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Danceroom Physics

Danceroom Physics

New technology helps people see the atomic world through art.

Seeing the atomic world around you

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 19:30

Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV) -- Scientists often examine matter that is invisible to the naked eye. This hidden atomic world is a mystery for most people, but now a scientist created a way for people to imagine what they might see as their own bodies interact with the atoms that surround them.

"You're literally being bombarded trillions and trillions of times per second, all over your entire body. Your skin, everywhere, by molecules that make up the air," said David Glowacki, Royal Society Research Fellow jointly based at the University of Bristol, in the U.K. and Stanford University in California.

Glowacki has developed a way for humans to see the atomic world around them.

“So that people can see the image of what I call their ‘energy avatar,’ which is really just this mathematical representation of their field," said Glowacki.

He created "danceroom spectroscopy" or DS for short. A 3-D video camera captures images of someone's movements. The data is sent to a high performance computer in real-time.

“And the computer will say, ‘OK, I’m not going to interpret you as people, I’m going to interpret you as fields,'" said Glowacki.

Our bodies can build electric charge. You can't see it, but you feel it sometimes when you touch a doorknob and get an electric shock. The computer simulates a person's body as an electric field. In the simulation, this causes your body to push away, or repel the air molecules that hit it.

“These are invisible phenomena," Glowacki said.

To add to the DS experience, Glowacki has also partnered with artists, including Camille Utterback of the Haines Gallery in San Francisco, California, to create artistic depictions of dancers as they move using the technology.

“In his system, every single particle is reacting to every single other one in really complex way, so the kind of movement that you get in that system, you can just see it even if you don’t understand the math," said Utterback.

It's a combination of art and science that gives us a glimpse into an atomic and molecular world we can't normally see.

“Just the fact that you are seeing this invisible world is quite the experience for most people!," commented Glowacki.

He also uses the DS technology to educate kids about the physics of molecules.

Get Inside the Science

A Molecular Physics Experience Through Movement At Stanford

David Glowacki, Stanford University

Camille Utterback, Haines Gallery

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.