Lecture will tackle the ‘magic’ of physics

James
James McLeod
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Neil Turok

Neil Turok has a simple message when it comes to modern technology: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Turok is the director of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ont., and he’s the 2012 Massey Lecturer. He’ll be in St. John’s this evening, giving a talk about physics titled, “The Magic That Works.”

The Massey Lectures are a series of speaking events by a noted scholar sponsored by the CBC. They are used to form a series of radio shows.

Turok’s series of Massey Lectures will focus on the major scientific advances of the past few centuries, and how they’ve led to revolutionary changes in technology and, by extension, the lives of people.

As for what comes next — from “quantum computing” to advances as yet unimagined — Turok hints they’ll be even more earth shattering than what we’ve already seen.

Wednesday night, he’ll focus on one discovery that paved the way for the world we live in today.

“I’m going to be telling the story of the discovery of light,” Turok said. “The wonderful thing about that discovery in the mid-19th century is it held within it the seeds of all of 20th century physics. The seeds of quantum theory, the seeds of relativity, and then of course it drove all of the technologies we now depend on every day.”

Speaking to The Telegram, he was reticent to lay blame, but said that both scientists and average people should work harder to understand each other.

“Society typically doesn’t understand science much at all. I mean, an example is my own mother, who always tells me she hasn’t a clue how electricity works,” he said.

“I think science should be viewed as a miracle, basically, that we can understand the universe, and it’s the most beautiful, inspiring thing that we know of.

“For scientists to kind of hog it all to themselves, and not sort of picture themselves as part of society and part of a wider humanity, I think, is a great loss.”

The St. John’s Massey Lecture will happen tonight at 8 p.m. at the Arts and Culture Centre.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Perimeter Institute, CBC

Geographic location: Waterloo

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