Centre of the Universe

Went to see the opening of Jem Finer‘s The Centre of the Universe in Oxford last night. Jem is the artist in residence in Oxford’s Department of Astrophysics, and “The Centre of the Universe” is a homebrew radio telescope, built of telephone poles, scavenged wood and chicken-wire. Inspiration ranges from Babylonian ziggurats and Robert Smithson to his many discussions over the last 18 months with astrophysicists in Oxford and elsewhere. It works — and it’s beautiful.

Centre Of The Universe telescope

We were entertained at the opening with excellent rock’n’roll from Big Eyed Beans from Venus including a self-penned rant on “Cosmology, Evolution and Kansas” from axeman Dan Hooper and drummer Lee Clewley.

I also got to talk about science and art with Ansuman Biswas, another artist who’s flown on a magic carpet with Jem in the past, not to mention lots of other smart and cool projects. Ansuman, as well as astrophysicist, colleague and friend Pedro Ferreira, will be speaking in Oxford as part of the festivities surrounding The Centre of the Universe and O-Maps.

You can see Jem’s own pictures here, and read about the trials of getting the telescope constructed elsewhere on his blog. And if you’re in Oxford before June 17th, you can visit Jem while he operates the telescope — and lives in its control center (aka a garden shed).