Geist. Credit: Alan Hayes

A Scientific Work of Light Art That Mimics Neutrino Interactions

Header: Geist. Credit: Alan Hayes

Teaming up with leading particle physicists, This is Loop drew inspiration from the elusive neutrino, also known as the ‘ghost particle,’ for their project Geist by Harriet Lumby and Alan Hayes. The neutrino, a tiny and nearly massless particle, is dubbed a ‘ghost particle’ because it interacts very weakly with matter, making it challenging to detect. The artwork is making its debut at two major events in the UK, starting with Canary Wharf Winter Lights until Saturday, January 27th, 2024, followed by Nottingham Light Night in Sneinton Market from Friday, February 2nd, to Saturday, February 3rd, 2024, with daily presentations. This marks a significant milestone for This is Loop as they showcase the captivating creation, blending art, science, and technology to international audiences.

Geist. Credit: Alan Hayes
Geist. Credit: Alan Hayes

Geist is a unique touring artwork that delves into the fascinating world of neutrinos, tiny particles that are challenging to detect. The artwork is like a large sculpture, shaped like an octagonal carousel, 6 meters in diameter. Each side of this sculpture is a window, measuring 3×3 meters, presenting a captivating play of reflection and light, created through a mirror illusion. At its core is a suspended illuminated orb. What makes Geist special is its interactive nature. The suspended light particle comes to life only when the audience is nearby and moving around. Thanks to individually addressable LED modules, the sculpture responds with flickering and glimmering lights in the presence of people. Essentially, the public’s interactions bring Geist to life, creating a playful experience akin to ‘hide and seek.’ This dynamic interaction mirrors the real-life scenario in neutrino detectors, where only interactions with atoms reveal the elusive neutrinos.

The scientific narrative of Geist has involved input from particle physicists at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, and the Physics Department at Oxford University. The collected group of physicists has provided access to and context for real neutrino oscillation measurements from the T2K neutrino experiment in Japan. In collaboration with new-media artist Motus Art and sound artist Dan Bibby, This is Loop has re-interpreted actual neutrino interactions seen by T2K, using input from motion sensor cameras and complex code, into the animation of moving light and audio for Geist. The type of ‘neutrino’ seen will depend on the neutrino oscillation probabilities from T2K. When the audience ‘interacts’ with the sculpture, Geist will reflect a visual and audio representation of the detection of a neutrino.

credit Sean Kerr
Credit: Sean Kerr

“We are super excited about unveiling Geist; the artwork has been a collaborative effort to take deep scientific theory and data and interpret it into a public artwork. Neutrinos are one of the most significant areas of current scientific research and have the potential to answer fundamental questions about the existence of the universe. We’re honored to have the support of the STFC and the physicists at Oxford University, and to get the opportunity to work with real data from the Kamiokande Neutrino detector in Japan is a dream come true.”

– Alan Hayes, This is Loop
Geist. Credit: Alan Hayes
Geist. Credit: Alan Hayes

This is Loop, an award-winning, Somerset-based creative studio led by Harriet Lumby and Alan Hayes, makes and tours original audio-visual artworks around the world, seeing audiences of upwards of 1.5 million in the last couple of years alone. Their acclaimed sculptural artwork plays with reflection, moving light, and illusion, sitting at the intersection of art, science, and technology.