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Interactive Art Lets You See How Suns Are Made [Video]

Created by Berlin-based interactive agency The Product, SOL makes learning about solar fusion into a playful, touchable experience.

If you want to get a close-up look at a miniature sun on earth, the only place to go is the experimental ITER fusion reactor site in France. But if you’re an ordinary civilian who’s willing to settle for immersive interactive art instead of the real thing, the SOL installation by Berlin-based agency The Product might be a better bet. Visitors can enter a reactor-core-like structure and fuse solar protons using their bare hands — no security clearance or radiation suit required.

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Commissioned by Humbodlt University Berlin and curated by Neues Universum, with exhibition design by Neo.Studio, SOL creates an “immersive environment [where] the principles of nuclear fusion can be experienced in a narrative and playful way,” according to The Product. After entering an exterior shell that looks like a space probe crossed with a dance-club chillout room, this is what you see:

The sun fuses nearly 600 million tons of hydrogen nuclei (or protons, if you want to be less technical) together every second, creating helium nuclei and releasing huge amounts of energy. Inside SOL, you can wave, scoop, or whirl digital version these protons together with your hands on an interactive surface. When two protons fuse, a burst of energy is emitted, which SOL renders as a gentle blue glow on the table and a simultaneous surge in the brightness of the light-bars studding the outside shell.

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We can’t really judge how in-depth the science lessons are in SOL, because the futuristic displays are rendered in German. But The Product’s goal was less about textbook fidelity than it was about evoking sheer wonder at the physical processes that shower our planet with 1000 watts per square meter of free, clean, limitless energy. If that doesn’t get at least some of SOL’s young visitors to consider a career at NASA, nothing will.

[Via The Product]

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About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets

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