photography by mark waugh
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Super K Sonic BOOOOum

Pictures of the installation

Super K Sonic Boooum 2 Gold is part of this year’s bigger and better Manchester Science Festival, entertaining the region from 23-31 October. Over 200 exciting events will take place across Greater Manchester during half term. There will be something for everyone – from bee knitting to chocolate making, stand-up comedy to workshops, talks and demonstrations.

Super K Sonic Boooum 2 Gold by designer Nelly Ben Hayoun is an installation in the John Dalton Building at Manchester Metropolitan University recreating the experience of a sonic boom at Japan’s Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory.

The project has been sponsored and supported by the Science & Technology Facilities Council and the Institute of Physics, and brought to fruition by the collaboration and backing of Dr Marieke Navin, Science Communicator for Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, and Dr Ben Still, Physicist at Queen Mary University of London.

The installation consists of a 15 metre long river of water running through a tunnel lined with thousands of gold coloured balloons. Visitors are dressed in white boiler suits, protective hats and wellies by ‘security chief’ Nelly Ben Hayoun and then taken through the tunnel on a small rowing boat guided by professional physicists from Imperial College and Queen Mary University. Passengers hear loud booms and see bright flashes of blue light – Cherenkov Radiation – that shake and shudder the gold balloons – Photomultiplier Tubes -, replicating the real Super-K interactions between neutrinos and atoms of extremely pure water, the effects of a sonic boom, normally faster than the speed of light.

Super K Sonic Boooum 2 Gold is designed to deliver a physically thrilling experience but also bring science to the public in an engaging way.

Professor Dave Wark, Professor of Physics, Department of High Energy Physics, Imperial College, London said of Super K Sonic Boooum 1, November 2009:

Nelly’s installation produces the most direct connection between scientists and the public I have ever experienced.  It is tremendous fun for the scientists involved, and the people who have visited clearly have a great time as well.  I couldn’t have believed that she could have made so many people excited about neutrino physics, but she has!”

Nelly Ben Hayoun is an award-winning interactions designer who has a particular interest in science and collaborating with expert scientists to adapt science to facilitate and encourage surreal interactions. Ben Hayoun’s portfolio includes a scheme for generating dark matter in your sink, explorations of brain plasticity in snails and an installation to experience the first 10 minutes of a space rocket lift off sequence.  She collaborates with scientists to realise authentic experiences of scientific experiments accessible to the public.