Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dark Turns to Gold for Dark Matter Garden

The Dark Matter garden gets gold at the Chelsea Flower Show (Credit: Landstruction Ltd)

A unique garden that illustrates the mysteries of Dark Matter - the ‘stuff’ that is believed to make up a big percentage of our Universe but that cannot be seen – has been given a Gold rating at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, UK. Dark Matter fascinates people all over the world since without it, the stars and galaxies around us, and even the Earth we stand on would never have formed and yet its existence has only been proved indirectly. It is a quest for scientists to understand more about it.

“Dark Matter is a hypothetical kind of matter that cannot be seen with telescopes butaccounts for most of the matter in the Universe. The existence and properties of Dark Matter are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation and the large-scale structure of the Universe”, explains Professor Andy Newsam, Director of the National Schools’ Observatory at Liverpool John Moores University which organised the garden. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), as funders of Dark Matter research in the UK and at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, sponsored the exhibit.

The challenge for the designers was to find a way to illustrate Dark Matter in an innovative way that would reach an entirely new audience at the Chelsea Flower Show. Having wind blow through the grass in the garden goes towards explaining the concept of Dark Matter; we see the grass move, but cannot see the wind itself.

Chief designer, architect Howard Miller explains the design in more detail: “A warped lattice of steel rods represents the bending trajectory of light around massive objects in the Universe whilst invisible forces are simulated by the pulse and flow of grasses perpetually moving. The garden is bookended by a large circular opening, which symbolises the human view from telescopes on the ground into space”.

The Dark Matter garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Credit: Landstruction Ltd
The Dark Matter garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Credit: Landstruction Ltd

The garden has been well received at the annual show which gets over 160,000 visitors every year – as well as being rated Gold, it also won in the best fresh garden category.

Neville Hollingworth from STFC Public Engagement Team, said: “This is a new and innovative way to reach different audiences. Visualising a concept as abstract as Dark Matter is a challenge and this garden is an excellent way to do this. The presence at Chelsea 2015 is also highly appropriate as it is the centenary year of Einstein’s theory of general relativity where the bending of light by gravity was first predicted”.

At the end of the Chelsea Flower Show, the garden will be re-built at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory to reach further audiences.


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