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Physics in 100 seconds

Moon

Ready, steady, GO!

James Dacey

“What is dark matter?…you’ve got up to 100 seconds to answer…your time starts…NOW!”

This was the challenge facing Luke Davies (above) during a day of filming at the University of Bristol, where academics were asked to give super-condensed lectures on some of the biggest questions in physics. Participants at this UK university were armed with nothing more than a whiteboard and a couple of marker pens. And just to make the experience that bit more thrilling/nerve-racking, speakers were faced with a countdown alarm that sounded once their time was up.

The idea is to compile a series of short films for physicsworld.com that will provide introductions to topics across the whole spectrum of physics and its related disciplines. Films are presented by various physicists and cover everything from antimatter to fracking to black holes. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the presentation about recognizing penguins in a crowd. From behind the camera, I certainly learned an awful lot about an awful lot!

The scientists appeared to get a lot from the day too. Several of them commented about what a vast departure it was from their usual experiences of presenting: standing in front of students and lecturing for an hour or so. Clearly 100 seconds is not very much time to explain topics as complex and detailed as dark energy or the Higgs boson, but everybody rose to the challenge and it was fascinating to observe the different styles that people adopted.

These films will be appearing on physicsworld.com over the coming weeks.

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