published in 1913. (1) Perhaps not that common knowledge is however, that 13 years after Bohr’s famous model, Erwin Schrödinger took it a step further with his modern, quantum atomic theory in 1926. In the light of research done for quantum physics Schrödinger described the newly found knowledge of probability, the likelihood of existence, in his atom model. (2)
What this means to say is that rather than being a constant, permanent point of reference, our reality in the smallest scale where we can look at it with the help of quantum theory, includes the concept of uncertainty, and likelihood to exist at all. Rather than a firmly distinguishable blob of paint or a light bulb that is switched on or off, the tiniest reality from where everything visible rises to be very large, solid, and real, is an intricate weaving of likelihood; a kind of pattern that can be visualized to resemble… well, a carpet.
Diverse audiences deserve to be included in knowledge
Described very shortly, quantum carpet is a spatio-temporal de Broglie density profile (3). There is a whole lot more to say about quantum carpets, but to an audio-visual artist such as myself who wants to reach diverse audiences and that has no background in quantum physics, most natural science descriptions are accurate but still lacking. It’s not lacking in any measure of natural science factual information, but rather it reaches only a very limited audience with what it means. Certainly, there is motivation here for a designer to do more to ease access to quantum phenomena.
As Klaus Krippendorff explains in The Semantic Turn, the motivation of designers lies in the challenge of introducing new variations into problems and their solutions, that others might not have thought of yet (4). In his words lies the motivation that drives me forward as well and why I chose to work in combining my research with visualizing quantum physics with Audio-visual design. Another aspect is to make the science we consider the hardest to approach all the more inclusive for curiosity. In the near future we can expect technology to change our social world in great leaps. As it happens, I would love for more people to be fearlessly taking part in imagining and designing our world that uses those technologies. An education professional in the field of quantum technology recently mentioned while we were chatting, that in the field where we have now 60 000 professionals, 600 000 would be needed. The mysterious Quantum needs to be spooky no more for this reason too.
Tanya Depass mentions in her We are Museums talk YouTube video, that museums today are new social spaces where the cultural practices can be re-imagined with new tools and technologies. Having digital art in a museum is where one can reach out to new and diverse audiences she points out and build new relationships.(5) Being the new frontier it is, perhaps there’s a chance that around an audio-visual digital installation there could also be a place to discuss what we see and when we are met with the unseen.
Before I move on to talking about the outcome of The Weaving of Reality audio-visual installation, it is important to mention that it is based on the work of Laura Piispanen, a PhD candidate from the physics department of Aalto University, and furthermore on our common effort in creating another artwork in the junction of art and science together, called “Qmoss”. Piispanen is the creator of the original quantum carpet pattern that was used in this artwork. In that sense my work has been largely to imagine layers on existing visual information that enhance the user experience and intuitive interface of quantum information.
What does Superposition sound like?
The Audio-visual studio course introduced me to a peculiar world of the history of audio-visual design. As we were looking at snippets from old, scratched video installations from the 30’s and 40’s I was particularly curious to learn about the concept of how old animations used to have sound added to them with the help of a line of visual presentation of the sound, hidden in the side-line of the video reel. This visualization was read in time with the animation frames to produce a synchronized audio-visual presentation. Basically, this seemed to be a kind of reverse spectrogram, where physical or drawn forms were read into sounds.
Translating 2D coordinates into sound and wave form (Warning: sound is very intrusive in this!)
I started looking for ways to make a digital version of this kind of system that could read a 2D picture and translate the degree of shadow and light on any given moment of time into a sound pattern. This kind of “reading of picture” would turn a 3D quantum carpet simulation into a soundscape of superposition. Superposition is what a quantum carpet basically visualizes, but as a concept it is difficult to understand and lacks a sort of “concrete” concept in the common knowledge, such as Bohr’s visualization of the atom is for example. That’s why I wanted to give this slice of information also a soundscape.
2D information into interactive 3D
When it comes to making information understandable, I think about the information and of what dimension of depth, time and interaction can bring into a visualization. Simplicity is usually the best form of beauty, at least when it comes to making something as understandable as possible. On its own the Quantum Carpet pattern I had been provided with was already beautiful. The problem that a lot of quantum information has, however, is that it feels untouchable and conceptually difficult. In this sense before I decided to make the installation 3D, I had already decided to make it interactive. The aspect of 3D came along with what the Quantum Carpet represents: The lightness of the pattern is a translation of probability, hence it made well sense to bring that representation physically closer and higher to the viewer and add the 3rd dimension into the visualization. I also wanted the visualization to feel like it is part of the same 3-dimensional world that we see around us.
The work with visualizing the unseen for myself is but just starting. It is based on my earlier work with Quantum Explorations Exhibition visualization and Aalto Quantum Games Course visualizations. Along with my Master’s Thesis that consists of my research on quantum games and how they are visualized, the QMoss art installation of a quantum carpet pattern was revealed in the Autumn 2022 in Aalto Campus area as part of the semi-permanent Campus Art collection.
- ‘Bohr Model | Encyclopedia.Com’. 2022. 28 March 2022. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/modern-europe/modern-greek-history-biographies/bohr-model#2830100341.
- ‘Development of the Atomic Theory’. 2007. 2007. http://www.abcte.org/files/previews/chemistry/s1_p6.html.
- Kazemi, P., S. Chaturvedi, I. Marzoli, R. F. O’Connell, and W. P. Schleich. 2013. ‘Quantum Carpets: A Tool to Observe Decoherence’. New Journal of Physics 15 (1): 013052. https://doi.org/10.1088/1367-2630/15/1/013052.
- Krippendorff, Klaus. 2006. ‘The Semantic Turn: A New Foundation for Design’. Routledge & CRC Press. 2006. https://www.routledge.com/The-Semantic-Turn-A-New-Foundation-for-Design/Krippendorff/p/book/9780415322201.
- We Are Museums. 2021. When Museums Meet Videogames | Videogames – A Door to New and Diverse Audiences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqrJ2sQF9Wc.