Some physicists believe that our universe is but one of infinite universes, so our world is only a single version of every conceivable possibility that could be. It’s scientific philosophy that will melt your mind, but a new project by artists Ann-Kristin Abel and Paul Ferragut may calm your existential crisis.
The Probable Universe is an installation where a Kuka manufacturing robot sits inside a dark warehouse. When activated, it begins to look around the room, projecting its own visions upon the surfaces.
“The robot is tuning into a number of different universes,” the team says. “There are some which may look exactly like ours and some which may have different physical forces and constants than our universe. The projected visuals that have been inspired by our research into the quantum world.”
It’s masterful projection mapping work, in which the robot uses 3-D depth sensors to very precisely paint several layers of textures deep into the warehouse space. These textures visualize some of the core theories of physics and quantum mechanics. Watch the four videos closely, and you will see the light refractions of birefringence, the stormy dark matter that accounts for 27% of our universe, and the webs of String Theory tying our universe to countless others.
Other than birefringence, which is one of the few quantum mechanical principles that humans can actually observe, The Probably Universe focuses on visions of otherwise invisible, theoretical science–all of the secrets of reality to be dreamed about by humanity, but only witnessed by silicon sensors that can see infrared and radio waves, coded software that can unscramble the noise, and processors that can make 158 billion calculations every second to make real sense of any of it.
“The robot is actually the main character in our scenario,” the team says. “As a metaphor for scientific and technological progress and the fears connected to that, the robot came to witness what humans could never even hope to see. A glimpse into the different worlds that may exist out there.”
Unfortunately, The Probably Universe can only be experienced through these four short video clips. Both the robot and the warehouse space were borrowed by the artists, but given more funding, they would like to turn it into an experience that humans can appreciate alongside the robot.