The Story of Light

India’s first science-meets-art festival took place in Panaji, Goa, last month. There were interactive installations, workshops, beach and street performances – and food.

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In India, young people are taking their culture into the modern world, involving science and popular media as much as tradition and religion. There is an excitement about the place.

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Jaya Ramchandani was the Festival Director

The Bolt

An exhibition at the Gallery for Russian Art and Design, Little Portland Street, London, recalls a ballet, The Bolt, performed just once in Soviet Moscow in 1931 before being banned.


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The plot was by Victor Lopukhov – a factory worker plans to throw a bolt into the new machinery but is challenged and stopped by his more faithful colleagues.  The ballet was choreographed by Fyodor Lopukhov, music was by Shostakovich and designs by Tatiana Bruni.

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The political trials in Soviet Russia of the 1930s made the ballet very topical. On one hand it had creative fervour, experimental spirit and enterprise. One the other it encouraged originality that could threaten the new political theory. Lopukhov wrote: “Comrade Smirnov has read me the libretto. Its theme is extremely relevant. There once was a machine. Then it broke down (problem of material decay). Then it was mended (problem of revitalisation) and at the same time they bought a new one. Then everybody dances around the new machine. Apotheosis.”

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Quark Dance

In the mysterious theory of particle physics, gluons are elementary particles that help exchange the strong forces between quarks. This is analogous to the electromagnetic forces generated by the exchange of photons between two charged particles.

Gluons participate in this strong interaction in addition to mediating it, unlike photons which mediate but lack an electric charge.

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Recently, from the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, ballet choreographer Mark Baldwin visited the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and was inspired to recreate Triptych, a series of interactions between dancers.

CLICK HERE for     three pieces     AND HERE for a quarky song.

The dances include the Strange Charm of Mother Nature – two duets showing magnetic attraction in slow motion, the dancers weaving and circling, hands not quite touching, as in gamma ray bursts in neutron stars. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto 3 guides the giddy changes and impulsive jumps by these grey-clad particles of kinetic energy.

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It is believed that up to a few milliseconds after the Big Bang the Universe was in such a quark–gluon plasma state.



A new film by Peter Strickland, Biophilia, premiers at next month’s London Film Festival.

It features Icelandic artist, Björk, who performs songs from her eighth album with evocative visuals provided by designers from around the world.

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Bjork struts across the stage in a tight cream-coloured dress with music from an Icelandic choir and background screens of quickly-changing colourful images.

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Opening and closing with a voice-over from David Attenborough the film attempts to reunite humans with nature.

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It begins with an aerial photograph of a drainage pattern from a mountainous landscape and then a microscopic image of rectal tissue which looks remarkably similar.

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Some see the film as a hymn to humanity and nature, an interactive project with film, apps and a website. Click here for the trailer.





Is sport an art? They are both creative, highly disciplined and play with beauty. But they regard boundaries and rules differently, as their practitioners’ response to the use of drugs shows.

For example, inhaling xenon, mixed with oxygen, is believed to improve stamina because it increases the body’s production of a protein known as hypoxia inducible factor 1. Athletes may be banned while artists may be secretly encouraged.

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In turn this stimulates the production of natural erythropoietin (model below) which regulates the number of red blood cells. The more of these cells, the more oxygen you can carry, and the greater your physical stamina.

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Doping with artificial equivalents of this substance has been one of the biggest threats to the integrity of sport over the past 20 years. The clampdown on using the drug has seen sports scientists develop other methods including the use of xenon and argon.

Artists usually just keep quiet about their use of drugs as this anonymous painter did:

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In the 1950s, experiments compared the drawings of an artist before and then one hour after a 50mg dose of LSD

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Bird Dance

Autumn is when starlings and other species of birds fly together in the early evenings and give displays of graceful movement that challenge the greatest choreographers. You can see a video of one of these so-called murmurations by clicking at

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A recent production by the Rambert Dance Company takes these kinds of behaviour by birds and other animals to be the theme for a new production, The Comedy of Change.

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The choreographer is M Cunningham, the composer J Anderson.  and a video is at

Three theories attempt to explain the behaviour when starlings fly together in flocks:

–  each bird tries to avoid being at the edge where it is vulnerable from hungry predators

– each bird copies its neighbour and as they become squashed close together small changes in speed and direction become distorted, forming ripples familiar in self-organised chaotic systems

– together, the birds keep warm and find food.

I suspect the Rambert dancers have different motives. On the video Stephen Keynes explains what they might be.