Labs at Night

MUCH OF MODERN SCIENCE lives in laboratories, those distinctive structures that house the most particular means for testing our ideas. Such places have the exceptional ability to isolate problems, to control and to vary inputs — temperature, air pressure, speed, light, or sound — and then to precisely record the results. They are places where science can go on without us (for a time). The rooms can go dark, but science still happens: Cells divide and grow; lasers pulse; elementary particles hurtle through magnetic fields; molecules jiggle along paths that might lead to life. So it is in these images that we find scenes of "potential energy" culled from a collective pursuit to understand the world. The scientists have gone home, but the ideas remain, manifested in experiments, moving autonomously in the darkness toward a revelation.