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Exhibition at Natural History Museum Vienna

October 19, 2016 - August 20, 2017

the beginning of everything. about galaxies, quarks and collisions

What does the universe consist of? Where does the universe end? How many dimensions are there in the universe? What is the universe expanding into? These and similar questions have bothered humans for centuries and still bring us to the limits not only of our knowledge but also of our imagination. “The beginning of everything” presents answers to at least part of these questions by taking visitors for a journey more than 13 billion years back into the past, to the start of the universe, and by communicating most recent scientific knowledge of particle physics and cosmology in a readily comprehensible manner. In addition, artists offer a contrasting approach to this complex topic from different visual, optical and acoustic angles and perspectives.

The first section refers to the observable universe, with impressive images of our solar system and spectacular pictures of stars and galaxies taken by the Hubble Space telescope. The life cycle of a star is documented, and meteorites lead to the question “How did life on Earth get started?” The second part of the exhibition focuses on the first 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Supersymmetry, the Higgs particle as well as the dominance of dark matter in the universe are presented, a moment before quarks and gluons formed protons and neutrons. In the exhibition, these invisible, incredibly tiny particles figuratively seem to gain in substance as visitors are invited to give rise to new quarks and play soccer with protons. The very early universe is the subject of intensive research. The crucial question, however, the question about the instant of the Big Bang itself, is still unanswered. Scientists think they can pick up the story after a few fractions of a second, but the very beginning of the universe remains pretty hazy. The third part of the exhibtion is devoted to CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) where physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe and bring its earlierst moments into sharper and sharper focus. Visitors learn about the most recent scientific findings and get to know the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments like particle accelerators and particle detectors.
Just as we do not know how the universe exactly started, we also do not know how exactly it will end. Therefore, visitors are given the chance to create their favourite possible scenario for the end of the universe themselves, by choosing between Big Crunch, Big Rip, Big Bounce or Big Freeze.

Video, light and sound installations created by Austrian artists offer a completely different approach to the infinity of the universe and the gigantic dimensions of spacetime. Several pieces of art created by a scientist working at CERN as well as by an artist in residence at CERN have been inspired by the CMS experiment, thus representing a direct link between science and art.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the NHM Vienna and the Institute of High Energy Physics (HEPHY) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.


October 19, 2016
August 20, 2017
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