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'Gravitational Waves' Project Comes to Western April 6-8

April 1, 2016

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MACOMB, IL - Two Western Illinois University College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) professors have developed a gravitational waves project through their work with three Western graduate students.

Gravitational waves are ripples in the "fabric of space-time." They were directly detected for the first time this year – 100 years after they were predicted by Albert Einstein. This transformative discovery opens up new directions for physicists, and is the inspiration for two creative events on the Western Illinois University campus.

The events are centered on augmented reality projections created by Professor of Art Bruce Walters and Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance Daniel Chapman and students Will Coeur, a theatre-design graduate student from Hamilton (IL); Phil Uttech, a theatre-design graduate student from Fulda (MN) and Mark Tyler Smith, a graduate student in physics from Canton (IL).

Multiple 360-degree, mapped projections on the monumental metal sculpture, Commemoration '75, and the interactive projections on the 150' circular wall in the center of the Physical Sciences Library will be displayed in concert with musical performances. The performers include the WIU President's International String Quartet, LaMoine Brass Quintet, Professor of Music Eric Ginsberg and original compositions by Professor of Music Paul Paccione and electronic music by Professor of Music James Caldwell.

Additional music will also be selected from recordings included aboard the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. Voyager 1 is now in interstellar space beyond the orbit of Pluto, more than 12 billion miles from Earth.

The events also present an opportunity to converse with Professor of Astrophysics Peter Hofner (New Mexico Tech and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory) Associate Professor of Physics Esteban Araya and physics faculty members Associate Professor of Physics Kishor Kapale and Assistant Professor of Physics Brian Davies, as well as WIU graduate physics students. Telescopes will be set up for viewing.

The projected animations are drawn primarily from NASA, LIGO, Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and astrophysics research papers by Araya and Hofner.

Commemoration '75 is located on the south end of the WIU campus, on the lawn east of Memorial Hall and between Tillman and Seal halls. The sculpture was created 42 years ago by WIU Professor Emeritus George Potter and eight art students. Potter saw "motion, flight and lifting toward the future" in the artwork during its creation.

The schedule for this event includes:

Wednesday, April 6
Commemoration '75 sculpture – east of Memorial Hall

• Sunset (7:33-9 p.m.) - Final testing of augmented reality projections on the monumental sculpture and surrounding buildings. The project's designers will be available to answer technical and design questions.

• 8-9 p.m. - Opportunity to meet and talk with astrophysics and physics professors and graduate students. Telescopes will be set up near the sculpture for viewing.

Testing follows the Physics Research Day events and coincides with the WIU Department of Art's First Wednesday events.

Thursday, April 7
Commemoration '75 sculpture – east of Memorial Hall

• Sunset 7:34-9 p.m. - Augmented reality projections on the Commemoration '75 sculpture. The 360-degree projections will be displayed in conjunction with musical performances, including a solo performance of Abyss of Birds by Ginsberg and the opportunity to meet and talk with astrophysics and physics professors and graduate students. Telescopes will be set up near the sculpture for viewing.

The event follows the general public lecture, "Treasures of the Night Sky: The Origin of Stars," by Hofner in 109 Morgan Hall from 6-7:15 p.m. and the Garden Party at the University Art Gallery from 5-7 p.m.

Friday, April 8
Physical Sciences Library, Currens Hall

• 2-4 p.m. - Interactive, augmented reality projections; musical performances by the President's International String Quartet (2-2:30 p.m.) and LaMoine Brass Quintet (2:30-2:45 p.m.); view science displays and the opportunity to meet and talk with astrophysics and physics professors and graduate students.

The event will be followed by the Physics Colloquium, "X-Rays from Young Stars," at 4 p.m. by Hofner in 205 Currens Hall.

For additional information, visit

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