A universe of knowledge – quantum mechanics, time and space…
Ever pondered the Universe? Physicists and cosmologists do, all the time. The Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry in Belgium is assembling leading scientists to elucidate on the physical universe and our place in it. A half-day EU-backed satellite event to the Solvay Conference is offering budding young journalists a chance to report on this complex science.
The Solvay Conference on Physics, to be held between 1 and 3 December, continues a tradition of high-level meetings, dating back almost a century, which tackle high-order scientific issues. Top scientists have always been drawn to Solvay events. Indeed, the very first conference – the 1911 ‘Conseil Solvay on radiation and the quanta’ – assembled the luminary physicists and chemists of the day, including Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré and Maurice de Broglie.
|Quantum physics saw the light at the beginning of the 20th century, in an effort to describe the behaviour of atoms and elementary particles. Today, it lies at the heart of cutting-edge technologies, such as semi-conductors, lasers and more.|
© IST-QuComm, c/- AthenaWeb
In the wake of this event, the International Solvay Institute for Physics was founded, by Ernest Solvay in 1912, and its sister institute in chemistry appeared the year after. The Physics Institute’s mission was, and still is, to “promote research, the purpose of which is to enlarge and deepen the understanding of natural phenomena […] without excluding problems belonging to other areas of science provided that these are connected with physics”.
The Conference on Physics – and other activities under the Institute’s auspices – underscores this primary vision. The theme of the 23rd Solvay Conference is ‘Quantum structure of space and time’, which will be chaired by the physics Nobel Laureate David Gross. The Solvay event will be followed, on 4 December, by an EU-backed public conference, featuring talks by mathematical physicists Robbert Dijkgraaf of the University of Amsterdam (NL) and Brian Greene of Columbia University (US).
Want to be a journalist for a day? A feature of the Commission-organised half-day event will give high school students just this opportunity. Youngsters are encouraged to attend this open public event, to take short-hand notes and then write-up the day’s proceedings in a journalistic style – showing an understanding of the science but making it readable to an audience that may not be specialists in it – with quotes and catchy language. The best reports of the event will be published by the Commission.
The EU executive body is expecting a lot of interest in this event so it cautions people to register early. Only the first 700 people to register will be guaranteed a place with access to the main room where the scientists will be making their presentations. Others are being catered for with live TV links in adjoining rooms.
What is the origin of the Universe? Is it finite? Will time travel ever be possible? These are the sort of ‘big topics’ tackled by the invited guests. But the Commission is also keen to hear from would-be participants, so send in your own probing cosmological and physical questions. The best questions will be put to the experts.
Solvay and EU sources
Research Contacts page
Solvay Conference in PhysicsSolvay Institute activities (ULB website)