Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator, Physics’ Joy


The accelerated microparticles being studied at the CERN institute in Geneva cannot be viewed with the naked eye. The difficulties faced by potential physics fans to understand the experiments have stimulated an artwork entitled “Sponge Ball Pneumatic Acceraltor”. Artist Niklas Roy has responded #to the call from #the curator of the Tschumi Pavilion, the transparent exhibition space located in the middle of some crossroads in the Dutch City of Groningen. The installation emulates the mechanism of a particle accelerator using a number of items: 1000 black sponge balls placed in two large transparent bubbles, a vacuum cleaner, 150 meters of pneumatic tubes, infrared sensors and an Arduino controller. When the sensor detects someone, the vacuum cleaner is switched on and the balls start squirting from one bubble to another due to the difference in air pressure in the pipes. It is possible to continue the experience by placing one-hand on the multicolour sensors, a gesture which reverses the direction of the balls. At this moment it is possible to see the balls and to discern their path as they slow to a halt. Once removed the balls flip direction again and speed up to a velocity of around 4m/s. Describing his work, the artist says: “I decided to construct a machine which would bring the tremendous joy of particle acceleration to everyone.” The coloured lights and the large rotating arrow that indicates the sensor recalls the aesthetics of a funfair. Even the gesture of placing the hand on the sensor seems connected to this imagery. As with lie detectors, the work seems to envisage the possibility of a new mystery-free science. It is transparent, as simple to understand as a vacuum cleaner and open – the code that governs the installation is available as a free download. Chiara Ciociola

Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator – An installation at Tschumi Pavilion, Groningen