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Artist View

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Artist Ron Dollekamp of Scarborough has created a stunning depiction of the natural universe which creatively mixes elements of space and time to describe the research undertaken by faculty and students associated with the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Graduate Program in Physics and Astronomy at York University.

The centrepiece of the painting is a fragment of the Earth upon which the Toronto skyline and Lake Ontario are seated. Further emphasizing the Canadian connection, the northern lights hang over the skyline, with the Big Dipper shining through. The Moon and several other planets form a pleasing arc around Toronto, and a blue nebula of interstellar space hangs nearby. The fragment of Earth is seen growing out of the Milky Way galaxy of which it is a constituent. Hurtling towards the galaxy are rays of light, our probe of the universe at large, and a cascade of fundamental particles of nature out of which all matter is composed. The immense scale of the universe is emphasized by the display of another more distant galaxy in the background. The painting not only rivets attention from afar, but many fine details attract closer scrutiny. Even the second "star" in the handle of the Big Dipper is accurately shown to be double.

Astronomy and Astrophysics are represented by the galaxies and their linkages to the particles out of which they formed and to the stars and planets which formed within them.

Atomic and Molecular Physics are represented not only by the stream of particles, which is a mixture of protons and electrons, but also by the northern lights, which are a manifestation of collisions between particles in the solar wind with atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere.

The essence of Particle Physics is covered by depicting the protons in a manner consistent with the quark model of the atomic nucleus; three "colours" of quarks are confined inside bubbles in such a way that their distinctiveness is most obvious in the centres, but fades away toward the boundaries, as quark confinement models demand.

The Earth's crust and molten core are shown below the city of Toronto, amplifying Earth Physics.

Crystals embedded in the Earth's crust signify Chemical and Condensed Matter Physics, and to a certain extent Optical Physics, as crystals form the heart of lasers.

More subtly, Chemical and Condensed Matter Physics are represented by the blue nebula above the galaxy, which arises from the scattering of starlight off particles of dust floating between the stars.

On a macroscopic scale, the northern lights signify research into both Atmospheric and Space Physics, as their emissions provide a valuable probe of the nature of the upper atmosphere and the interactions of charged particles with the Earth's magnetic field.

Microscopically, the northern lights provide a probe of the structure of atoms and molecules, which are a subject of Optical Physics. The swath of light rays hurtling into the galaxy further illustrates research in this field.

Another focus, Biological Physics, is amplified by the views of the landscape around Toronto and by the incoming streams of particles and light, which are tools used to probe how living things function.

Engineering is highlighted by views of the CN Tower and SkyDome.

Fluid Dynamics, a subject which is fundamental to research in many fields, is depicted by a flow of water out of Lake Ontario into the Milky Way. The connection to the Milky Way completes the cycle of galactic evolution, which is characterized by a continual exchange of matter between star systems and the interstellar medium. The conversion to steam emphasizes the inexorable march of the universe towards a maximal state of randomness.


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