At the start of November, we began the 15th presentation of Protons for Breakfast at NPL. And somewhere in the audience was the one thousandth person to attend the course. Wow! That is quiet an achievement. However, I still feel the course is alive and developing rather than merely ‘clocking’ people through. Thinking about now, I find it hard to know what I like best about the course.
First of all, there is the basic event – people coming to NPL and listening to a lecture – then discussing basic physics and doing experiments – it represents community involvement in Science in a way that most scientific institutions only dream of. And its focus on establishing a continuing dialogue with adults is still quite unusual.
Secondly, there is the chance for me to meet so many staff from around NPL who volunteer their time to help. I am profoundly grateful to have such colleagues who are the diametric opposite of merchant bankers. They are people who love what they do and want to communicate it, and who give up their time to do it. They are gold dust mixed with diamonds.
Thirdly, I get to answer people’s questions. Now in some way this is an imposition – it takes around 6 or 7 hours each weekend. But in another way I feel honoured that people open up enough to ask the basic questions about science that are on their mind. And I enjoy the challenge to trying to answer the questions fully, but succinctly.
Finally, reading peoples’ insightful questions re-doubles my conviction that it is possible for people to gain a meaningful appreciation of physics without having to study mathematics. I agree that mathematics is a necessity for a professional physicist, but IMHO a physicist who cannot explain a physics idea without mathematics simply hasn’t understood the idea themselves.
P.S. Regarding the picture at the head of the article I can exclusively disclose that ‘that is no lady – that is my wife!‘
Tags: 1000 PfB15