One of my photos


January 8th, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 1 Comment · Life

I just caught the end of a programme on TV tonight which really made me wish I had sat down and watched it from the begining.  It was on BBC Four and was called Atom.  Fortunately it is repeated at 2:00am tomorrow so I have the V+ box set up to record it.

Obviously I am not a physicist.  To be honest I can’t really get my head around quantum mechanics, super string theory and stuff like that, but I still keep buying the books in case one of them manages to explain it in a way I can understand. I think it might be worth trying Atom by Jim Al-Khalili & Piers Bizony, because if its anything like the TV programme it will at least not be boring.

The bit of the TV show I saw was all about a conference in Brussels in 1927, about the ‘Copenhagen Interpretation’ of quantum mechanics. I could not believe it.  Amongst the participants were Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, Max Planck,  Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Lorentz and Madame Curie – and that’s just the ones I had heard of – all in the same room.  Not only that, there was a photo of the whole lot together and some film footage of them mingling about.

I looked it up on Wikipedia.  It was the 5th Solvay Conference in 1927.  There were 27 scientists taking part and 19 of them were, or later became, Nobel Prize winners.  Do follow that link and look at the photo of them all together.  I was fascinated as I wasn’t aware that so many of the big names had got together: it sounded like the Live Aid of nuclear physics, except Einstein and Curie together is a bigger deal than Paul Young and Alison Moyet doing a duet. (Sorry Alf)

That part of the programme was humanising science, in the same way that Stephen Jay Gould does in his more biographical essays.  I really hope the whole thing is as good – I am now resolved to watch all three parts.

A lot of the comments I have now read about the presenter, Jim Al-Khalili, are putting him on a par with Bronowski, Sagan, Attenborough, James Burke and crew for presenting science in a popular, accessible manner.  There might be a certain amount of hyperbole involved there, but the signs so far are encouraging, despite some slightly annoying, over-the-top, and un-necessary camerwork at the end.
The programme was a repeat.  I have no idea when it was first shown – it totally passed me by at the time and nearly did so again this time.  Why do the BBC not do more to promote programmes like this when they make them?  A bit of a plug before Dr. Who would have reached a lot of potential viewers.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Rob Glover

    I’m glad to see that the BBC is still doing proper science programmes, even though you have to go to BBC4 to find them. In recent years I’ve just about given up on it’s flagship science programme, “Horizon”, which is increasly becoming a programe of flashy CGI and loud noises, with minimal actual science.