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12 July 2004

Order and Disorder — Two Interactive Sculptures at the Kirchhoff Institute of Physics

Unveiled on the occasion of the joint emeritus ceremony for the Heidelberg physicists Siegfried Hunklinger (Kirchhoff Institute of Physics) and Heinz Horner (Institute of Theoretical Physics)

On the occasion of the joint emeritus ceremony for Heidelberg physicists Siegfried Hunklinger (Kirchhoff Institute of Physics) and Heinz Horner (Institute of Theoretical Physics) on 10 July 2004, a sculpture with the title "Order and Disorder" was unveiled at the Kirchhoff Institute of Physics.

The sculpture consists of two glass walls about 4 metres square on which some 150 swivel magnets are mounted. The magnets mutually affect one another on the well-known principle of attraction/repulsion and are forced to arrange themselves in a more or less stable position to each another. This process produces a large variety of aesthetically pleasing patterns. These patterns are not determined by any pre-ordained symmetry but resolve themselves into spontaneous local structures. In physics this process is known as symmetry breaking and forms the basis for such well-known phenomena as magnetism, superconduction, Bose-Einstein condensation and the production of particle masses in the Higgs mechanism familiar from elementary-particle physics.

The arrangement of the magnets on the two parts of the sculpture differs in terms of the degree of order. Whereas one part represents an "orderly" regular crystal lattice, the random arrangement of the magnets on the other part stands for a "disorderly" species of glass. Glass as a disordered solid body was a central research interest of both emeriti. Even today, glass is full of surprises and displays many unexpected features. Recently Siegfried Hunklinger detected mysterious behaviour in glass at very low temperatures, while in his research work Heinz Horner has demonstrated the features that glass and neuronal networks have in common.

The two parts of the sculpture "Order and Disorder" are truly interactive in that the energy required for the production of patterns has to be provided by the observer. Incidentally, these two models are far more than a mere aesthetic fancy. In future they will be incorporated into the Faculty's teaching programme and thus benefit the students in a very practical sense.

The sculpture is accessible to the public during the normal opening hours of the Kirchhoff Institute of Physics (Im Neuenheimer Feld 227). Information material is available.

(We will be happy to mail you photo material on request.)

Please address any inquiries to
Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Meier
phone: 06221/549831, secretary: 549830, fax: 549839
meierk@kip.uni-heidelberg.de
http://www.kip.uni-heidelberg.de

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/index.html


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