Oct 14, 2005

Gallery: jan-henrik andersen

Designer Jan-Henrik Andersen, in conjunction with particle physicists, developed a visual language that describes the interrelationships between the elementary particles, both known and hypothesized.

Source: symmetry magazine
Written By Elizabeth Wade

Few facets of nature are more mysterious than the quantum world. Particles that appear and disappear from nothing, interactions governed by probability, and intrinsic uncertainties are enough to baffle even the most experienced scientist.

Making these ideas even more difficult to grasp is the fact that no one can ever hope to see a particle—in fact, particles may not even have “looks” at all. Undeterred by these challenges, industrial designer Jan-Henrik Andersen set out to create a visual guide that anyone, from particle physicists to high school students, could use to navigate the quantum universe.

“The idea was to transform physical properties into visual properties,” Andersen explains. After working extensively with University of Michigan physicists Gordon Kane and David Gerdes, Andersen decided on four rules that would govern his representation of particles:

1. All the forms should be generated by one simple visual element.

2. The particles must have the same basic form, yet reflect differences in mass, parities, functions, and behavior.

3. There must be logical coherence between the particles according to the categorization and decay patterns of the Standard Model. Yet, the model must be open for possible extensions due to supersymmetry, string theory, gravitational forces, and the Higgs field/particle.

4. The particles’ spins and directional velocities require a multidirectional visual quality.

After extensive experimentation, Andersen decided on a shape called a superquadric ellipsoid, created by manipulating the equation of the Lamé curve (see image below), for the basic shape of all of his Standard Model particles.

The Lamé curve, which is defined by (x/a)m +(y/b)m = 1, 42×54″, is used as the foundation for Andersen’s representation of particles, modified according to specific and consistent patterns for each.

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