• star power

    in the middle of the night, as the rest of America sleeps, a small group of physicists in California stand in a hushed control room. the clock steadily counts down towards zero and then, in a fraction of a second, everything happens at once

    a bank of powerful lasers unleash their beams, which travel through a series of tunnels at the speed of light. bouncing back and forth, they pick up more and more energy before converging on a central sphere. inside, all 192 beams meet, focussing their power on a tiny capsule no bigger than a peppercorn. it’s all over in a matter of seconds, but in the heat and pressure at the centre of that sphere, researchers at the National Ignition Facility believe they can see the future: a world powered by the ultimate clean energy source

    their goal is to show that nuclear fusion – the same ultra-efficient force which powers our sun – can be initiated with laser beams, and they’re inching closer and closer to that day. in this piece originally published in House Magazine, we caught up with Director Mike Dunne to talk about the greatest prize in physics…

    Why is fusion power so exciting?
    The reason people have spent decades and billions of dollars on fusion research is that the prize is really quite compelling. There are no greenhouse gas emissions, it’s inherently safe as there’s only a tiny amount of fuel being used at any given time, but that tiny amount can deliver the same output as a very large coal station or a big nuclear power station. But unlike nuclear there’s no enrichment, no reprocessing and no high-level waste – so you don’t have any of those proliferation concerns.

    You were working in the UK until quite recently – why did you move to the National Ignition Facility? Are they on to something?
I’ve spent the last five years assembling a European consortium to develop this technology and make it a reality, and having worked through that, you get to realise what it will take to convert the dream into reality. That’s really what drew me here: this is the one place in the world that has the technology systems, the lasers big enough and operational enough to demonstrate once and for all that the science works. This is a concept that was born actually just three or four days after the laser itself was demonstrated. There was a guy here, quite a young researcher at the time, who had the idea of “hey you could actually make use of this to heat up a little bit of fuel to such a high temperature that you get fusion”.

    Was he right?
    With a laser, you can focus energy down to a really small spot – smaller than the width of a hair – and focus it in really short periods of time, we’re talking billionths or even trillionths of a second. When you do that you get very high power, very extreme conditions. And it turns out it’s sufficiently extreme you can mimic what goes on at the centre of the sun. So this guy had an idea fifty years ago, and it’s taken all those decades ever since to get to the point where we’ve now built a system that we strongly believe is now big enough and capable enough to achieve that dream – to get significantly more energy out than the laser itself delivers.

    How close is that goal?
    We’re now starting the final phase of the project, which we believe will take about a year. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but our high expectation is that, yes, we will prove the scientific break-even point, where you get more energy out than you put in. And then of course it’s still a considerable task to take that scientific proof and configure it into a power plant. We’re now working on the basis that we know the science is laid to rest, we know that’s a done deal, so this really will mark the end of that fifty year journey. Then we set about talking to the power utility companies, and the large-scale industrial vendors – Hitachi, GE, Westinghouse, Toshiba – to convert that scientific proof into engineering reality.

    Given that somebody thought of it right away, why has it taken 50 years to reach this point?
    It’s a strange combination of science, sociology and politics. The idea of how you would do it was formed in 1960 and broadly that idea hasn’t changed in all of these decades. There were some difficult pieces of physics and engineering that came along that made it much harder, but it has also strongly been influenced by geopolitics and by energy prices. So we’ve seen the amount of focus that’s gone into this research ebb and flow over the decades, but we’re now at a point where the hurdle has finally been cleared, and we’re performing the experiments to figure out exactly how to activate this energy. If money were no object at the time and there was a real strategic need to drive it, could it have happened in less than fifty years? Absolutely; probably significantly.

    What about other fusion projects, like the international ITER project? Is it still worth pursuing them?
    No matter how wonderfully well laser fusion performs there is a finite rate at which it can grow and impact the energy economy when you’re talking about hundreds or maybe even thousands of terawatts of energy the world will need. So magnetic fusion – which is the ITER approach – advanced fission, offshore wind, solar thermal, photovoltaic, not to mention energy conservation – all of these things will be needed. We need to pursue every possible option.

    + + +

    for more on the National Ignition Facility, visit http://lasers.llnl.gov

    this article was originally published in House Magazine #15.


    all images: NIF/LLNL

    the science of sound


    Wednesday 24 May 2017

    join us at The Collective Old Oak to learn about the science of sound. the School of Noise will give you an insight into how sound actually works, followed by a performance from Look Mum No Computer with a rare opportunity to test out some of the experiments for yourself. you will be able to try out a variety of machines which utilise sound in experimental and interactive ways. there will be also a synth bike, a machine which demonstrates cymatics and a skull radio, amongst other exciting objects

    The Collective Old Oak
    Old Oak Lane
    NW10 6FF
    free – please RSVP here

    what is the Moon made of?

    Louise Alexander

    Wednesday 07 June 2017

    join us for an evening exploring the origins of our nearest neighbour in space. Dr Louise Alexander studies the material that makes up the Moon, analysing the composition of lunar meteorites and samples collected during NASA’s Apollo missions. her current research aims to study how the flux of galactic cosmic rays has impacted the lunar surface and has changed with time

    unlike the Earth, the Moon possesses an ancient surface with no atmosphere or magnetic field. the record of galactic cosmic rays can therefore be used to help with the reconstruction of the galactic environment throughout the history of the Solar System. the ultimate aim of Louise’s research project is to assess the value of the lunar geological record for galactic astronomy

    Second Home
    68 Hanbury Street / London / E1 5JL
    free for Second Home members / £3 for non-members – please RSVP here

    all proceeds from Second Home’s cultural programme go to the Kibera Hamlets school in Nairobi, where Second Home has funded the construction of a new school building designed by architects Selgas Cano

    L’Indifférence Des Etoiles

    L'Indifférence Des Etoiles

    88 pages / 26 × 19 cm / hardback
    41 photographs / full colour offset
    first edition of 500

    L’Indifférence Des Etoiles (The Indifference of the Stars) is French photographer Julien Mauve’s first book. filled with juxtaposed images of deep space and our world, it is about the quest for meaning and the difficulty to live with the knowledge that we exist. somehow, the stars become a shelter for the mind and help us bear the briefness of human life

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    the cosmic desert


    stretching more than 7000 square kilometres across the barren deserts of Western Tunisia, Chott el Djerid is a vast salt lake that extends to the stars. an ‘endorheic’ basin, it floods in winter with rainwater and run-off from the distant Atlas Mountains, with dissolved minerals forming delicate pinks, soft greens, baby blues and other subtly beautiful colours. as spring turns to summer, crystalline structures emerge as the fierce Saharan heat turns the shallow waterways into glittering desert once more…

    read more about Chott el Djerid’s cosmic connections in our latest Where On Earth column for AnOther



    to mark the Hong Kong launch of our retrospective book, super/collider presented a two week pop-up shop at Book B, located inside the new mixed use space common room & co. in Hong Kong

    following on from this, our books have been now been added to the shop’s permanent selection, and we have more in the pipeline. next time you’re in Sham Shui Po, stop by to browse a selection of publications at the intersection of art and science…

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    Time Traveller by Seana Gavin


    34x34cm glicée print
    limited edition of 50

    our collaborative collage series with artist Seana Gavin is inspired by our mutual love of vintage science books, world encyclopaedias and other educational treasures. combing the super/collider library for inspiration, Gavin’s meticulous hand-made collages reposition and reinvent Earth and space-based objects as new forms in surreal, otherworldly landscapes – strange realms devoid of a fixed time and place

    full series here

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    art and sci-fi in the Atacama


    in one of the highest, driest and most remote landscapes on the planet, astronomers have constructed a series of megalithic devices to peer deep into space. these complex, futuristic artefacts and the strange landscape that surrounds them are what drew French artist Caroline Corbasson to the Atacama, where she’s currently shooting a new short film. you can read more about the project in our latest article for Amuse and check out our Instagram for a series of exclusive location scouting photos like this one



    104-page retrospective book (2006-2016)
    first edition of 1000
    170mm x 240mm
    printed with vegetable-based inks on FSC-certified paper made from 100% post-consumer waste

    in 2006 we published our first fanzine and began a journey into science and culture. from the depths of interstellar space to the limitless subatomic horizons of particle physics to the most beautiful places on our planet, we’ve been privileged to spend the past decade exploring the wonders and aesthetics of science from a creative standpoint

    full of short stories and facts, ten is more than just a retrospective of our work. it’s a visual record of where science has taken us all in the last decade – told through 100 beautiful images from the worlds of astronomy, chemistry, mineralogy, physics, ecology, biology… and beyond

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    Platular ring by Noemi Klein

    Platular ring by Noemi Klein

    inspired by the intersection of earthly geology and crystalline geometry, Noemi Klein crafts intricate pieces in a range of fine metals. in her Epoch 5 collection, geological structures in the form of precious mineral clusters crystallise the natural environment and provide a sharp physical alternative to the ethereal and sensory world of the eye

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    the in sound from way out

    GOES satellite

    researchers at Queen Mary University in London are inviting filmmakers and creatives to experiment with sounds from space, as part of a new competition launched today. to find out more about these cosmic noises, we caught up with project lead Dr Martin Archer…

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    islands of ice


    in our latest column for AnOther we overfly the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, which is about to unleash one of the largest icebergs the Earth has ever seen



    unearthing and meticulously photographing artwork and images from 19th and early 20th century astronomy books, Print Science are working to showcase how people used to record the heavens. beyond lunar charts, hand sketches of the solar corona and an early photograph of the Pleiades, the collection includes early impressions of Mars and a beautiful drawing of a comet over London

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    ring world


    open up Google Maps and scroll over to Canada – then zoom in and take a look to the right of the ‘Québec’ label. notice something weird? a massive, circular lake? that’s an impact crater from a 5km wide comet or asteroid that hit the area over 200 million years ago, making it the oldest known and largest visible impact crater on Earth

    in our new column for AnOther, we look at Manicouagan Crater and other (potentially related) impact sites across the planet

    Liliane Lijn in conversation with Johanna Kieniewicz

    Ruins of Kasch, 2008, Liliane Lijn

    6 December 2016

    in this talk, artist Liliane Lijn will share her experiences exploring light since the 1960s. beyond discussing her artistic practice, Liliane will talk about her influences and historical understandings of light from the past millennia, drawing on her readings in Tibetan Buddhism as well as her interest in physics and astronomy

    Second Home
    68 Hanbury Street / London / E1 5JL
    tickets are free for Second Home members and £3 for non-members – please RSVP here

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    speaking into space


    20 October 2016

    humanity regularly sends information from Earth out into the universe that may be picked up by potential extraterrestrial intelligence – but should we be sending such messages? and if so, how do we represent ourselves? in searching the universe, what do we find out about ourselves?

    join us as we explore these ideas with Dr Jill Stuart – an academic based at the London School of Economics who specialises in the politics, ethics and law of outer space exploration and exploitation. beyond serving as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Space Policy, Dr. Stuart is a trustee of METI International, an organisation that focuses on sending messages from Earth to potential extraterrestrial life

    Second Home
    68 Hanbury Street / London / E1 5JL
    tickets are free for Second Home Members and £3 for non-members – please RSVP here

    is our universe a hologram?

    © Mr Div

    © Mr Div

    Tuesday 20 September 2016

    join Dr. Andrew O’Bannon on a journey to the cutting edge of theoretical physics. holography is the bold idea that all the information in our 3D universe may be contained in a mysterious 2D image, like a hologram. promising not only to unite Einstein’s relativity with quantum physics, it also has the potential to provide us with cleaner energy, faster computers, and novel electronics

    Second Home
    68 Hanbury Street / London / E1 5JL
    £5 | book here

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    rooftop astronomy at Ace Hotel

    with the skies getting darker earlier, our ever-popular astronomy nights are back high atop the Ace Hotel London Shoreditch. come take a close up look at the planets, the lunar surface and other wonders through the hotel’s in-house 203mm Dobsonian telescope, customised by super/collider

    the season kicked off on August 9th with a session featuring the Moon, Mars and Saturn overhead. the evening featured astronomer Jeni Millard, art installations from Isobel Church and Dario Villanueva and a talk by Louise Alexander, a planetary scientist from the University of Birkbeck

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    making plastic precious

    Studio Swine

    inspired by nautical craftsmanship and folk art, the designers at Studio Swine went in search of plastic in the ocean for their Gyrecraft project – and found a lot to choose from. sailing 1000 nautical miles from the Azores to the Canary Islands, they passed through through the North Atlantic Gyre: one of five points on the planet where swirling megacurrents concentrate vast quantities of floating debris, including plastic

    “it’s one of the biggest problems facing our civilisation,” says Studio Swine’s Alex Groves, “plastic is in every part of the ocean and the effect it’s having on plankton is only just beginning to be investigated. plankton are the base of the entire planet’s food chain, and they are responsible for producing one third of the oxygen we breath. if we lose plankton we are headed for another mass extinction. in the swirling gyre, most of the plastics have broken down into tiny fragments which are spread over massive stretches of the ocean. due to their size, they are incredibly difficult to recover in any large quantity – making this once disposable material very precious”

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    saved 🌴

    Corinne Staley

    good news on the rainforest front this month, with the Democratic Republic of Congo declaring a vast new national park covering 2.2 million acres of virtually pristine forest that’s home to Bonobos, Okapis, Forest Elephants, Congo Peacocks and a newly discovered monkey, the Lesula

    now, alongside the new Lomami National Park, the Rainforest Trust and local partner the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation are looking to safeguard another 1.1 million acres next door by establishing the Balanga Forest Reserve. together, this will form a massive joined up area to help stabilise the region for people and wildlife, safeguard the forest and promote sustainable livelihoods

    super/collider firmly believes that protecting pristine rainforests like those found in the Congo is one of the most effective strategies for protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate change. we will be making a donation and invite you to join us – with an anonymous benefactor matching donations, your donation of just £15 can save 50 acres!

    donate now

    2016 Icelandic expedition

    photo by Tom Sewell

    7-12 September 2016

    as late summer lingers over the North Atlantic, join a small group of like-minded creative explorers as we travel across, around and underneath Iceland in search of the Northern Lights and other natural wonders in our most ambitious Icelandic adventure to date

    amid the stark beauty of the country’s surreal landscapes, we’ll spend the dark nights watching for the Aurora Borealis and the days exploring the country’s geological, volcanic and natural diversity. we’ll hike to towering glaciers, visit slumbering volcanoes, watch erupting geysers, relax in natural hot springs, venture behind tumbling waterfalls and descend under the surface of Iceland’s constantly shifting topography

    join the waiting list

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