Charles Ross

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Ross Andersen, excellent writer and Aeon Senior Editor, spent a night at Star Axis, artist Charles Ross’ secretive and still-to-be-completed desert installation and observatory in New Mexico. FromEmbracing the Void“:

“I followed Ross and [Jill] O’Bryan in my car, down to the desert floor and then to the top of an adjacent mesa. We parked in front of their makeshift ranch house and headed inside, being careful to step around a six-foot rattlesnake that was sunbathing a few feet from the front door. O’Bryan showed me the bathroom, and explained how to work the manual pump toilet — hold the flush lever down for 20 seconds, then do it again — while Ross went to look for a book he wanted to show me, a collection of essays about quantum mechanics. He returned with the book, and the two of us flipped through it while he gave me a tour of his studio. Ross keeps a close eye on new research in physics, and sometimes enlists astronomers to help him at Star Axis. In the 1990s, Leroy Doggett of the US Naval Observatory measured the staircase’s first and last steps. And the week before I arrived, Ross had an astronomer out from the University of Washington to do the others. I asked him if these encounters with scientists enriched his work.

My interest in science is related to how mysterious it is,’ he told me. ‘I have found that if you get astronomers and physicists drunk enough, you can get them to admit that what’s going on in the quantum field is not a hair’s breadth from metaphysics. That tells me the world is not getting easier to decipher. The deeper they go with this stuff, the more mysterious it gets.’ “

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