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Inside the Perimeter

By Matin Durrani

The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, which kicks off its 10th anniversary festival today

“Make sure you don’t blow the world up!”

That was the parting shot from one of my fellow passengers as the minibus we were sharing from Toronto airport dropped him off outside his house here in Waterloo, Canada.

It took me a while to realise what the guy was on about. You see, I had mentioned to him that I was travelling to Waterloo to attend the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

In passing, I had also talked about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and it was only later that I twigged what he meant: he had obviously assumed that the only thing physicists are hell bent on doing is making potentially life-threatening black holes.

All of which underlines the importance of Perimeter Institute’s 10-year bash, which focuses on explaining to the public what the institute and its physicists are trying to do.

The festival, entitled From Quantum to Cosmos, contains a string of exciting public events, ranging from panel debates and exhibitions to film screenings and a science-fiction workshop.

The first event takes place tonight, featuring an all-star list of physicists including Lawrence Krauss, Anton Zeilinger and Sean Carroll who will discuss the small matter of “what lies ahead in physics”. It will be streamed live on the web from the festival website

The Perimeter Institute, in case you weren’t aware, was set up in 1999 by Mike Lazaridis – the man who founded the company that makes Blackberry handheld phones.

The institute focuses on basic topics like particle physics, string theory and cosmology as well as quantum information, quantum gravity and the fundamentals of quantum mechanics.

I’m here for the next few days so I’ll keep you posted on life inside the Perimeter. One thing’s for sure: there’s no-one here planning to blow up the world. I just hope that guy on the minibus is here to find out what they really do.

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