Professor Brian Cox at Queenswood on a Landmark Day for Science
Friday 12 February 2016
Queenswood students, parents and teachers were extremely fortunate to welcome Professor Brian Cox, the ‘rock star scientist’, to speak in the Clarissa Farr Theatre on Thursday 11 February.
As luck would have it, the date of his talk happened to coincide with one of the most monumental breakthroughs in astrophysics – the discovery of gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein 101 years ago. Professor Cox was clearly enthused by the news, and devoted the first part of his talk to an improvised summary of the last century of Einsteinian physics.
A packed audience listened with rapt attention to his lecture, which contained just the right balance of accessible, homely analogies and mind-blowing degree-level quantum and particle physics.
He touched on the physics behind the origins of life on Earth, and with the aid of some truly jaw-dropping images from the outer reaches of the solar system, explained where scientists believe we might be most likely to find extraterrestrial life.
He was extremely generous with his time, answering a range of highly intelligent questions from the students in the audience with infectious enthusiasm.
Professor Cox is without a doubt one of the most articulate and inspirational academic figures to have spoken at Queenswood. He is also, it must be said, a genuine celebrity, if the queues of girls, parents and staff desperate for autographs and selfies are anything to go by!
Nicola Grant-Stevenson, Head of Science, remarked: ‘It was great that the visit of such a respected and enthusiastic scientist allowed girls to see science – and Physics in particular – in such a positive and inspiring light. I hope this motivates more girls to think about the opportunities that are available to them in Physics, Astronomy and Engineering. I left the talk in awe at our tiny place in this vast universe.’
Deputy Principal Academic Ian Sheldon was equally effusive. ‘I have been very fortunate in my science education to experience a number of “wow” moments – those points where you either encounter or understand a phenomenon for the first time. As a teacher, these moments are now largely restricted to the pleasure of seeing the girls encountering them. But last night, I was reminded of just how much we all have yet to learn and can learn. On the day that gravity waves’ discovery was announced, how lucky we were that Brian Cox was able to explain them to us – and in such eloquent terms. So it was definitely a “wow” evening.’