Urban Sputnik

Urban Sputnik makes understanding the frontiers of astrophysical research easy for everyone, in an interactive cosmology project.

How does one express the frontiers of astrophysical research in a non-technical, more inclusive way? You create an Urban Sputnik that uses art and design as its primary language.

Urban Sputnik is the collaborative project of Vanessa Harden and Dr. Dominic, together with an astrophysics group at London’s Imperial College. The project is an exploration into interactive cosmology and develops a novel way to express the frontiers of astrophysical research in an understandable way.

The project creates a sensorial environment in an urban setting, which otherwise has limited visibility of astronomical bodies. It creates a metaphorical sensory experience that connects the user with distant cosmological phenomena that cannot otherwise be directly perceived nor experienced on a human scale.

Two sculptures comprise the installation, the “Red Shift” and the “Shape of the Universe”. The first of these is an arrangement of illuminated copper tubes emanating from a central hemisphere that illustrates the frequency shift, which occurs in light as it travels through space. The second is a planished copper surface with a micro-etching of a solar system that aims to represent one of the possible shapes of the universe, that of a curved saddle.

Urban Sputnik can be seen and experienced at The Royal Institute in London until 29 July 2011.