What if you could actually capture lightning? What would it look like? You could try running some acrylic slabs through a particle accelerator and let five million volts of electricity work its magic.
Artist Todd Johnson has been doing just that, and the works of art created are nothing short of stunning.
The artwork starts with hitting the slabs with the particle accelerator, but it doesn't really turn into the art that you see above until it comes out the other side and Johnson hits the acrylic with a sharp object to release the trapped energy.
Check out the video below at approximately 1:43 to see the results of the tap. The electricity can be seen discharging from the acrylic in a series of bright flashes, ripples and bursts. Perhaps we could consider this part the performance art piece, and the resulting acrylic with incredibly detailed feathering and veins to be the take away.
Johnson can even manipulate the feathering to some degree by placing a lead barrier over any parts of the material he doesn't want to be affected by the electrical volt, thus creating pre-determined shapes. Finish all of the pieces with LED lighting from the sides to light up the crevices and you've got art.
Interestingly enough, the feathering patterns on Johnson's art are not just limited to acrylic. Being hit by a high voltage charge will cause such a pattern on just about any surface it hits — even humans who have survived strikes often have the patterns.
These patterns, commonly called fractals, are also known as Lichtenberg figures, after the German physicist who discovered them. Lichtenberg was experimenting with creating high voltage static electricity and discharged a voltage point onto the surface of an insulator.
He discovered the resulting fractals in fixed dust on the surface, and pressed blank sheets of paper onto the patterns to preserve them. Unwittingly he had just discovered the principle behind xerography, or Xeroxing!
So we've gone from science, to art and back to science again, which perhaps goes to show that sometimes science and art are not that far apart from each other. Both beautiful on their own, but when combined create something truly awe inspirig.