This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


Particle man meets universe man

By Margaret Harris

When particle physicist Jon Butterworth and cosmologist Pedro Ferreira took the stage last night at the Bristol Festival of Ideas, they did so as representatives of the two pillars of modern physics. Butterworth, a leading member of the ATLAS collaboration at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, spoke about the discovery of the Higgs boson and the effort to understand the nature of matter on the quantum level. Ferreira, a theorist at the University of Oxford, focused on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes the behaviour of colossal objects such as galaxies and black holes.

The equations of quantum mechanics and general relativity are famously incompatible, but far from starting a Harry Hill-style confrontation (“FIIIIGHT!”), the advocates of the two theories shared the stage amiably, fielding questions from audience members and talking about their respective new books (Smashing Physics for Butterworth, The Perfect Theory for Ferreira). You can hear Ferreira and Butterworth’s responses to some common (and not-so-common) questions in the clips below.

Universe man
Pedro Ferreira on the most common question he gets asked about general relativity
This text will be replaced

Particle man
Jon Butterworth on the best question he's ever been asked about the Higgs boson
This text will be replaced

As the event’s moderator, I got to chat with both speakers beforehand, and in the process I learned something startling. I’d never met Butterworth before, but back in 2009, I reviewed a series of short documentary films called Colliding Particles that featured Butterworth and some of his students. I liked the films and thought they gave viewers a good idea of what it was like to work at CERN, but there was, I noted, “relatively little physics” in them.

Butterworth decided this was a fair point, and he wrote his first ever blog post in response. (Update: He’s also written a post about the Festival of Ideas event.) Less than a year later, his new-found talent as a blogger earned his Life and Physics blog a spot on the Guardian‘s network, and the book deal followed from that. So in a rather roundabout way, my little review was the catalyst for an entire book – one in which, Butterworth says, he tried to balance the gossipy, my-life-as-a-scientist stuff with an in-depth look at the physics of hunting the Higgs boson.

This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile


  1. Trackback: RT @DrMLHarris: My blog on last night’s Bristol @F… | Bristol Festival of Ideas

  2. reader01

    nemají něco obě teorie přeci společného a to de Broglieovu vlnu, kdy čím více energetická částice je, tím má menší vlnovou délku naopak jako velké těleso má malou de Broglieovu vlnu díky velké hmotě při pomalém pohybu?? Tj. částice dohání velkou hmotu těles pomocí velké pohybové energie?? Doufám, že jsem to napsal správně…

  3. Trackback: Blog -


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text