Physics Everywhere

12 February 2015

Physicists and scientists came together at the Museum of Country Life in Turlough, County Mayo, on Saturday 7 February to participate in the Physics Everywhere event to demonstrate how physics is part of our everyday lives. They also conveyed throughout the day that physics can be a lot of fun to learn.

The event, sponsored by the IOP in Ireland, started with a short introduction from Pilar Nogues, the event organizer. She emphasized the fact that physics is for everyone and all students have the potential to pursue a career in this field. Highlighting that 2015 is the International Year of Light, emphasis was given to the UN objectives for the year and the various projects taking place to accomplish them. The European GoPhoton! project was introduced to the audience with an overview of the Photonic Splash activities that will be taking place in Galway, November 14-22.

Following the introduction, Prof. Andrew Shearer, head of the Schools of Physics NUIG, gave a very entertaining talk with the title Physics All Around Us, where he introduced the various prominent physicists through history to the present day, giving examples of their major achievements. The talk was very interactive and the audience was asked to recognize the objects pertaining to CAT scan images projected on the screen. This led to laughter and mild embarrassment at the previous attempts to guess what the object was before the picture became clearer.

The second participant of the day was Declan Holmes from Science Ireland and Physics.ie.  An experimental physicist who performs interactive science shows around Ireland, Declan delighted young and old with various experiments, one of those on light entitled From Colour to Invisibility where he actually demonstrated how colours can be made invisible. He also captivated the audience with his Nano Show where he explored the world of nanotechnology. He introduced the audience to various new materials like ferrofluids, smart fabrics and carbon nanotubes and explained the futuristic applications of these. Many questions ensued following his show.

After lunch at the Museum´s cafe and a walk around the beautifully landscaped grounds of the Museum of Country Life, another hypnotic talk from Prof. Shearer How Physicists see the world or Can you be in two different places at the same time captivated everyone. Some Quantum principles were introduced which left everyone puzzled and again lots of questions from the audience were raised after his talk, some of them with no concrete or exact answers at this time. You could feel the fascination around the quantum field growing in the room.

Brendan O´Dowd, Research Fellow at the School of Physics in Trinity College brought everyone back down to Earth with his SEM images of gecko feet and tarantula fangs. His precise and amplified images showed everyone the amazing particularities of these two animals' anatomy and the applications that some of these have had in our society as well as potential future uses.

Following on the subject of nature, Katy Egan, the Ecology and Sustainable Living Officer for Presentation Ireland, together with Dr. Sophie Nicol, introduced the concept of biomimicry to the audience and marvelled everyone showing how humanity is constantly copying nature to come up with wonderful inventions that can be applied in various fields. They also had an amusing workshop where images seemingly unrelated were shown and the public had to come up with the common link between them. Some fascinating facts were shared about shells, fur and unusual mechanics all pertaining to animals, invertebrates and nature in general that have been mimicked to advance society. Some objects were passed around for everyone to touch and feel the natural and astounding materials created by nature.

Last but not least, a brave and very talented Young Scientist 2015 – Ronan Murphy from Garbally College in Galway – delighted and also further puzzled the audience when he presented his project The Fundamental Inadequacies of the Copenhagen Interpretation which - if he eventually manage to prove them right - could have massive implications in respect of quantum mechanics.

The day just flew by with such fantastic presenters all highly passionate about their chosen field who delivered such a vast amount of information in a colourful and very entertaining way. The organizer is looking to stage the event again this year to a larger audience within the framework of the IYL 2015, so stay tuned.