Gravitational Waves and neutrinos in Japan!

kamiokande (Photo: Kamioka Observatory, ICRR (Institute for Cosmic Ray Research),The University of Tokyo)

You know these gazillions of infinitely small invisible particles constantly flowing through us and our Earth? Some of them from our sun or other stars, others still falling from the Big Bang.Sometimes they interact with other particles, and that’s when you can spot them, and even see if they’re from our sun or other cosmic rays.

One of my biggest inspirations on how to visualize abstract phenomenons (not least for the performance “Gravitational Lensing”) is the neutrino observatory SuperKamiokande in Japan.

I was lucky enough to visit there this May as part of my research, since they also have a project called KAGRA (Kamioka Gravitational Wave Detector) in the same mountain. You see the amazingly beautiful tank in the picture on top of this post. It’s 1000 meters below ground, and works like a giant Cherenkov detector. The 11146 handblown photo multipliers are lit up by the hits and interaction from the neutrinos.

Since the tank is filled with 50000 tons of water you can’t enter it, but I was on top of it, avoiding touching any buttons or stumbling on cables and servers collecting data for the realtime monitor. Maybe this quick clip gives you an idea of the amount of neatly put cables…

The events are constantly watched and interpreted on the realtime monitor in the control room, here by James Imber and my happy focused face…


You can follow the monitor in realtime online, but be patient; ungraspable numbers of particles pass every second, but only a couple interact during every 24 hours.

GRAVITATIONAL WAVES are tricky to spot aswell.

The KAGRA aims to do it by (in short, and very very simple laymansterms…) sending out a laser beam in a 3 km long underground tunnel. The beam is split and directed by mirrors into the 2 different arms of the tunnel. If their values differ when they reach the endpoint it could be due to gravitational waves colliding with the light waves; kind of the same effect as for waves in water. In the picture below you see roughly how the laserbeamer is placed to the sapphire which will split the beam (black thingy with round “window”), and the mirrors.


And here we are outside the lifesized one, which is under construction.


From the left is Mihoko Okinaka (Project Academic Support Specialist), Osamu Miyakawa (Assistant Professor, me, Masatake Ohashi (Professor, head of Kamioka Branch of GWPO), and the lord of the building company. And this is where the laserbeamer will be in the tunnel!


I want to thank all of you at SuperKamiokande and KAGRA for the amazing experience, great theoretical and practical input and inspiration. I’ll continue to follow your work, and look forward to your findings!

Also a big thank you to Konstnärsnämnden for supporting this trip. This visit has given me lots of ideas, inspiration and knowledge for coming performances and projects, and I will do my best to give it back to you.


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