Watching Superstars

An Invisible Superstar

We all have a fascination for superstars.  No, not the movie stars or celebrities, but those people who have talent to do something and do it well.

Yesterday the Bruce County Museum held another Perimeter Institute lecture.  Canada has superstars of science residing and coming to PI at Waterloo.  It would be good if we could fill the theatre at the Bruce County Museum with children, who are interested in science.

The Saugeen Times has attended every lecture.  We have never seen a child in attendance over a two year period.  This differs drastically from the live lectures in Waterloo where there is standing room only and they let youngsters come in and sit on the floor to see these men and women.

Does this indicate how remote our children are from the real excellence of mathematics and science or are their teachers not aware of what can be learned by watching a superstar? 

The superstar yesterday has an odd name and you might pass him by on any street in Bruce County without a notice.  He would make the perfect spy....invisible.  But, ... when he speaks, he is a superstar with a great brain.

His name is Gerardus 't Hooft (pronounced [xeːrɑrt ət hoːft])  He is a professor in theoretical physics at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics.

When we watch sports superstars, we can appreciate them and not worry about the fact that in no way can we do what they do.  The difference is that we sometimes have played the sport so we can appreciate a great recovery by Tiger Woods or a behind the net stick handle by Gretzky.  They are bush league compared to 't Hooft.

With a man like 't Hooft, anyone can appreciate the power of his brain and the simplicity of his thoughts.  What was his subject?

He did not fill the board with complicated equations.  He talked about science fiction and what is theoretically possible and what is not.

(next column)

13/01/2009 04:24 PM


He then dove right in and explained in very simple terms concepts and discoveries that boggle the mind.

For example, he talked about a protein related to caffeine.  It is in hexagonal form like a honeycomb or chicken wire and is tremendously strong.  It's a nano technology tool that can now be fabricated in the lab.  He developed the strength of it as compared to steel and showed the most amazing possible use of it.

You could make a super long strand of this 'stuff' that you could tie to an asteroid and use it as an elevator cable to outer space. He was showing what is theoretically possible and not necessarily practical.

He was asked by the audience if he was afraid of what the Large Hadron Collider at CERN could do in terms of danger.  He answered quickly that "he was not" and explained that we are exposed to cosmic rays all the time and that the energy levels achieved in the LHC are not dangerous.  The most danger there is from industrial accidents like working near any huge machine (this one is the largest ever made by man)

What is Dr. 't Hooft most afraid of in the future of Science?  Surprise answer!  He is afraid of what will be discovered about the true nature of man as an expansion of the social sciences.  He also does not understand fundamentalist religious people and the way they deny the discoveries of science.  That is a danger.

What does he think of the future?  He says "You have not seen anything yet!" Google is nothing.  We are now capable of creating super computers in the not too distant future that will be well beyond what the human mind can do and they will make discoveries that we could not do.

What is their future?  We are curious about deep space, but we better send them ahead.

Come to these lectures and see true superstars.  Are there any kids in Bruce County who would like to see superstars?