Dusty Plasma Photograph Gets Art Prize


Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)'s Elle Starkman and Andrew Post-Zwicker won the first-place prize for their photographic submission, "Dusty Table," in the "Art of Science" Competition at Princeton University on Tuesday, 3rd May 2005. More than 200 submissions were received. The competition strove to combine aesthetic excellence with scientific or technical interest. Elle's and Andrew's joint artwork is on display at the Friend's Center for Engineering Education, along with the rest of the top 50.

Audience were observing the winning pieces of scientific artwork in the Art of Science Competition on display in the Friend Center.

Elle Starkman and Andrew Post-Zwicker

Second place was awarded to Anton Darhuber, a research staff member in the electrical engineering department, and third place to Stephen Pratt, a research staff member in the ecology and evolutionary biology department. The original pool consisted of 200 works submitted from 15 departments.

Visual arts professor Andrew Moore and Kati Lovasz of comparative literature, who helped organize the competition, said the exhibit highlighted something art and science share. "Images are such a common language," Moore said. "It's so rich and so diverse." Lovasz said she was pleased with the interest in the exhibition.

"When people were arriving, they would go to the pictures first and then go the food," she said. "That's unusual."

The photograph was described by the some of the audiences as "looked like dust bunnies stirring on the surface of a table-like stainless steel structure. A downward-pointing triangle of particles floats above. All are bathed in a bright red glow." Afterwards, Post Zwicker explained that the glow in the photograph is due to the illumination of the bright laser. He also added that the plasma that is partially responsible for charging the dust is invisible in the background of the photograph, but it would glow a faint blue if the laser were not present.

"Dust Table" by Elle Starkman and Andrew Post-Zwicker - A dust cloud of silicon microspheres suspended in a plasma was illuminated by laser light. The dust cloud is approximately 0.5 inches high and floats in a conical shape between the dust tray and an electrode. Fundamental dust cloud properties and dynamics have applications from plasma processing to space plasmas.

Darhuber's second-place image, "Driven," shows patterns formed by a surface-active substance spreading over a thin liquid film on a silicon wafer. His study of hydrodynamic instabilities not only applies to the mechanism of the lung, but also exhibits a swirl of different shades of blue against a dark background.

"Driven" by Anton Darhuber - illustrates evolving dynamical patterns formed during the spreading of a surface-active substance (surfactant) over a thin liquid film on a silicon wafer.

Other projects ranged from a photograph of spider genitalia to a telescopic image of the Horsehead Nebula. Clay Bavor '05 and Jesse Levinson '05, both computer science majors, created a composite image of the average Princeton student.

Moore noted that a large percentage of the entries came from women. "It kind of shatters the myth that there aren't women in the sciences," he said. Dean of Engineering and Applied Science Maria Klawe was pleased with the exhibit.



Felix Cheung


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