CERN scientist to court outdoor audience with news from the LHC

28 April 2015

An open-air audience, passers-by and interested onlookers will be exposed to the latest news from CERN when physicist Prof. Tara Shears gives a talk at a popular outdoor site in the heart of London on 27 May.

Tara Shears
Credit: University of Liverpool

In a departure for the Institute, Prof. Shears will speak by the towpath of the Regent’s Canal in King’s Cross to relaunch the IOP’s public lecture series and to celebrate the restart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in early June. The event also anticipates the Institute’s forthcoming relocation of its London headquarters to King’s Cross in 2016.

The venue, known as the Canalside Steps, has tiered seating on steps leading down to the towpath, with side walls forming a comparatively quiet space, but the area is also open to the towpath below and to a public square and thoroughfare above. While people who register for the talk will be guaranteed a seat on the steps, the IOP is hoping that the event will capture the interest of members of the public who will stay to listen.

Appealing to the various potential audiences will be a challenge, but one that Prof. Shears is prepared to meet. “I haven’t tried anything quite like this before and it sounds a bit different but it sounds fun,” she said. “I’ve given lots of talks but they’ve always been in a lecture theatre or on a stage. I really like the idea of the event being much more open to the general public and it’s nice to reach out to people who might not otherwise think of going to an IOP talk.

“Keeping people’s attention is going to be especially important. I will need to liven up the talk, and for people who are just walking past I will need to hook them quickly, for example with some of the fascinating numbers that are coming out of CERN.

“We will get the first physics from the LHC following the restart at the beginning of June, so the event is very timely. We’ll be operating at almost twice the energy that we have up until now, and as close to our design energy as we have ever reached.

“I’ll be talking about what we understand at the moment and the questions that we’re trying to answer. For example, we’re trying to work out what type of Higgs boson we have discovered. We’re hoping that the research will tell us more about the phenomena of the universe, such as dark matter, and we will try to improve our understanding of how the universe evolved from the Big Bang until now. We’re hoping to see something completely different, something unknown and unexpected, that will help us to understand things a lot better.

“I want to give people a sense of the immense amount of care we have put into this, why we have done it and what we want to get out of it in the end.”

The IOP plans to have a Physics in the Field tent and a bar at the venue, and there is a back-up plan to move the event to the IOP’s current London centre in the West End if the weather is wet. However, the organisers hope that that will not be necessary, as part of the rationale for holding the talk in the open air is to try to reach a non-traditional audience who might otherwise be deterred from coming to a physics lecture in more formal surroundings.

The IOP’s head of outreach and engagement, Johanna Kieniewicz, said: “I am excited for this event, which we are holding in a very public space in King’s Cross. At the Institute, we see physics as something that everyone should have the opportunity to discover, study and enjoy. We want to reach out to new audiences through our public lectures, and Prof. Shears is sure to enlighten as well as entertain.”

To register for the talk, “To Dark Matter and Beyond: what next for the Large Hadron Collider?” click here.