Lawrence Krauss in Liverpool!
I’m still struggling to believe this, but this Tuesday, we were visited by a world-famous physicist. In a highly improbable turn of events, our committee member, and Vice President of the Physics Society, Sam Walton managed to persuade Lawrence Krauss to visit the two societies during a very busy trip to the UK and do a Q&A session for us.
The committees had a hectic couple of weeks to organise a venue and everything else you need for a super-important guest speaker, and during this time, we watched as the guest list passed the normal figure of 30-40 people, and kept climbing past 100, past 200, and beyond the capacity of the room we had originally booked, in fear that no-one would show up!
As it happened, the evening went pretty well, and the committees took the Professor out for dinner at the Amalia Italian restaurant in the city centre, and tried not to ask him questions that were too interesting, as to save them for the event itself! However, he was very keen to share his experiences filming in London that day, as well as his star treatment, and accidentally blocking the path of the Queen’s car at the London Eye! And James, President of Physoc, took the ‘Calzone Challenge’, which was the cause of much hilarity.
Sadly, some of us had to leave early to set up the lecture theatre, and we found several dozen people already at the doors half an hour before the start! There were some problems with the audio system in that it was locked inside a cupboard to which no-one had the key, but as it happened the acoustics were OK, and the microphones we had borrowed from the Merseyside Skeptics went unused… (Sorry.)
The event started with Krauss giving an overview of a few topics of interest, including the search for the Higgs, dark matter and the scope of science, before it was opened up to questions. The first one, from Sam, was in relation to his claim that teaching young earth creationism is akin to child abuse, and he immediately got most of the audience onside by explaining that, while not as damaging as some other forms of abuse, it is still intellectually irresponsible to teaching untruths to children. Then followed some questions, which I will admit went over my head at times – about how we would test the existence of the Higgs field and its properties, the evidence for sparticles as an extension of the Standard Model, the future research of dark matter, and the idea that universes ‘evolve’ similarly to natural selection, in order to spawn black holes – as well as debates he has taken part in, whether God can be falsified, and how he decided to become a physicist.
Despite the sometimes heavy topics, Lawrence put the ideas across in a very accessible way and with a good sense of humour, and made everyone laugh by answering a phone call from his publisher in a very terse manner! After a break, he returned to chat with members of the audience, sign autographs and take photos, my favourite exchange resulting in a bible being signed with “I do not exist – God”
Following a good few minutes of signing and chatting, Professor Krauss and about half of the audience, it seemed, crammed into the Philharmonic Pub for more talking and some drinking, which, after returning to his hotel room for an hour or so for a faculty meeting via skype (a ridiculously busy man!), continued in Baa Bar, meaning lots of people got the opportunity to have a chat with a world famous physicist, which you don’t get to do every day!
Many thanks go to the committees for pulling it out of the bag in a very short time, particularly Sam for taking the reigns of organisation and chairing the evening, thanks to everyone who attended, particularly those who travelled long distances, and of course to Lawrence Krauss for making the evening.
If you still don’t believe me, please check out these blogs by people who were there! Many thanks to Megan for the use of her photos.