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Jol Thoms: POCAM_Siberia [2019]

POCAM Siberia [2019]: A audio-video composition by Jol Thoms celebrating the deployment of the
"Precision Optical Calibration Module" into the Lake Baikal neutrino telescope by students of the SFB1258.
Courtesy of the artist

It was an unlikely encounter at minus 20 degrees. Felix Hennigsen and Kilian Holzapfel, at that time Bachelor students with Elisa Resconi, coincidentally met Jol Thoms at Lake Baikal in early 2017. Here, at the southern end of the lake, the Baikal-Gigaton Volume Detector (GVD) for the observation of high-energy neutrinos is about to emerge. In winter, when the lake is frozen, detector equipment can be assembled and deployed to the experiment at depth of up to 1,200 meter. Canadian-born artist, sound designer and researcher Jol Thoms came here to take footage of this remote and icy place, that is by its special nature suited for a neutrino detector.

Felix Hennigsen and Kilian Holzapfel wanted to implement a Precision Optical Module (POCAM) to be tested within the existing GVD detector. The POCAM was designed by Resconi’s students to be used as a calibration device for future neutrino detectors. But the opportunity to install the POCAM came faster than expected - and neither Felix nor Kilian had their camera at hand. And so Jol Thoms came to the rescue and recorded the installation of the POCAM in Lake Baikal, that is now documented in the video “POCAM: Siberia [2019]". 

At a subsequent invitation to Munich in summer 2017, the SFB1258 learned that Jol Thoms is, in the context of his artistic and research work, deeply interested in neutrino physics and their detectors. He had analyzed publications emerging from the IceCube Observatory, interviewed the IceCube principal investigator Francis Halzen, and visited the laboratory of Christian Spiering at DESY Zeuthen (Christian Spiering is the former director of the Baikal Neutrino Observatory and a former IceCube spokesperson) while researching an article in critical technical and ecological studies, later published in the Anthropocene Review Journal (2017).

The unlikely encounter at Lake Baikal has resulted in an ongoing collaboration of the SFB1258 and the artist and researcher Jol Thoms. Among others, Jol acts as artistic inspirer, adviser and supervisor of the transdisciplinary projects between physics students from the SFB1258 and art students from the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München (AdBK), forming the open project group SFB42.