Wolfgang Ernst Pauli (1900 – 1958) was one of the founders of quantum physics, nicknamed the ‘Conscience of Physics’. He was also known, however, for a trait a little less honorary. Legend has it that when Pauli entered a room, experiments would fail and machinery would break down – something his colleagues jokingly called ‘The Pauli Effect’.
Inspired by this legend, French photographer David Fathi (1985) began scouring the CERN photo archive of more than 100,000 images, recently released to the public, for evidence. Though Pauli died shortly before the start of the archive, his presence is found lingering in the photographs: on a bust, a blackboard, a portrait.
Fathi worked with the images to create a semi-fiction, digitally manipulating some while leaving others intact, asking the viewer to participate in the act of reading the images to determine evidence of science, or myth. This act of co-creation parallels the ‘observer effect’ in quantum physics, a phenomenon scientists discovered which means that the act of observation is not neutral, but rather, an act of participation in the outcome of an experiment.