David Fathi Wolfgang


Wolfgang Ernst Pauli, one of the founders of quantum physics, was nicknamed the “Conscience of Physics”. But he was also known among his peers for something a bit less “scientific”.

Legend says that when Pauli entered a room, experiences would fail and machinery would break down. His colleagues jokingly called this phenomenon “The Pauli Effect”.

CERN recently released their photo archive spanning thirty years of cutting edge research. Even though Pauli died shortly before this archive started his presence still lingers; on a bust, a blackboard, a portrait, a book etc. This series is a semi-fiction where the Pauli Effect continues to haunt everyday life at CERN. It intertwines three narratives:

I. Pauli’s presence
II. Experiments & quantum effects
III. Accidents, failures & broken machinery
Science isn’t fiction, science is weirder than fiction. Science isn’t fiction, science is weirder than fiction. Teleportation, ubiquity, levitation, spontaneous appearance. Inconceivable on a human scale, but totally logical on the scale of elementary particles. Working in the field of quantum mechanics is a wild ride, and even though the mythical Pauli Effect was a private joke among highly scientific minds, some of them were nonetheless superstitious enough to ban Wolfgang Pauli from even entering their lab. In quantum physics as well as in photography, the act of observing is not a neutral act. It participates in the outcome of a scene. These photos are sometimes real, sometimes completely fabricated. The observer is actor in fixing what is science and what is myth.
“If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

Richard Feynman


All images © courtesy of David Fathi