Initiative of Leiden PI Sense Jan van der Molen: physics formulas on ten facades in Leiden's historic city center


On Tuesday November 24th, Robbert Dijkgraaf, professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (New Jersey, USA), will unveil Einstein’s Field Equation that is painted on the facade of Museum Boerhaave. This is the start of a series of at least ten physics formulas to be visualized on walls throughout the Leiden historic city center. All will have a direct connection to Leiden science. Einstein coined his equation exactly 100 years ago as the mathematical foundation for his theory of general relativity. The so-called cosmological constant was added later, after discussions with Leiden’s Willem de Sitter.

Physicists Ivo van Vulpen (NIKHEF) and Sense Jan van der Molen (LION) initiated the idea to put Leiden’s scientific history in the spotlights, next to its rich history in the humanities, already emphasized by the omnipresent wall poems. The city has an enormous scientific heritage and is the birth ground of many famous and widely used physical formulas. In addition to the Einstein Field Equation, the Leiden people will e.g. be inspired by Snell’s law (refraction of light), Huygens’ pendulum law, the Lorentz contraction formula (theory of special relativity), Van der Waals’ equation of state (thermodynamics), the Ehrenfest Theorem (Quantum Mechanics), the Oort constants (Oort cloud) and the electron spin formulas.

All formulas will be designed and painted by Ben Walenkamp and Jan Willem Bruins of Stichting TEGEN-BEELD, who already enriched the city with over a hundred wall poems.

The project is supported by Leiden municipality, Leiden University’s Science Faculty, the Gorterstichting and the Lorentzfonds