Literary Calligraphy by Susan Loy

Philosophy Selections - Higgs boson

Higgs boson

"I hear the sound of a gentle word on the wind."
  Good Vibrations by Brian Wilson and Mike Love

While reading about the Higgs boson, Susan Loy discovered that quarks were indeed named from a line in James Joyce’s literary classic Finnegans Wake – “Three quarks for Muster Mark!” One spark or quark led to another and she was inspired to create a piece based on the Higgs boson. Matter is not solid but rather vibrating particles in space and quantum field theory holds that the world is made up of fields spread throughout space; particles are vibrations in these fields. Higgs bosons are vibrations in the Higgs Field, which is present everywhere, providing a medium for other particles. Higgs bosons give mass to all particles with mass and tend to break symmetries, sparking creation and infinite variety. Good vibrations!

Good vibrations or susurrations are alternative titles for this piece. Loy chose quotations from various writers to tell this story, starting with Henry David Thoreau, who wrote in his journal, on July 20, 1853, "The gentle susurrus from the leaves of the trees on the shore is very enlivening, as if Nature were freshening, awakening to some enterprise. There is but little wind, but its sound, incessantly stirring the leaves at a little distance along the shore, heard not seen, is very inspiriting. It is like an everlasting dawn or awakening of nature to some great purpose."

A close observer of nature, Thoreau, remarked on the spaciousness of the natural world in his journal on March 20, 1842, “Nature is very ample and roomy. She has left us plenty of space to move in.” In 1846 he speculated on continuity, “There is always the possibility – the possibility, I say – of being all, or remaining a particle, in the universe.”

In his essay on Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson encouraged us to: “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” He dissected this vibration and searched for its source: "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life."

In Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, wonders about the unseen force that vivifies all: “You unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through space’s spread, rapport of sun, moon, earth, and all the constellations, what are the messages by you from distant stars to us… What central heart – and you the pulse– vivifies all? What fluid, vast identity, holding the universe."

These quotations by Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman and other writers describe qualities of the Higgs boson – an awakening of nature to some great purpose, the essence of life, unseen force that vivifies all – and are themselves susurrations.

M. C. Escher’s Kubische ruimterverdeling (Cubic space division) was Susan Loy’s inspiration for this design. It is a perspective study that creates the illusion of endless space and emphasizes the spaces in between, much the way particles vibrate in fields. Loy painted vibrant (i. e., resulting from vibration) color cubes in perspective, with parallel and intersecting lines of hand-lettered text.

Signed & numbered limited edition prints, reproduced from Susan Loy’s original watercolor

"Higgs boson"
Image size: 15-1/2” x 15-1/2”
Paper size: 18 x 18”
Framed size: 23” x 23”
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