About this project
In a cavernous complex buried three stories beneath The University of Texas, there resides an almost inconceivable piece of technology which invokes some of the most extreme conditions ever encountered by mankind.
It is called the Texas Petawatt and, at the time of this project, it produced the most powerful laser pulse anywhere in the world.
With a peak output nearly 2000 times greater than the entire U.S. electrical grid, this massive device releases an unparalleled luminous force which constitutes the brightest light known to exist in the entire universe. With this intensely focused beam, an elite company of scientists produces the sort of dense matter found at the center of stars and recreate the conditions of planetary cores. They observe the blastwaves of scale supernovae and chart how such forces form galaxies in their wake. They rend electrons from their atoms, generating the very same fusion reactions that power our sun.
And all of this occurs in a flash of brilliance briefer than any other event in human history.
To the layperson, the site of these controlled cataclysms is a rarefied, mysterious place, accessible only in fleeting fragments of comprehension, and one could easily be forgiven if they were to mistake so advanced a technology for magic.
“The Superlative Light”, to be published in Fall 2014 by Daylight Books, draws upon the conventions of “grade – B” science fiction cinema, recasting real working scientists as the heroes of an imaginary epic and presenting an interloper's awe-struck experience of a seemingly sacred space where a brilliant but mortal group of men and women perform work normally reserved for the gods.
The publication of this book represents the culmination of an auspicious year for the Texas Petawatt Project, following the recent feature of these photographs by The New York Times, as well as important experimental breakthroughs utilizing the laser for particle acceleration.
You may view the entire body of work by clicking here.
In lieu of a traditional essay, “The Superlative Light” features an original science fiction story, inspired by the photographs, from award-winning author and mathematician Rudy Rucker. Dr. Rucker's academia-themed work augments the photos' dual modes as components of both fictional and documentary narratives with his transrealist literary style, itself a blend of the fantastic and autobiographical.
This book also includes a scientific introduction by Dr. Todd Ditmire, director of the Center for High Energy Density Science and chief developer of the Texas Petawatt.
“The Superlative Light” hardcover book is 8 x 9 inches with 96 pages and 40 duotone images. Additionally, each book includes a unique bookmark made from specialized laser “burn paper” with an image etched directly onto its surface by the Texas Petawatt, in the manner demonstrated by Dr. Gaul in the video above.
Your generous contribution will provide the finishing funds necessary for the manufacture of this book. The listed funding goal represents approximately one third of this volume's total production and printing costs.
Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography books. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine-art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large.
More information about Daylight's community arts programs can be found here. Daylight receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Robert Shults studied photography on location in Central America with Barbara McClatchie Andrews, and has traveled and photographed extensively throughout Latin America, Europe, and the United States. His work has been included in exhibitions at The Print Center, Coastal Arts League Museum, and The Camera Club of New York. He is a 2008 recipient of the Prix de la Photographie - Paris as well as a B&W Magazine Merit Award, and his publication credits include Austin Monthly, The Austin Chronicle, and The New York Times. From 2007 to 2010, he taught photography at the University of Texas at Austin, as part of the Informal Classes program.
Rudy Rucker received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Swarthmore College and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Rutgers University. In the course of a three-decade academic career, he taught at SUNY Geneseo, Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, Randolph-Macon Women's College, and San Jose State University. Rucker is regarded as a contemporary master of science fiction and one of the founders of the cyberpunk literary movement. He has received the Philip K. Dick award twice. His 37 published books include the novels of “The Ware Tetralogy” and non-fiction books on the fourth dimension, infinity, and computation.
Todd Ditmire earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in physics and art history and received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Davis. He is currently a professor of physics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is director of the Center for High Energy Density Science and the Texas Petawatt Project. He was previously a staff scientist and project leader at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Risks and challenges
All photography and darkroom work for this project has been completed, only production of the physical book remains. Any deficit in funding will result in a delay in the book's Fall 2014 release date. This book is currently under contract for publication, and, as such, will be available in the marketplace once all funding is in place.
Please remember that Kickstarter functions on an "all or nothing" model. Should this project fail to reach its goal, no money will be distributed from this campaign, necessitating reliance on traditional protracted grant funding.
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