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Utopian lab: A world away from equilibrium

Non-equilibrium processes touch our daily lives in many ways, through crashing financial systems and the physical shudders of earthquakes to the spread of disease outbreaks and the control of wildfires and pollution. But non-equilibrium is not in itself bad: life is out of equilibrium all of the time. And if we can understand non-equilibrium processes like the biological one that takes a cell in our body from a healthy state to one that is diseased or even cancerous, we can design better targeted medical treatments. The same goes for technological innovation: the better we can understand non-equilibrium phenomena such as the conversion of light to electrical energy in solar cells, the more able we will be to maximise the efficiency of materials. 

A world away from equilibrium offered insights into how current research might shape and affect the next generation of technological, medical and environmental applications of non-equilibrium science, and the challenges it presents. Using a number of short videos and interactive simulations of non-equilibrium systems, this cross-media installation presented a vision for how progress in non-equilibrium systems research can take us close to a Utopian future.

This project was developed by the CANES centre (Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Non-Equilibrium Systems) at King’s College London.

Project team

Collaborators on this project included:

Andreas Baas, acting co-Director of CANES and Reader in Geomorphology, in the Department of Geography, at King’s College London

Joe Bhaseen, Assistant Director of CANES and Lecturer in the Department of Physics, at King’s College London

Barbara Bravi, PhD Candidate and Knowledge Exchange Associate, for Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences at King’s College London

Valeria De Marco, CANES Centre Manager, at King’s College London

Franca Fraternali, co-Director of CANES and Professor of Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, in the Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics, at King’s College London

Chris Lorenz, Assistant Director of CANES and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics, at King’s College London

Bruce Malamud, co-Director of CANES and Professor of Natural and Environmental Hazards, in the Department of Geography at King’s College London

Peter Sollich, Director of CANES and Professor of Statistical Mechanics, in the Department of Mathematics, at King’s College London

And the CANES (Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Non-equilibrium Systems) Centre for Doctoral Training.


Utopian lab

This project was part of the Utopian lab, a contemporary glimpse of the Health Faculties at King’s College London. The crusade to understand, save and compliment the human body and mind was the spirit of Utopia itself, uniting cultures, defining humanity and standing on the shoulders of giants.

Rotating through the different stories of present day work day work being carried out across the Health Faculties at King’s College London, Utopian lab was a snapshot of the future with roots firmly planted in King’s College Hospital’s past: a workhouse on the Strand that was propelled to notoriety by the surgery work of Joseph Lister in the late 19th century. 

‘I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results’ – Florence Nightingale



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