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A stunning new film shot at the NASA laboratory at UC Berkeley reveals the secret lives of magnetic fields as they morph and twist in space - but are we observing a scientific experiment, the universe in flux or a documentary of a fictional world?
They surround us, yet they can’t be seen. They shift vast currents through space, yet we rarely feel their presence. Interplanetary magnetic currents are undoubtedly one of the most mysterious aspects of the universe, but a new film by British filmmakers Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhadt unlocks the beauty of these magnificent forces for all to see.
The pair took recordings of magnetic currents from all over the universe and used them to create animated visualisations of geophysical phenomenon. The very same forces that whip up giant electrical storms at the fringes of the earth’s atmosphere, create beautiful electromagnetic light displays over the North Pole and direct cosmic rays on their spiralling courses through the universe, here are visualised in miniature - a breathtaking display of the meeting point between science and art.
Combining their scientific experience with artistic instinct in sound, animation and programming they have created a ‘magnetic magnum opus’ - a ‘tour de force’ of immense invisible force brought down to human scale. And it is precisely the meeting of scale that makes the work so fascinating - to think that these tiny pulsating currents surround our planet on a scale inconceivable to man is not only a humbling thought, but an uplifting one. The inherent beauty of nature is again, in Wordswoth’s words, too much with us.
The animations are set to audio recordings of the earth’s molten core and subtly shifting weather systems - great washes of static caught in the flare of meteorological turbulence, expertly coloured by Jarman and Gerhadt to create an infinite variety of delicate electric geometrics. One is put in mind of Mahler’s remarks on his own symphonies: ‘All nature finds in them a voice and tells a deep secret, like the tinglings of a dream.’
These miniature models of universal forces seem to have a purity, a beauty of form and energy that goes beyond a simple scientific project and for a brief moment becomes a vehicle for the transmission of universal vibrations. And so much the better for it.
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