Gheorghe Curelet-Balan Blog

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I say tomato you say tomata.

OK...after some thinking I realized that the second part of the Black Hole session is better characterized by the above theme rather than the previous one.

As I hinted before, the second part was more intense, being caused by its nature. Damian Pope, the PI's Director of Scientific Outreach, challenged the audience for its feedback about the likes, dislikes and wishes for the next Black Hole sessions.

There were hot debates about what subjects should be approached, presentation forms and ways to better outreach the general public. As any democratic process it is hard to find shoes that fit all sizes.

For almost one hour ideas were pouring. Everybody had something to say. From teenagers to seniors, from locals to people coming as far as Toronto, Stratford, or London Ontario, from teachers to people that are just curious. Here there are some of the debated ideas:

Black Hole sessions should run series of presentations on specific subjects. There were some reservations on this idea as some of the sessions were targeting till now (and rightly so) the subjects of the PI's public lectures.

Some were bothered by the mathematical content that is hard to follow. Damian, replied that only few sessions had mathematical content since it was needed for the purpose of presentations. People agreed that physics is a tough subject and it is hard to avoid mathematics totally. Some suggested that Black Hole sessions should be divided in two sections an informational one and a more detailed where math could be used. Others replied that you need good presenters in order to present tough physics subjects in easy to understand terms. Majority of the participants agreed that all of PI public lectures and Black Hole sessions they attended were very well done some of them being quite entertaining. Examples were given of Simon Sigh's lecture, Edward Kolb's "The Quantum and the Cosmos", John Grant's "Mission to Mars" lectures and Damian's sessions Through Einstein's Eyes and Modern Physics in Everyday Life.

Other people were suggesting that they would be interested to see the train of thought behind ideas presented citing for instance Lee Smolin's confession how he came up with an idea while waiting in a car repair shop.

Someone suggested that Black Hole sessions should approach the subject of antimatter. At this time Damian intervened with the quiz if we know that antimatter is used in hospitals. This reminded me of the Damian's past session when he presented the relationship.

Then people were suggesting the need for more sessions (sometimes organized as workshops, every 2 weeks for example) were PI people to present or answer questions (as a panel eventually) on what they are working on or what is hot in physics today.

A few guys were quite keen on presentations detailing quantum computing applications in this region since the research done here has silicon and electronics as one of its targets as it was envisioned by Mike Lazaridis.

There were suggestions of presentation of scientific documentaries (PBS or Discovery Channel) and comment/debate on them. In this context, interest was shown on clarifying the "science" aspects in some TV shows so that the public knows what is actually science and what is entertainment.

Then the subject of organizing a yearly physics festival in Waterloo came up. People confessed that Einsteinfest created a lot of general public interest in physics and could inspire the young generation to follow a scientific career.

Some commented that PI's outreach activities show results as the WCI auditorium capacity hardly satisfy the public demand while getting tickets is becoming a challenging adventure. Now, as the number of PI's outreach participants is on the rise, PI faces a real challenge, to find shoes that fit most of the participants.

While some people had to leave others were still debating with such an intensity
that it caught the attention of the usual latecomers to Black Hole sessions.


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