Free for New Yorkers of all ages:  A fantastical collision of Art and Science to hear gravity firsthand.

“Astronomy’s New Messengers: Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves”, an exhibition courtesy of the National Science Foundation and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration was on view June 2 through 6, 2010 .  This interpretive exhibition offered an up-close look at the work process of a dynamic group of over 800 physicists and astronomers worldwide who have joined together in the search for gravitational waves from the most violent astrophysical events in the Universe.

These scientific ideas are the basis for design throughout the exhibit from the undulating waveform shape of the space to the programming of the light sculpture and the graphic design.

The sound waves superimposed onto the rotating color palettes is revealed in the sculpture's 3D screen

LIGO, short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, is a revolutionary new kind of telescope designed and built to observe, for the first time, ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by massive cosmic events. This amazing interactive exhibit featured a model interferometer with laser, a space-time curvature simulation, games to find the hidden gravitational wave in the static of the universe, even a mirror from the real LIGO. Overhead, Leni Schwendinger’s dazzling interactive light sculpture depicts the universe LIGO is trying to observe with a show of light and sound in real time.

Mock-up at the Light Projects Studio

“Astronomy’s New Messengers” is not only science.

The LIGO scientific endeavor is motivated by the same desire for exploration, the curiosity for the unknown and the awe of nature which motivated humankind throughout millennia of history. In this respect, science and art are two facets of the same human quest for beauty and truth”

explains Marco Cavaglia, Principal Investigator of Astronomy’ New Messengers and Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Mississippi.

Here, the start of installation in the Ballroom

Installation video on Light Project’s YouTube channel

To communicate the wonderment in our universe Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership and Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD, creatively re-interpreted the ideas behind the science of LIGO resulting in an immersive exhibit that encourages visitors in self-guided exploration.

Our goal and our hope is that the installation and the interactives faithfully convey the fascinating story of the quest to observe gravitational waves and what they will reveal to us about the history and nature of the universe.” relates Lee Skolnick, FAIA, Principal of LHSA+DP.

“We have attempted to interpret and evoke the spirit of these waves and the mystery of space-time; and embody them in the visitor experience.”

The exhibition’s design emphasizes the relationship between the light sculpture, the model interferometer acting as a real one, and the interaction of the visitor representing an event in the universe detected by the interferometer.

Light Projects was very excited by the opportunity to translate the search for gravity through our art medium, video and LEDS. Our light attracts people, young and old”, observes Leni Schwendinger.

Guests learn that gravity is a manifestation of the curvature of space-time and how LIGO scientists hope to see supernova explosions, black hole collisions, even the birth of the universe – the Big Bang – with a new set of eyes.

Left, Leni Schwendinger points out the finer details of interaction with young visitors, right, Marco Cavaligia explains the interferometer

Here, interactive designer, Ed Purver’s video documentation of the installation and visitors in action a must see!

All in all the exploration and blending of art and science was a tremendous experience for the designers which was passed along to a diverse audience, around 2,000 visitors, through light, color, and interactivity.