Physics Rules the World
Physics rules the world, or if not physics, then physicists! My conclusion after living, breathing and chewing on physics for several days at the CERN campus outside Geneva. It was in the run-up to European Researchers Night, a celebration of the work of scientists at 300 different venues across Europe. CERN’s contribution was a show called ‘Origins 2013′ which peered into the origins of the universe via two breakthrough pieces of European research – the Planck satellite launched by the European Space Agency and of course, the discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN. I was fulIl of trepidation about the prospect of hosting a live show about physics, and nothing but physics, for a duration of two and a half hour, but the result was a blast!
Somehow a lay audience of two or three hundred connected with some of the world’s finest minds – from cosmologists, to instrument scientists, to theoretical physicists, to experimental physicists…and made sense of the connections. Not to mention linking up with our virtual audience, who was watching the live-streamed show and tweeting in questions via our social media guru @alex_brovvn (thanks for all your help Alex!)
We had a few Aha moments – like when we gazed upon the images of the infant universe revealed by the Planck telescope. That was truly a collective moment of awe at CERN’s Globe theatre.
We had a few moments of great hilarity – as when Fabiola Giannotti (spokesperson for the Atlas experiment which discovered the Higgs Boson) was described as an Italian rock star by one questioner. Physics the new rock n roll?
Or when Joe Incandela, (spokesperson for the rival CMS experiment, co-discoverer of the Higgs Boson ) was asked whether he wanted that elusive little blighter to be the Higgs Boson or one of a family of Higgs particles and responded, ‘well I’m a family man…’ !
The moment of maximum passion came when an audience member asked whether CERN deserved the Nobel Prize for Physics – much modesty on the stage; uproarious applause from the audience.
The moment of maximum shock (at least for me the presenter) was when George Smoot, no less, (winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on the COBE satellite) phoned into the show and spoke to us via an ancient Nokia mobile phone – with a hand mic held up to it for the audience’s benefit! (Thanks for following the show Prof Smoot and taking the trouble to call in.)
And the moment of maximum giggles came when theoretical physicist Gian Giudice (Oh bow down before him) disappeared down a worm hole to raise a glass at the Quantum Bar. His little trip into the quantum world brought the house down, and brought our evening to a delightful end – equal parts erudition and enjoyment.
What do you think? Is Physics the new rock n roll?
For more on Origins 2013, you can view: