On Saturday, we went to the theatre to see Copenhagen. This extraordinary play by Michael Frayn circles around a history-changing mid-war meeting between scientists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, and somehow manages to make sense of the inner life and behaviour of atoms and humans. It was a treat to be in the intimate atmosphere of a “theatre in the round”, enjoying the immediacy and challenge of an intelligent and emotionally charged drama.
At one point in the play, the characters talk about the visual trail left by particles in the cloud chamber, and I could suddenly picture exactly what they were talking about. We spent some time a few years ago watching the cloud chamber at the Ontario Science Centre and I even managed to take a few fuzzy photos; my observations are recorded in a old blog post here.
Looking at my photos of the cloud chamber and the photo of the piano above, I realize that the two subjects are strikingly similar. The piano strings catch the light, their vibrations create waves of sound. The particles moving at blinding speed through the cloud chamber leave behind a trail of water droplets, notes strung on an invisible staff of the elements. Music and light, particles and waves, sound and silence — it’s all connected somehow, everything is in motion. We don’t always see the trail of music as it travels invisibly through the air, but we see its effects, the way we all respond to its vibrations.
Photo taken on February 10, 2011