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ISS Space

The Strange Story of the First Quantum Art Exhibition In Space 69

KentuckyFC writes When Samantha Cristoforetti blasted towards the International Space Station in November last year, she was carrying an unusual cargo in the form of a tiny telescope just 4 centimetres long and 1 centimetre in diameter attached to an unpowered CCD array from a smartphone camera. The telescope is part of an art project designed by the Dutch artist Diemut Strebe in which he intends to invoke quantum mechanics to generate all of the art ever made. Now MIT physicist Seth Lloyd has stepped forward to provide a scientific rationale for the project. He says the interaction of the CCD with the cosmic background radiation ought to generate energy fluctuations that are equivalent to the array containing all possible images in quantum superposition. Most of these will be entirely random but a tiny fraction will be equivalent to the great works of art. All of them! What's more, people on Earth can interact with these images via a second miniature telescope on Earth that can become correlated with the first. Lloyd says this is possible when correlated light enters both telescopes at the same time. Strebe plans to make his quantum space art exhibition available in several places before attaching the second telescope to the James Webb Space telescope and blasting that off into space too. Whatever your view on the art, it's hard not to admire Strebe's powers of persuasion in co-opting the European Space Agency, NASA and MIT into his project.
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The Strange Story of the First Quantum Art Exhibition In Space

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  • Sounds like the cheap hardware-space hype version of "The library of Babel".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What the Hell are you people smoking? Must be some good shit to dream up a half assed, cock and bull story like this one!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:56PM (#48804447)

    Cue DCMA takedown notices in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

    • Since the chip is receiving cosmic rays produced eons ago, that means that ALL art is prior art for itself!

      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:35PM (#48804859) Homepage

        Since the chip is receiving cosmic rays produced eons ago, that means that ALL art is prior art for itself!

        LOL ... *takes bong hit* ....

        Wow, man ... so the purpose of the art is to demonstrate the futility in the belief that we can ever truly own anything, or truly create anything, because the universe has already produced all possible combinations of everything and we're too late -- we're merely going through the motions.

        Free will, being merely an illusion, binds us to our grasping for understanding, while our limited monkey minds are barely capable of perceiving the world around us, let alone the expansive universe we can't even begin to grasp.

        The universe has anticipated all of our feeble attempts to understand it, and has proactively placed all of the answers out there to mock us, but at the same time enlighten those of us willing to listen and grasp the larger purpose.

        We are merely the vessels through which the universe demonstrates the futility of knowledge and understanding, because in the end, we don't know anything which hasn't been known before.

        If all things have existed in all combinations before, the works of Shaespeare really could have originally been discovered in Klingon.

        Wow man, that's just like so meta.

        Dude, you rock!!

        • Art is not about creation but filtering. The artists filters out what's uninteresting and keeps what is interesting (to the artist, absolutely speaking most art is rehashed crap).

          But I strongly disagree with the notion that the human can't create.

          Sure you don't know how to make a single particle come out of nothing (yes I know about the experiments but 1. they used energy, 2, the most fundamental: they could be made because of the laws of nature, an improper term for "the behavior of matter that we model wi

          • LOL, dude, did you seriously do a rebuttal of that?

            That's cute and all, but if you can't identify that what I wrote was a complete joke, you're pretty defective in the humor department. :-P

            • What I wrote about art was indeed in response to the joke. The rest is my usual tirade.

              • LOL ... mine was more like it came out of an automated, post-modernism generator ... it's pure drivel.

                At least, I assume it is. :-P

  • If anyone buys this "art" they are a complete idiot.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:03PM (#48804531)

    It IS cheaper than sending an army of monkeys with typewriters up there.

  • Um, what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:06PM (#48804555) Homepage Journal
    So if I understand the summary correctly (I give myself a 50/50 chance on this), they're basically sampling random noise off of a CCD and claim that eventually it will produce the Mona Lisa? A version of the million monkeys at typewriters producing Shakespeare?
    • So if I understand the summary correctly (I give myself a 50/50 chance on this), they're basically sampling random noise off of a CCD and claim that eventually it will produce the Mona Lisa? A version of the million monkeys at typewriters producing Shakespeare?

      I would tell you but you would fall from superposition, and I don't want to be liable for that.

      • If everyone who ever lived spent their entire lives looking at random images, probably nobody will have found any decent pictures of intelligible size, much less a great work of art (or a spurious image of a shooter on the grassy knoll, or a decent image of a sentence or plans to an h bomb.)

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Nope. They're taking an unpowered CCD and saying that the little bit of energy hitting it from the CMB technically puts each sensor site into a superposition of all it's possible states. You can duplicate this art by turning off your phone. And people have been doing so for ages by storing their unexposed film in dark canisters.

      If you look at it, it destroys the "art" of course.

    • Re:Um, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @04:11PM (#48805729)

      Not just eventually, all at once. We just have no way to extract all that superimposed information.

      I half expect the author to eventually come out and say he just made it all up to find out how much nonsense he could get away with by labeling it art.

    • > they're basically sampling random noise off of a CCD and claim that eventually it will produce the Mona Lisa

      Almost...

      > He says the interaction of the CCD with the cosmic background radiation ought to generate energy fluctuations
      > that are equivalent to the array containing all possible images in quantum superposition.

      All paintings at the same time.

      It's utter rubbish of course. The decoherence time of a CCD is close to zero. There won't be a single complete image in there, let alone all of them.

    • So if I understand the summary correctly (I give myself a 50/50 chance on this), they're basically sampling random noise off of a CCD and claim that eventually it will produce the Mona Lisa?

      No, worse than that. They're not taking random noise (it's an unpowered CCD array). They're saying that maybe a different CCD array is receiving the same photons, because if you measure one ccd array, some of the photons it sees might have hit the unpowered one. ...And the random noise that they're not taking isn't making any images, because the energy of cosmic background radiation isn't high enough to produce an electron hole pair in a silicon CCD.

  • Better (Score:5, Funny)

    by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:06PM (#48804557)

    I have a black piece of paper that has all the works of literature printed on it.

  • by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:08PM (#48804571)

    When I go to the space station, I'm planning to take a 4 centimeter long toy shark, and then I'll jump over it.

    • When I go to the space station, I'm planning to take a 4 centimeter long toy shark, and then I'll jump over it.

      You are going to want to watch your head when you try that in microgravity.

  • by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:08PM (#48804577) Homepage

    Artist makes up stuff. We can't reliably entangle molecules, let alone making two macroscopic telescopes have any quantum relationship. In adition there is nothing special about the cosmic background radiation; the CCD could have had any quantum effects he is aiming for imbued on earth.

    Nothing but a publicity stunt with no scientific backing.

  • How tiny of a fraction will be equivalent to the great works of art, and how many 100s of billions of years will be needed for all of the Great Works to be represented on a CCD that will degrade in less than a decade?

  • Usually when an 'artist' wants to do something with physics they put a cat in a box and kill it and say it represents the Shrodinger's cat paradox. I guess this guy didn't feel like dealing with PETA.

    • Not to mention that million monkeys thing.

      • I believe it's an infinite number of monkeys that you need, not just a million.

        • A million here. A million there. Pretty soon you're talking about infinity.

          Just like the federal debt.

        • Budget cuts, you see .. it costs a lot to feed an infinite amount of monkeys, and the poo really piles up quickly.

          In fact, an infinite amount of monkey poo causes its own problems ... and in no smallway distracts the monkeys from the task at hand.

          It's very complicated, sciency stuff. :-P

    • Why bother putting a cat in the box? Just create a closed box and ask the question on the box "Is the cat inside dead or alive?"
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:15PM (#48804663) Homepage

    Now MIT physicist Seth Lloyd has stepped forward to provide a scientific rationale for the project. He says the interaction of the CCD with the cosmic background radiation ought to generate energy fluctuations that are equivalent to the array containing all possible images in quantum superposition. Most of these will be entirely random but a tiny fraction will be equivalent to the great works of art.

    I must confess, the vast majority of stuff related to quantum stuff sounds like pure gibberish to the layman.

    But this is ... the million monkeys hypothesis?

    So, now the question, how many zillion years will it take to ever have this "work of art"? Is it longer than the life of the universe?

    This sounds like "given infinite time and infinite monkeys the flung poo could resemble the Mona Lisa, but mostly it will look like flung poo", when the reality is "but you'll need eleventy zillion years for that to happen". This sounds more like "random splotches will appear, but maybe someday it might look like something".

    I'm sorry, but I agree this sounds more like a PR stunt than anything else.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, it is not a million monkeys. Its closer to an infinite number of monkeys all typing at the same time, literally an infinite, and getting every possible manuscript at the same instant. There is no waiting for the one you want, it will be done instantly.

      However, you will need a million monkeys to sift through all the produced manuscripts to find the one you want over some million years of them searching.

  • You're assuming CBR is random.
    It isn't.

    You're assuming the CCD has the resolution to recreate (2 dimensional pictures of) "all of the art ever made".
    It doesn't.

    You're assuming an infinite time scale.
    No one cares now, and no one will care tomorrow.

  • I'm gonna sue for copyright infringement!
  • Talk about lost sales. This has the potential to produce a work of great art years before it is produced thus depriving the artist of income before he produces it!

    Then again, copyright only covers infringement AFTER someone creates the work. There's a loophole in preemptive infringement.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:54PM (#48805067) Journal
    In the book Discoverers by Daniel Boorstein, (pulitzer, librarian of the library of congress) mentions an incident about Kepler. His wife gave him a salad for dinner and he apparently asked her, "Imagine! If lettuce leaves, drops of oil, grains of salt and slices of eggs have been flying about this room since eternity for ever. Is it possible, by pure random coincidence, they could come together and form this salad?". Apparently Mrs Kepler replied, "They might, or they might not, but they won't make a salad as nice as I have made!"

    I chalked it up to brilliant minds struggling to fathom the differences in infinity in a pre-calculus era. Two things might be infinite. (time elapsed and the jauxtapositions of the salad ingredients in space). But still one thing could be more infinite than the other, and natural languages are quite inadequate to grapple such things.

    Here it looks like the artist is understanding the principles of Quantum superposition in a vague non-mathematical non-physical sense, the way someone from that pre-calculus era might understand it. Yes, the state could be a superposition of all possible states. But superposition of all possible things would be some random squiggle, not art. It is almost like saying the md5 checksum digest of my file TriangleTetIntersection.cpp actually "represents", not just the characters and letter strings in that file, but actually all the algorithms in that file.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      He (or more likely his scientific advisor) has it right. You've mixed up the explanation of it a bit.

      The idea with a superposition is that something, usually something small, can be in more than one state at once. If I take your unpowered cell phone camera and expose it to some weak radiation, such as the CMB, some of the molecules in the photo sensitive layer will donate an electron and some won't. Before you look, you can say that each of those molecules is in a superposition of electron-yes and electr

  • doesn't mean that it will.

    It's the same thing with the million monkeys concept. You're going to get a bunch of smashed keys and poop on the keyboard, not several great novels.

    True randomness will not produce specified output. Sure, it "could", but in reality, it won't.

  • of the US dollar and other currencies is that funding for this nonsense will disappear.

  • ... when all possible art has been generated, what happens [wikipedia.org]?

  • Courtesy of Douglas [wikia.com] Adams [wikia.com].

  • I'm assuming not?
  • If you don't want to bother going into space, you can achieve precisely the same effect by staring at a light bulb for a moment.

  • The Strange Story of the First Quantum Art Exhibition In Space

    In this context, there should be an ellipsis after "exhibition," and "space" should have at least seven As and an exclamation mark.

  • ...It's actually pretty creepy.

    http://llabmik.net/Images/Quan... [llabmik.net] // Slashdotting my own home server, this is probly a stupid idea, but oh well... :)

  • ...there will be pictures of Jesus coming out of it way before any Mona Lisas, pareidolia being what it is and all...
  • "The key point that Wigner’s friend experiment raises is that consciousness seems necessary to determine the result of a quantum mechanical measurement process. Without consciousness, all the elements of the experiment remain in a superposition of all possible states." link [medium.com]

    The logic here is faulty, the observer is something in the rest of the universe that is affected by the collapse of the wave function, and that doesn't have to be conscious. See also [journalofcosmology.com]

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