The art of science in jewellery, metal, tape and music

Australian Institute of Physics, Australian Institute of Physics Congress, Media releases
  • laser rod to lapel pin
  • space–time silver cuff
  • complex art from simple rules
  • geometry, videos and lace on exhibition

Artworks inspired by science are on display and under discussion at the national physics and optics congress at the Australian National University in Canberra from 7 to 11 December. The congress theme is ‘The Art of Physics’.

Lab junk into Labpunk

LapPunk_3picsA physicist with a passion for art and an artist with a passion for science are re-purposing scientific lab equipment to make original jewellery and sculpture art.

Margaret Wegener (the physicist) and AK Milroy (the artist) have turned an old laser crystal into a flash bulb lapel pin (top right). The pin was presented to plenary speaker Paul Corkum, who uses lasers to create incredibly fast ‘flash bulbs’ to catch electrons in orbit around an atom.

Theoretical physicist Lisa Randall’s memento is a silver warped space-time cuff (left), depicting the model of the universe that her work addresses.

Physicists require pure materials, such as quartz crystals that provide extremely accurate measures of time; this also makes them excellent for art, says Margaret. “Some broken crystal resonators that were given to me have been cut as gemstones [bottom right], and they look fabulous.”

Wegener and Milroy have created a unique piece of wearable art for each plenary speaker at the Congress derived from that speaker’s area of physics. Their work will be on exhibition at the Congress.

See below to see the artwork created for the plenary speakers at the Congress.

Using science to create patterns

Barr_exp3_loresOn Wednesday 10 December, conference delegates will use coloured electrical tape and stickers to create a collaborative drawing investigating complex systems, in an art-science experiment by artist Briony Barr and physicist Andrew Melatos.

The art work will emerge from simple rules of interaction determined by genetic codes—repeated by many participants these interactions will create complex patterns. The final outcome will be unpredictable—a characteristic of a complex system such as the stock market or a weather system.

Previous installations in the Drawing on Complexity series have taken place in Melbourne, Sydney (pictured) and Seoul.

Briony and Andrew will be supervising the installation on Wednesday 10 December, in the foyer of Melville Hall, ANU.


The exhibition includes the works of two artists-in-residence at ANU, Julie Brooke and Alison Munroe, arising from collaboration with applied mathematician Vanessa Robins, who researches how geometry determines the physical properties of materials. Plus: lace work, quilting, images, paintings and video installations.

And in scientific papers, Joe Wolfe discusses the ‘circle of fourths’ in his orchestral overture and Tim Brook makes art with a ‘Markov chain’ of controlled randomness.

The Velocity exhibition of paintings and video installations on the theme of speed and technology in on at the ANU Drill Hall Gallery until 14 December.

Physics inspired jewellery

The below gifts are inspired by both the materials in the artists’ physics collections and by the research interests of the plenary speakers at the 2014 Australian Institute of Physics Congress.

Steven Chu’s piece celebrates his work in laser cooling and trapping.

Professor Steven Chu Laser cooling and trapping pin (640x427)

Credit Green Vale Gallery









Steven Sherwood’s piece – cumulus clouds, elebrates research in atmospheric physics and its effects on climate. “Every cloud has a silver lining” – and these clouds are silver all the way through. The materials used are sterling silver and rare earth magnets.

Cloud pin (640x427)

Credit Green Vale Gallery









Lisa Randall’s piece was inspired by her research in theoretical physics. Her warped space-time cuff  was created by passing the materials through a rolling mill to roller-print a strip of sterling silver with a grid pattern. The strip was curved into a bangle shape and then anticlastic forging was used to create a saddle form.

Space Time Cuff (427x640)

Credit Green Vale Gallery













Lisa Harvey-Smith’s piece celebrates her work in astronomical research investigating the birth and death of stars and the origin and nature of cosmic magnetic fields.

Star pendant

Credit Green Vale Gallery

Paul Corkum’s piece was inspired by his  research in generating extremely short pulses of light. Paul’s aim is to build the first 25 attosecond flashbulb, hence his Flashbulb piece was created.

Corkums flashbulb black background

Credit Green Vale Gallery