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Drawing Invisible Particles


An investigation into cosmic rays

Drawing Invisible Particles (2017-2018) stemmed from an art project by artist Tom Cox and was aimed at engaging young people and the general public in particle physics. Using visual arts and sculpture to capture their imagination, participants were invited to investigate and learn about cloud chambers, Muons and cosmic rays.

The artwork!

Originally created as part of Tom’s Social Sculpture MA in 2015, the artwork consisted of a large black tent (3 x 3m cubed) with inside a cloud chamber made up of everyday materials such as a plastic pint pot, or a desk lamp. Participants were invited to enter the tent and discover the cloud chambers, from which they could then witness the trails of particles passing through the space. The visitor's experience was topped off with a discussion about the artwork as well as explanations regarding the science behind the cloud chambers and the history of the Moun.

Drawing Invisible Particles was a truly incredible chance to engage with invisible concepts through art! The cloud chambers were a fun and interesting way to begin a conversation about particle physics. They raised many questions surrounding the nature of reality and scientific research, and sparked connections between art and science, considering where they meet or even overlap.

Who was involved?

As a pilot project, Drawing Invisible Particles worked with children at selected primary and secondary schools, but also with the general public.

As an unusual instance in which the general public had the opportunity to engage with science, it acted as a place of discovery where the acts of questioning and imagination came together to prompt deeper knowledge and understanding.

By learning more about particle physics, the children at the primary and secondary schools were better equipped to have discussions about areas of further study such as special relativity, or the applicability of these ideas in projects such as CERN.

Is it science, art or both?

Among the different aims of the pilot, the project wanted to experiment with different modes of delivering the project to wider audiences, but also work on developing the tent and cloud chambers, as well as record viewers’ reception and responses to the work. Moreover, the project intended to address and stimulate discussions between young people and teachers about the separation between art and science in education, opening up a space for different opinions and points of view on the intersection of the two disciplines.

Science is a fantastic way for people to experience the wonder and awe of the natural world and this project made it possible for people of all backgrounds to discover hidden aspects of nature that are always ongoing through art.

Learn more

Over the course of the project, as more responses were articulated by artists and participants in the forms drawings and discussions, this material was collated and displayed on the Drawing Invisible Particles project website.

For this project we gratefully acknowledge the funding support from the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council and partnership with Fusion Arts and artist Tom Cox.

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Supporters of Fusion Arts

Oxford City Council Arts Council England National Lottery Funded Project Grant National Lottery Community Fund Oxfordshire Community Foundation Here for Culture Doris Field Charitable Trust BBC Children in Need