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High-sticking in the Quantum Valley

Keep your stick on the ice! How to give a talk at PI

Keep your stick on the ice! How to give a talk at PI.

By Hamish Johnston in Canada’s Quantum Valley

I had a fantastic day today touring Canada’s “Quantum Valley”, which is what people are starting to call the region surrounding the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Waterloo is an hour’s drive west of Toronto and home to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) and the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC). There is also a small but growing cluster of quantum technology start-ups that have spun out of the university.

I spent the day shuttling back and forth between the two institutes, talking physics and touring labs. But as you can see in the photo above, I did take a little time out to improve my hockey skills. Actually, I’m demonstrating the PI’s unique take on the pointer. Every conference room in the PI has a hockey stick in the corner, which speakers can use during their presentations. You might think that using a solid piece of hardwood is a bit of overkill. It’s also a good reason for not sitting in the front row or asking difficult questions – but I don’t think that anyone has lost teeth during a talk!

Another quirky aspect of giving a talk or lecture at the PI is that everything is recorded on video and audio for posterity – and available to the public online. So stay tuned to YouTube for the first hockey stick mishap!

Physics in the sitting room at PI

Physics in the sitting room at PI.

Another feature of the PI is the cosy fireside nooks (above) located throughout the building, where physicists can gather and discuss their work. I wonder if pipes and slippers are supplied?

Lots of glass and lots of equations

Lots of glass and lots of equations.

As you might expect, there are equations just about everywhere at the institute, as you can see in the photo above. There are also lots of glass walls at the PI, the idea being that you will always know who’s in and where they are.

When I was at the PI today I had a fantastic chat with its director Neil Turok, who is as passionate about education as he is about theoretical physics. Much more from that interview in a upcoming issue of Physics World.

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