What does physics have to do with art? Everything, as shown by a recent collaboration between physicists and School of Art and Design professionals.

The works produced, ranging from paintings to panels and woven pieces, were commissioned for the “Spacetime Art” exhibit, held in conjunction with last week”s “Space Odyssey: 2001” inaugural conference for the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics.

The collaboration showed the ways artists and scientists work together to solve universal problems. For theoretical physicists, art provides a natural outlet for the expression of scientific ideas. Physicists ponder abstract questions regarding subjects such as the “big bang” to black holes.

“It”s kind of exciting that the art school was enthusiastic about having this collaboration, and it worked out beautifully because the people involved are among the top quality artists and some of the best physicists,” said University physics professor Gordon Kane. “The project was a gamble when we started, but it worked,” he added.

The Space Odyssey: 2001 inaugural conference brought together astronomers, cosmologists, particle physicists and mathematicians to discuss these issues about space in the 21st century. Featured speakers included Prof. Martinus Veltman, a Nobel Prize recipient, along with many other physicists from national and international realms.

The first step in the collaborative process began in March when members of the physics and mathematics departments met with artists to explain their current research projects and interests.

“It was interesting to hear the physicists describe what they do and to later talk to them. They function as creative people in much the same way we artists do,” said exhibit coordinator Sherri Smith, an art professor.

Established only a year ago, the MCTP is in the process of building a reputation through a commitment to public lectures and other outreach activities.

“The purpose of the inaugural conference was to make the center more widely known to the scientific community, and this is the first event of what will be many to take place in the future,” said MCTP Director Michael Duff.

Duff added it seeks to include members not only from the physics department, but also from other departments such as biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering and the medical sciences by taking an interdisciplinary aim. The center provides research opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students.

“What was special about this meeting is the caliber of the scientists who came from all over the world to celebrate the creation of this new interdisciplinary center of theoretical physics,” he added.

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