Cosmic Connection invites the public to experience cosmic chaos and playfully catch a cosmic ray as it passes through their body. The scientifically literate artwork makes cosmic rays visible to the naked eye inside an aesthetically appealing spark chamber, and educates the public about sub-atomic interactions.

An invisible cosmic ray...made visible in demos of Cosmic Connection

An invisible cosmic ray...made visible in demos of Cosmic Connection


What is It?

Cosmic Connection views nature outside our common experience.  Cosmic rays are created through unknown violent cosmic actions creating radiation which passes through us continuously.    Spark chambers at the heart of the sculpture will produce electric arcs displaying the path of these muons through two 30” chambers. Citizens can stand between the chambers and “Catch a Cosmic Ray” as it passes through their body ending the journey of a particle generated eons ago in interstellar space.  


We find beauty in the mechanisms of the cosmos and the symmetry displayed in the mathematics describing it.  

— DR. George Neil, Creator


The prosaic goal of this work is to involve the citizens in the observation of cosmic rays in real time and to understand their origins, and how the study of them nurtures scientific development in other fields with more direct interaction with their lives.   More conceptually we realize that science is the new religion in our lives and this work will provide an immediacy of science play which releases a vision of the universe as a complex machine.

We will show citizens that interstellar radiation has been continually bombarding their own body though beyond their awareness.  Our desire is to move the viewer beyond experiential-based rationality into a more fundamental contemplation of vast scales of time and space and thereby surrender to a realization of our own insignificance. 


Why build it?

The Quark Collective creating this work includes a half-dozen PhD scientists and professional engineers, two professional graphic artists, and three individuals combining 20 years of constructing, installing and managing works for Burning Man.  

Our collaboration is driven by a quest to understand the physical universe.  We find beauty in the mechanisms of the cosmos and the symmetry displayed in the mathematics describing it.   Many of us have followed this search through long professional careers founded on faith in the scientific ritual.   Our goal is to share our awe and excitement with others by making this experience immediate and enticing.   Our art is an installation that is scientifically literate, physically beautiful, and, most of all, fun and engaging.  We achieve this by presenting a manifestation of each individual’s immersion in the universe and its processes on scales ranging from the subatomic to the intergalactic.  These forge connections across eons of time and light-years of space. Our desire is to show cosmic rays passing though people's bodies as an immediate, local, surreal experience arising from the primal universe. The sacred comes from a profoundly different place - one beyond the bounds of space and time; it is as if a window is thrown open on another world transcending reality.   Engaging our artwork is a ritual encountering and acknowledging such transcendent mysteries – the forces at work in our universe. It reaches into the cosmos; therein glows an element of both whimsy and mystery.   Though most have heard of it, cosmic rays are almost mythical –invisible icons accepted on faith.  This work provides an epiphany via the sublime vision of receiving "energy" / "life” from beyond.

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This work is a fiscally sponsored project of the Burning Man Project