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Quantum Conversations: Micro-Motion - SALA Festival

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by Annie Waddington-Feather (subscribe)
Born in Yorkshire, raised in Shropshire, travelled the world. Lived in Adelaide and currently in UK. Love travel, ancient history, horses, cello playing, the unusual and obscure, and pottering in my own back yard. Visit my website
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Patterns in nature and movements of molecules in Blackwood
Giving us a unique opportunity to see the movement of molecules, the Laser Spectroscopy and Molecular Dynamics team at Flinders University have turned science into art in a SALA event being held at the Artisan Café, 252 Main Road, Blackwood (just behind Bendigo Bank).

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The vivid, striking and stunning images have been created by using lasers fired at different molecules. Do you remember molecules from your chemistry lessons? A molecule is the smallest particle in a chemical element or compound that has the chemical properties of that element or compound. It is made of atoms held together by chemical bonds.

Light is taken in by molecules and then released to create patterns that tell a quantum story of the molecule's energy and dynamic shape as it tumbles and vibrates.

The 'Quantum Conversations' in the exhibition title refers to the idea that we can have a "conversation" with a molecule by "questioning" it with laser light and "listening" to its answer given in terms of released light energy. Each molecule will create its own unique energy pattern after interacting with light. This tells us of the molecule's changing shape as it moves.

The 'Micro-Motion' in the title refers to representing the dynamic motion of the molecules through the energy patterns they create as they move. The patterns are reminiscent of moving creatures like microscopic water-life, swarming insects or butterflies which echo the motion of the molecules in free-space.

Molecules used in this image include fluorobenzene, which is used as an insecticide. It has created the azure blue and golden delicate fish-like images swimming towards an ocean abyss while fluorotoluene has created an image similar to a flock of bird footsteps.

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Fluorobenzene like you've never seen it before

Toluene, used as a solvent present in paint thinners, nail polish remover, glues, and correction fluid, creates a plethora of images, ranging from spinning rotors to strikingly flamboyant butterflies.

At the opening event, Prof. Warren Lawarance explained how the exhibition came into being. "The images were put on the front cover of a journal we were publishing; a journal reviewer's comment was 'this could be art'."

This exhibition is presented by Dr Ula Alexander, who completed her PhD in physical chemistry and postdoctoral work in the Laser Spectroscopy and Molecular Dynamics Lab, Flinders University. She says her interest in science-art has grown from experiments in the lab. "It is fascinating to see molecules reveal something of themselves through their intricate patterns determined by the laws of quantum physics."

"For me this whole work is about why I wanted to do science. I look at the patterns and see so much beauty," she explained at the opening event. "I really enjoy creating these things and it gets out of the way of science.

Dr Alexander went on to say: "I can't share them with anyone else as they just goes into a journal - this is a way of getting it out there and for people to see something a little bit different."

For the scientists amongst us as a result of these images, 60 years of work in this area of science is apparently wrong as they are showing the way molecules behave in a new light. (Pardon the pun)

For the non-scientists amongst us, just enjoy the images and marvel at the beauty of science over a cup of coffee!
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Why? See the beauty of science
When: Monday - Thursday: 7:30 am - 5:00 pm, Friday: 7:30 am - 9 pm, Saturday: 7:30 am - 5:00 pm, Sunday: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Phone: Artisan Cafe: (08) 8278 9888
Where: 252 Main Road, Blackwood, SA 5051
Cost: Free
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