Jul 26

Event Review: What a Wonderful World – Marcus Chown

Marcus Chown

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The Royal Institution – London
What a Wonderful World – Marcus Chown

On the evening of July 1st 2015, the hottest July day ever recorded, I made my way down to the Royal Institution in London for a talk by Marcus Chown. Fortunately the iconic, historic, lecture theatre where Michael Faraday, Humphrey Davy and hundreds of other eminent scientists have given the world the benefit of their genius, now has air-conditioning.

The advertising for the event promised that Marcus would explain life, the universe and everything in one hour. Now this might sound like a tall order, and, of course it is. However, I have been a fan of Marcus Chown for some time and knew it would be entertaining and informative.

Marcus Chown was born into a British working-class family but, through education, he became a physicist and ultimately worked as a radio astronomer at California Institute of Technology. He worked with Richard Feynman, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century and his knowledge of Physics is unsurpassed. He gave up working in Physics to become a writer of popular science books. He is currently Cosmology advisor for New Scientist magazine. His books include “Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You” and “We Need to Talk About Kelvin” (available in Ely library!).

In 2013 his publisher persuaded him to use his exceptional skill in explaining physics in layperson’s terms to explain everything in layperson’s terms. He accepted the challenge and the Book “What A Wonderful World” was the result. This talk was a distilled version of that book.

His approach is always to explain “bonkers” things about the universe in a way that even people like me can understand. For example, because atoms are almost entirely empty space, in terms of matter, the whole of the human race could be fitted into something the size of a sugar cube. Likewise, he asked “Why do we have 2 sexes?” after all, slime moulds have 13! Hold up your thumb. At this very moment billions of neutrinos are passing through it, (and, of course every other part of you). The room you are in is full of dark matter and dark energy. 98% of the universe is invisible.

The event is now available to watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RVE3WRlR0A

Colin Gunter – Chair, Ely Humanists

Marcus Chown

The Royal Institution



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