Andrew J. Hanson’s decades-in-the-making high-five with Maryland sculptor William Duffy was as understated as it was momentous.
A quest was done; a goal was achieved; a sculpture representing string theory’s six invisible dimensions was successfully installed in front on the east lawn of Luddy Hall.
Hanson, professor emeritus of computer science, could finally touch what he had so long envisioned.
“I’m not sure I have words,” he said. “It looks exactly the way I wanted it to look.”
The Calabi-Yau sculpture mixes alien-civilization strangeness with breath-taking art and science. Think Einstein meets Picasso meets Asimov.
After years of planning and work, including the supervision of welding together 14 stainless steel pieces and then polishing them to a satin finish, Duffy had tossed and turned the night before installation worrying about all the things that could go wrong while placing a 44-inch wide, 44-inch tall, 800-pound sculpted combination of mathematics, physics and art atop a 4,700-pound Woodbury granite pillar.
“I can’t say I understand all the math even though I’ve been living with it for a long time,” said Patricia Foster, Hanson’s wife and IU professor emerita of biology, “but it’s absolutely beautiful. The esthetics of it is wonderful.”
Hanson and Duffy praised the IU facilities crew’s flawless installation.
“This is ethereal,” Duffy said. “You’re talking scales of magnitude, infinitesimally small spaces, that are outrageous.”
This was a project 33 years in the contemplating, 11 years in the planning and seven years in the implementing -- a sculpture like no other at Indiana University or the Western hemisphere (China has a government-funded bigger version).
“No one told us to quit trying,” Hanson said, “and if they had, we would not have listened.”
The April 19 dedication was the reward. A highlight for IU Day festivities, it drew more than 200 people, including IU President Pamela Whitten, Luddy Dean Joanna Millunchick, and IU-Bloomington Provost and IU Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav.
Millunchick said the sculpture represents the cutting-edge research and innovation taking place at the Luddy School.
“In displaying this intricate mathematical construct in stainless steel, Professor Hanson’s vision and the skill of sculptor William F. Duffy have come together to create a stunning work of art that brings the abstract world of mathematics and theoretical physics to life.
“Let the story of Calabi-Yau spaces inspire all of us to embrace collaboration and to never stop thinking of what can be. Together, we can create a tomorrow of possibilities that we haven’t even imagined yet.”
Whitten compared the Calabi-Yau sculpture with other inspirational university artwork that help create the identity and distinctive character of IU’s campus.
“The Calabi-Yau Sculpture will be a testament to the power of art and science to inspire and enlighten us,” she said. “It will also serve as a reminder of the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in advancing knowledge.”
Whitten said the sculpture shows the significance of current and former IU faculty giving to the university. Those philanthropic gifts beautify the campus and allow IU to remain an elite institution that facilitates the work of future students and faculty.
For Hanson, the work is done; the sculpture dedicated; the quest complete.
It’s time for a final high five.