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Tel Aviv University launches ‘Impossible Object’ sculpture to the International Space Station

Physics and art may seem unrelated: physics is an exact science that requires the application of analytical and quantitative skills, while art is based on emotion and creativity.

But a recent collaboration between Tel Aviv University physicist Dr Yasmine Meroz and contemporary artist Liat Segal challenges the boundaries between the two fields.

Their joint work, dubbed “Impossible Object”, will be launched in early April to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Israeli astronaut Eitan Stiva’s “Rakia” mission.

Meroz is a senior faculty member of the School of Plant Sciences and Food Safety at the Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, whose lab studies the physics of plant systems. Segal studied computer science and biology and worked in the high-tech industry for several years before redirecting his career to the arts. The two met as graduate students in the same lab at Tel Aviv University.

“Impossible Object” is a sculpture made of water. The liquid’s three-dimensional form does not derive its form from any vessel and as such cannot exist on Earth, only in space in the absence of gravity.

The sculpture is made of interconnected brass pipes and rods through which water flows. In the absence of gravity, the water adheres to the rods and forms a layer of liquid shaped by the tension of the water which envelops the brass structure, giving a 3D shape which changes over time.

The underlying brass structure is reminiscent of a wavy, directionless staircase, raising questions about shape and form in the absence of gravity and directionality. In particular, what is the form of water? What does a “slice of sea” or a “handful of waves” look like?

This is their second collaboration; a previous work, “Tropism”, was exhibited at the Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery.

“There are many commonalities between art and scientific research: both are the result of a process of reflection in which creativity plays a central role and are motivated by the desire to ask interesting questions”, explains Meroz.

“‘Impossible Object’ is a research-based work of art, where the medium is essentially the physics behind how water behaves in the absence of gravity,” she explains. “I have learned a lot during this process and I am convinced that it will contribute to the research in my laboratory. In this regard, this work expresses the unrealized potential of the synergy between art and scientific research.

Segal adds: “In this collaboration, we have not only shared knowledge and inspiration, but we have also been able to bring about true co-creation, which could not have been achieved by each of us individually. ‘Impossible Object’ comes at just the right time, assessing the role of culture and art at a time when humanity is experiencing accelerated scientific and technological developments. Following incredible technological and scientific achievements in space – and as space tourism becomes tangible – it is important to reflect on the place of culture and the arts in our lives, on Earth and beyond. .

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