This August we’ll have the opportunity to step inside the world’s greatest experiment in Collider, opening for the first time in Australia at the Powerhouse Museum. And, by the way, I’m pretty thrilled that the Powerhouse is putting on an actual science exhibition for a change. Things are looking up.
This immersive exhibition blends theatre, video and sound art with real artefacts from CERN, recreating a visit to the famous particle physics laboratory. TimeOut London gave Collider four stars saying that it ‘succeeds tremendously’ and detailing the experience:
It begins with a film scripted by Olivier-winning playwright Michael Wynne. In it, the scientists who operate the collider talk you through the emotional highs and lows (they slept under their desks! Became addicted to coffee! Got divorced!) of their search for what’s known to laymen as the ‘God particle’ and to those red-eyed physicists as the ‘Goddamn particle’. There’s even a funny cameo from the poster boy of British physics Cox – he’s there on work experience, making their coffee.
After their astounded wonderment has softened you up and made you really care about the Higgs boson (though not, sadly, understand WTF it actually is), it’s time for the spectacular. Room 2 is a stunning panoramic vision of what protons and neutrons being fired at almost lightspeed round a 27km magnetic doughnut might look like if they were a film designed by Da Vinci and directed by Spielberg. The real video artist behind it, Finn Ross, also designed the entrancing diagrammatic projections which helped West End smash ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ bring science and emotion together in award-winning union.
The remainder of the exhibition is a quiet, slightly creepy recreation of bits and pieces of the Cern laboratories in Switzerland, complete with dangling phone receivers, explanatory whiteboard diagrams, more cool projections and recently abandoned white coats and shoes. But the tactile, wraparound format is much more fun than a dry science lesson. I found myself understanding some basic concepts, like the structure of an atom, for the first time.
Collider will be part of the city-wide Sydney Science Festival. Tickets will go on sale in June, but in the meantime you can sign up to be told when they become available.