The Beautifully Frightening AtomFor the night crowd.
Something about the atom rustles up both fear and amazement in me. On one hand, it’s the smallest physical manifestation of matter (almost). On the other hand, it holds within its unimaginably small substructures such immense energy - energy that can be harnessed for both good and evil.
Thoughts of atomic energy can inspire very spooky imagery. In 2003, artist Isao Hashimoto put together the above multimedia piece demonstrating the history of atomic bomb detonations from 1945-1998. The sounds and visuals combine to form a hypnotic video game that almost makes you forget how real and destructive the blasts are.
And then I came across this image of the only known nuclear detonation in space, from a 1962 test to determine if nukes could disrupt the Van Allen belts surrounding Earth:
Again, there’s a conflict in how beautiful the image looks and how utterly destructive an H-bomb is, even 250 miles above the Earth.
What about nuclear energy? Fukushima reminded us of the balance between atomic power and human utility that we too often take for granted. I came upon this artwork from Robert Cherwink, which captures both the destructive power and the risk of boiling water with atoms:
So there you have it. While we can’t see atoms, their energy can certainly inspire haunting experiences.