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AIS³ – Astroparticle Immersive Synthesizer³

A sound laboratorium by Tim Otto Roth in cooperation with the IceCube Observatory

AIS³ is a walk-in light and sound installation consisting of 444 spheres, distributed over a volume of 8mx8mx7m. AIS³ stands for "Three-dimensional Astroparticle Immersive Synthesizer". Beeing pronounced [aiskju:b] it recalls the name of the worldwide largest particle detector: IceCube. This instrument of superlatives is the biggest observatory for a very special sort of elementary particles originating from the depths of space: the neutrinos. Quite recently, IceCube has discovered energetic cosmic neutrinos. With these messengers from far worlds, a new window to the Universe has been opened. In 2013, the journal "Physics World" highlighted IceCube's discovery as "breakthrough of the year", a title which one year before was given to the discovery of the Higgs boson. AIS³ sonifies the weak interactions of neutrinos with IceCube translating the detector array of a size of a cubic kilometer hidden in the depths of the ice shield of Antarctica into a walkable sound and light sculpture.

The translucent loudspeakers represent together with its electronics and RGB-LED's a sensor segment of an IceCube detector string. Here an especially manufactured acrylic sphere with a diameter of 10 cm houses two high power miniature speakers covering a sound field of almost 360 degrees. 444 of such units are wired and do hang like pearls on 37 strings from the ceiling, so each string with its 12 speakers joins several sensors in the ratio of 1:10. The idea is to represent semi-live data from IceCube which means to use data from IceCube as soon they have been transferred from Antarctica to DESY in Germany. The major difference between a soundscape and a visual representation is the aspect of immersion: The visitor gets the impression not to stand before the detector (vision) but feels more to be bodily immersed into the action of physical processes and to explore it by walking through the detector space. Having a very different access to spatio-temporal data by audition, the basic idea of this project is to find an audible representation for these events of energetic interactions in space, but at the same time it is a novel psychoacoustic experiment placing physically hundreds of loudspeakers in a 3 dimensional space.

The project will premiere in collaboration with DESY Zeuthen on 28 August 2018 at St. Elisabeth in Berlin/Germany (till 16 September). Further presentations will follow up in Munich, the Ludwig Forum Aachen and abroad.

logos funding

July 12, 2018: Neutrinos as messengers from a gigantic galaxy – another “falling wall”?

posted by: Christian Spiering at 15 July 2018

Four billion years ago, our solar system and Earth still in their infancy, a neutrino was emitted in our direction by a huge galaxy with a supermassive black hole in its center. It eventually arrived at Earth on Sept. 22 last year and was recorded by our IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole. The energy of the neutrino was extremely high – 45 times higher than that of protons in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Coincident with that event, gamma-ray astronomers observed that this galaxy (named TXS 0506+056) was in a high state of activity. The probability that this coincidence was just accidental came out as only 1:1000. A clear proof that this galaxy is a neutrino source? Not yet: sometimes even things with small probability must happen! The really thrilling story followed when we scanned through all the data taken since 2009. For a period of few months in late 2014/early 2015, we observed a clear excess of a dozen neutrino events from the direction of TXS 0506+056. And the chance probability for such an excess is only 1:5000! In my life, I have seen several walls falling, politically and scientifically. The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 was clearly the most overwhelming event for me personally.  It happened just one year after I had started working in the field of neutrino astronomy. Next came the discovery of a diffuse flux of high-energy extraterrestrial neutrinos with IceCube in 2013, named the “breakthrough of the year” by the journal Physics World. “Diffuse” means that the arrival directions seemed to be spread uniformly over the whole sky, with no preferred direction indicating an individual source. And now the first evidence for exactly such an individual source! Is this another “falling wall”? We don’t know yet for sure. The chance for such an observation just by accident is tiny, but it’s not below a millionth yet. This is the limit from where on the notoriously skeptical physicists call an observation confidently a “discovery”. Neutrino physicists need stamina. The next activity outbreak of a galaxy might be observed very soon – and possibly be recorded not only by IceCube but also by neutrino telescopes just under construction. And only then, eventually, we will know that a new branch of astronomy has been born!  September 22, 2017 was just the exciting start.


Read more: further posts


IceCube is the weirdest telescope of the world! Instead of light, X-rays or radio waves it detects neutrinos. Neutrinos are tiny, electrically neutral elementary particles which extremely rarely interact with matter. For instance, a thumbnail is crossed by about 60 billion of solar neutrinos per second, but only a dozen of them react with an atomic nucleus when propagating all through the Earth. However, these "ghost particles" are transmitting unique information about the cosmos: Due to their feeble reactivity they can escape the densest cosmic objects, where light is trapped and cannot directly leave.

Scheme of IceCube

IceCube consists of 5160 light sensors which are frozen deep into the 3 km thick ice glacier above the South Pole. In total they cover a full cubic kilometer of ice. The sensors record the tiny light flashes which are generated in the rare neutrino interactions. In 2013, the IceCube team discovered cosmic neutrinos of very high energy. The Journal Physics World ranked this discovery as the 'breakthrough of the year'. However, the arrival directions of these neutrinos seem to be uniformly distributed across the sky; so far, no clear individual source could be singled out. That could change rather soon, since more and more data will provide a better sensitivity. Then, the blurred landscape of the neutrino sky will be charted in detail. Eventually, gravitational wave astronomy, acknowledged with the 2017 Nobel Prize, will be flanked by another new tool: neutrino astronomy. Lots of cosmic secrets are waiting to be deciphered…

Immersion – right in the middle of the things

The movement of sound and coloured light in AIS³ translate the measurements of the IceCube Observatory and immerge the visitor literally in the physical processes. By this way everybody can make in the walkable environment the sensuous experience, that a continuous shower of invisible elementary particle passes out bodies without noticing it.

Eventdisplay with he most energetic neutrino event propagating through the detector array.

Light becomes sound – particle physical harmonics

A trace of subtle light flashes is registered by the detectors of IceCube, when a certain type of elementary particle passes the depths of the ice. The distribution in space and the intensity of these traces give information on the origin of the triggering elementary particle. AIS³ not only redraws these traces by the means of light, but in translates the varying energies in tones of correspondent pitches. Here the compositorial interest focuses energetic schemes underlying the particle interactions. The resulting relation of tones reveal a special but odd harmonics.
By this sonification the environment creates a new access to the data. The coexistence of light and sound makes apparent the major distance between a soundscape and pure optical representation. Vision can locate relatively well individual events in space, but the "bigger picture" and its simultaneousness can be perceived much better by audition. Last but not least, the sonification bears the potential for the scientist to experience his own experiment in a new way.

Psychoacoustic laboratory

But AIS³ offers even more than a new access to scientific data. The 444 loudspeakers are physically distributed in the space. This allows an extraordinary sound space experience, which differs considerable from classic multi-channel systems of a cubic or hemispheric shape. Tones travel in space and recompose locally to different sounds. By this way each visitor experiences a unique sound space, which can be explored like an instrument by moving in.

Premiere in August 2018 in Berlin

Exhibition opening:
Tuesday, 28. August 2018, 7–9 p.m.

Ort: St. Elisabeth | Invalidenstr. 3 | 10115 Berlin
registration | admission free

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of lectures curated by the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchroton DESY in Zeuthen. In addition, leading experts from the sciences and humanities will gather for a tow-day symposium on September 14 and 15, 2018, to discuss the relationship of "Physics and Art(efact)."


Ort: Villa Elisabeth | Invalidenstr. 4a | 10115 Berlin
without applicaton| admission free
contact: aiskjube[a] or 033762 7-7201

August 30, 2018, 7 p.m.
Black Holes and Neutron Stars: About Gravitational Waves, Kilonovae, and the Creation of Heavy Chemical Elements (lecture in German)
Prof. Harald Pfeiffer, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Potsdam

September 02, 2018, 5 p.m.
Nutters, Newbeats and Neutrinos:
Tales on the Weirdest Object of Particle Physics
(lecture in German)
Dr. Christian Spiering, DESY, Zeuthen

September 12, 2018, 7 p.m.
All Good Things Come from Above: The Mystery of Cosmic Radiation(lecture in German)
Prof. Karl-Heinz Kampert, University Wuppertal

Symposium Physics and Art(efacts)

Ort: St. Elisabeth |Invalidenstr. 4a | 10115 Berlin
registration | admission free

Symposium Physics and Art(efacts)

Ort: St. Elisabeth |Invalidenstr. 4a | 10115 Berlin
registration | admission free
14 & 15 September 2018

[aiskju:b] is the expression of a special liaison of physics and art. In occasion of the premiere in Berlin, a transdisciplinary symposium will take place asking for the relationship of artefact and nature and focusing implicitly upon the relation of the arts and physics (and its neighbouring disciplines). Here the symposium traces the physical dimension artists and scientists are confronted with – speaking the material and embodied quality of artistic and scientific experiments.

Accepted speakers (talk & panel): Andreas Beitin (director Ludwig-Forum Aachen), Peter Bexte (professor of aesthetics, Academy of Media Arts Cologne), Horst Bredekamp (professor for art history, HU Berlin), Wolfgang Ernst (professor for media archaeology, HU Berlin), Rolf-Dieter Heuer (vice president Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, former CERN Director General), Heike Catherina Mertens (program director Hatje Cantz, former director Schering Foundation), Helga de la Motte-Haber (musicologist (em.), TU Berlin), Thomas Naumann (physicist, DESY), Hans-Peter Nollert (physicist, Univ. Tübingen), Christian Rauch (physicist, director State-Festival Berlin), Robin Santra (head of theory group Center for Free-Electron Laser Science, DESY), Gereon Sievernich (curator Hauptstadtkulturfonds and former director Martin-Gropius-Bau), Friedrich Steinle (Professor for History of Science & Technology, TU Berlin), Jol Thomson (artist & film maker, University of Westminster, London).
Conference chairs: Dr. Christian Spiering & Dr. Tim Otto Roth

Further information soon.

Registration on


AIS³ [aiskju:b] – Thanks for the great work to the team at RWTH!
Looking forward to the opening in St. Elsiabeht in Berlin on 28 August! via @YouTube

— ais3 (@aiskjub) 15. August 2018

Press images

One of the first images from the test setup at RWTH, credit: imachination projects

From the viewer's perspective: Simualtion of AIS³ in St. Elisabeth, Berlin-Mitte. Image: imachination projects

Simulation with the spatial arrangement of the 444 illuminated loudspeakers in St. Elisabeth. Image: imachination projects

For IceCube related images see the DESY media database.