Light Show tricks meaning out of physics and biology


Light Showexplores the experiential and phenomenal aspects of light by bringing together sculptures and installations that use light to sculpt and shape space in different ways. The exhibition showcases artworks created from the 1960s to the present day, including immersive environments, free-standing light sculptures and projections.

From atmospheric installations to intangible sculptures that you can move around and even through, visitors can experience light in all of its spatial and sensory forms. Individual artworks explore different aspects of light such as colour, duration, intensity and projection, as well as perceptual phenomena. They also use light to address architecture, science and film, and do so using a variety of lighting technologies.

Read Article:Light Show tricks meaning out of physics and biology.

Light Show runs at the Hayward Gallery, London, until 28 April.

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Hitchcock’s Vertigo and the color of reincarnation.

I saw Vertigo on 70mm last Tuesday night. The experience has updated some feelings I’ve had for years, as well as changed some. It reminded me of how much the plot of the Observer Effect is inspired by it. I should also probably note that I was introduced to Vertigo through the film 12 Monkeys, in a scene where Bruce Willis and Madeline Stowe are watching it in a theater; they’re on the run, putting on their new disguises. Stowe’s character says that every time she sees it, it feels like a completely new film. In the scene they are watching, Scottie and Madeline are in the California Redwood forest and Madeline walks over to a cross-section of a tree that is over 2000 years old. She says that she doesn’t want to die, then points out lines in the tree stump that mark the birth and death of her great grandmother, who she is now embodying. She says (to the tree), “here I was born… and there I died. It was only a moment for you. You took no notice.” To me this is one of the great lines because she is humbled by the power of time, the unfathomable nature of eternity, and she is existing simultaneously in the past, which is marked on the tree, and her present. The tree is a Redwood, an evergreen.

The dominant color in Vertigo is green, and many of the less dominant but still startling colors throughout the film often act as a backdrop that creates a distinct contrast. Red, grey, etc.

It isn’t just Hitchcock and co. that connected green with reincarnation and eternal life. There are such associations in many cultures and religious iconography. The color green in Japanese culture signifies eternal life.The Egyptian God Osiris, who was depicted with green skin signifying his own reincarnation, was king in the afterlife:

Though he was king in the land of the dead, Egyptians considered him “King of the Living,” in reference to the afterlife as a blessed state of being:

There is an interesting connection to Vertigo here, as the character Madeline is enticed by her own death. She is obsessed with it; compelled and frightened at the same time. The persona she is taking on is a being from the land of the dead, and it’s as if she is trying to get back.

Film is reincarnation. Vertigo takes this idea further and contains characters that exist in the past and their own present simultaneously. In reality, they are both in their past and in our present because of the nature of film. The picture is self reflexive of its medium while representative of our own dual natures in time, unable to completely escape our pasts while clinging to the present (and vice versa). The characters in Vertigo make choices that dramatically vary their past / present relationships; Judy creates a calculated and false connection to the past by becoming Madeline’s great grandmother when she was her age, while Scottie later forces Judy to become Madeline, at first ignorant to the fact that she faked her death, that he never met the real Madeline and actually fell in love with Judy… while she was Madeline. I know, it gets crazy. Both characters enforce a diabolical connection to the past with the intent for it to materialize in the present. It is this gradually changing relationship to the past, to reincarnation, that the color green represents at key moments in the film.

Many films that achieve greatness utilize elements of the medium to reflect its inescapable nature as a thing that exists both in the past and present, and how that relates to the relationship we have to the past and present as we live out our lives.

I am writing about Vertigo because it partly inspired the plot of my film, but also as an example of the use of color on film, how it can represent a state of being or a desire within a character and take on a strong narrative presence not unlike a character itself. As I build the world of my film, the electronically saturated environment of my character and how that makes his perspective unique, I have to create a color scheme. So far, things are quite blue. More on that later.

Duality of Light.

The title of this post is not (just) an attempt to conceptualize something that is part of our daily lives. It’s a plain fact- light can exist as either a particle or wave, and in some cases both at the same time, allowing light to behave in many odd ways. To get get a grasp on the strangeness of this, first it’s important to know the difference between a particle and a wave- a particle is a small, isolated point of matter that has some measure of mass, where as a wave is / does not- it is not a point, but a DISTURBANCE, movement caused by the action of some energy and is spread out in space-time, and because it is not an isolated point of matter it is not defined by mass, but with frequency. As far as we know (officially) almost everything at the quantum level is both a particle and a wave, but light had previously been thought to be a wave that only BEHAVES like a particle, moving in packets (distinct peaks in a waveform) resembling a particle with zero mass– noting that in order to travel at or near the speed of light, any mass would be an absolute hindrance, thus to actually be a particle would have not seemed possible. As a wave it made sense, because mass does not factor into the nature of waves. The dual nature of light is a phenomenon in quantum physics that is strange and challenges what had been previously known, but is still constantly inseparable from how we perceive the world visually. Without photons everything would be invisible.

Here, we see different stages of an experiment recording photons on a CCD image sensor that can detect single photons. The light was fed through an extremely tiny slit where the camera was able to sense the particles as the light dispersed on the other side- a technique called slit diffraction. At the far right of the image, you can see that over time, the photons produced a wave-like pattern.

The ability to detect the particle and wave function of photons simultaneously is quite a new thing. Because of some newly available techniques of observation, other particles have been found to take on particle and wave characteristics simultaneously as well:

With these findings, we know that all matter can be measured as either isolated particles or a wave with varying functions– and with superposition, waves can be used to measure the behavior of particles:

Here, only the relationship between the phenomenon and the method of observation has changed, but the change in perspective is considerable. Duality is now thought to be commonplace in all matter. To think that all things can take on two seemingly opposite functions at a given time, or simultaneously, is a little daunting. Welcome to quantum mechanics!

What we’re learning, coming from yesterday’s post, is that human observation is extremely selective and conscious understanding, moving along its linear path, does not seem to comport in the dualistic way that matter its self does, though it is still a function of matter.

Considering these complexities, and the what role light actually has in our individual lives, it’s important to note this: we are never without light, literally and figuratively speaking. We can find it, follow it, or create it.

Missing the Gorilla.

You can look close enough at something, have such an immobile agenda in your search that you can miss what would otherwise be obvious and surprising. Enter the Invisible Gorilla.

Devised by two Harvard P.H.D. psychology grads, this is a study where the participant is shown a video of 6 kids passing a ball back and forth and told to silently count the amount of times it was passed. At some point in the video a person in a gorilla suit walks into the middle of the game, faces the camera, beats his chest and then walks off. Then the participant is asked, ‘and did you see the gorilla?’ Most of have said no.

The same technique was applied in other contexts. Radiologists, who train for years to detect the slightest anomalies in CT, MRI, and other scans are so incredibly selective in their search that they missed such a thing as a dancing gorilla, pasted right in the corner of a lung scan!

The brain prioritizes, fights for a successful understanding of a piece of the environment in order to have some bearing in it as a whole. It’s easy enough to bring up that adage, something about smelling the roses, you know, because if you miss something like a gorilla hanging out inside of someone’s lung then either you’re not doing your job right, or you are very good at it.

Speaking of an environment for observation, the radiology reading room has become an interesting spacial concept, posing an architectural challenge taken on by the University of Virginia. As I’ve written, radiologists practice a very rigorous and involved kind of scrutiny, one that lives depend on. For the needs ascribed to their research, the mediaPOD was created. It has been designed as an enclosure for thought that also breathes: “There must be clarity in regards [to] how you approach and enter yet a degree of mystery – a sense that there is more to see and understand.”

An environment created as a facilitator, container and filter of perception, all in one. As I sit at my computer or look at my phone, standing somewhere on the street, siting on the train, at a bar, in the park (where hopefully I’m not looking at my phone too much), I’ll be considering all environments and what possibilities they might have in this regard.

My character Robert does not lose his technological shell– everywhere he goes, he is surrounded by a field of potential filters that can be read and interpreted. That’s his world.

Observing the heart.

It’s Valentine’s Day again, and I thought I’d write a little about the heart. First, here’s some beautiful imagery of the heart’s muscular fibers recreated through tensor visualization generated from a 3D MRI (click the image to see more):


How closely do you have to look into the heart to understand it? And, what ‘understanding’ are you in search of? Is there such a thing as looking too closely- not excess in the form of too much knowledge, but acquiring an amount of knowledge that does not justify the means? These are just questions, I don’t have real answers, except that the first, most important question is this: what kind of understanding are you going for? My character begins with a need for the mechanical, physical, quantitative understanding, and realizes he is starved of the emotional, the spiritual understanding. My feeling also is that there are dangers of looking too closely in both directions. Close enough scrutiny of your own emotional processes can be debilitating. Understanding in this case is very intuitive, and fully experiencing them might be the biggest part of fathoming them. As for the scientific understanding- here’s something quite in line with the observer effect…

CT scans have been known to increase cancer risk. Click here to read more:


So… Since I’ve decided to create an ‘official’ Valentine’s Day post, I’ll just finish by saying: sometimes you have to stop looking, see what’s there that matters and appreciate it. Go to town. And forget this ‘I’m single’ B.S., that’s no reason not to show some love… especially on days that aren’t Valentine’s day.

Ok, I promise, no more preaching. Research tomorrow!

Affecting the observer.

I’m starting this blog for the purpose of compiling research that will directly or indirectly influence my next film as it relates to the physics of light, sound and biochemistry, as well as surveillance. Looking at all the ways I could be doing this—printing articles and pasting them in a journal with notes like a scrap book, writing everything out like I’m back in college, keeping a long word document or a folder of bookmarked sites– all of that works, and has worked for me. Thing is, these days I stay more connected to information through my smart phone than through any other means. Yes I admit that, it’s kinda like admitting I’ve finally given into technology… Completely, because, well, I’d given in willingly a long time ago. Through these means, I can return to this journey everywhere I go (as long as there is some interface connected to the internet), without having to take a scrapbook, journal, or whatever stack of books I will be compiling. And as we start to see the culmination of material, my own reliance on technology will have meaning as a process related to the theme of my film. I hope to embody it more and more as I create it, just as I did with my last film. Except… This time I’m pretty sure that I won’t be acting in it. I mean, almost completely certain.


Resembling the lens glass or the open iris of a camera, this is a false-color image taken from a laser beam showing two entangled photons, spinning very fast in opposite directions.