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Undersea Lights Dazzle In Birch Aquarium’s ‘Infinity Cube’

Scripps Institution of Oceanography marine biologist Michael Latz (left) with...

Credit: Sandy Huffaker

Above: Scripps Institution of Oceanography marine biologist Michael Latz (left) with artist Ivyone Khoo in an undated photo. Khoo worked with Latz to film bioluminescent creatures for her Infinity Cube exhibit at the Birch Aquarium.

Undersea Lights Dazzle In Birch Aquarium's 'Infinity Cube'


Ivyone Khoo, artist, Infinity Cube

Michael Latz, marine biologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Step inside the translucent 8-foot box at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, and at first all you see is darkness. But quickly, you are surrounded by pulsating blue lights.

The overlapping videos in the Birch's "Infinity Cube" exhibit are of dinoflagellates, single-celled, bioluminescent organisms. That means they naturally emit light as part of a chemical reaction. The Infinity Cube's creator, artist Ivyone Khoo, said she was inspired by what she saw one dark night at a turtle sanctuary in Mexico.

"I could see the Milky Way and the infinite amount of stars above me. And there was a bloom, so the bioluminescent wave was just crashing onto the beach," Khoo said. "That was the moment I realized (there was) the microcosm and the macrocosm, and there’s me right there in the middle."

Khoo collaborated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography marine biologist Michael Latz, filming the dinoflagellates in his lab responding to various stimuli including the sound of a human heartbeat. Latz studies bioluminescence and has had an artist-in-residence program for more than a decade.

"My goal is to find innovative ways to communicate science. We can lapse into jargon and technicalities," Latz said. "I’m really fortunate that I study a beautiful expression of nature, expressed from microscopic organisms to jellyfish and squid."

Khoo and Latz joined KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss creating the Infinity Cube and why underwater creatures give off light.

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