24 January 2019

Learning schmerning, this was fun

Comedy's all the rage these days and science has taken its place in the comedy club. I enjoy listening to the Naked Scientist weekly on ABCRN but Dr Phil and his Physics in the Pub takes it to another level and he's live, here in Canberra. Clever, informed, humourous and with plenty of guests chatting their intellectual pursuits. This time it was at the ANU PopUp and entitled The Invisible Universe so topics were gravitational waves, dark matter and dark energy, gamma rays, pulsars, cosmic rays and antimatter and neutrinos. Then something not quite so invisible, the 150th anniversary of the periodic table (although several elements are short-lived and accelerator-made and thus essentially invisible). Along the way we visited the Hulk, views the the Lego Ligo, baked the universe as banana bread, watched enactments of photons hitting make-do, suspended LIGO lenses, considered the FIRE GAMMA button, and learnt of a thumbs up way to identify if our universe is matter or anti-matter. To quote some language that made an appearance, there was some serious shit along the way. So, laughter, but also education and seriousness. Dr Phil hosted and played a few songs in accompaniment, not least an update on Tom Lehrer's Elements (set to G&S) called the New Elements song: Standard model featuring another level down, quarks and leptons and photons (set to Nirvana's Teen Spirit, no less). Our voices were weak in singalong but the song was great. There were PitP neophyte presenters and at least one obvious comedy club expert and plenty in between with themes and memes to amuse. Plus breakouts to explore exhibits and grab a beer. The exhibits were fun but how can you beat a cloud chamber built by a few teenage girls at Telopea Park High, obviously French Baccalaureate stream. (How does this fly against our ailing education system?) Dr Phil is doing his new show next week at Smiths (Tues 29 Jan, 6.30pm). If you read this in time, get along.

Dr Phil Dooley (host) introduced a series of short presentations at Physics in the Pub at the ANU PopUp. The presenters were Badri Younes (NASA), Hannah Middleton (UMelb), Ed Simpson (ANU), Roland Crocker (Mt Stromlo), Greg Lane (ANU), Paul Lasky (Monash), Rob Ward (ANU) and Lindsey Bignell (ANU)

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