A Feast for Physics Fans at the AAAS Annual Meeting
Blog post by Colin Hunter, Director of Communications & Media, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
“The most beautiful thing we can experience,” wrote Albert Einstein, “is the mysterious.”
Einstein, despite having decoded monumental mysteries of time and space, always believed that an unsolved puzzle is more captivating than a well-understood truth, which fueled his lifelong curiosity.
He would be pleased to know that, more than a century after he published his masterworks, physicists are still grappling with vexing problems. The hidden connections between general relativity and quantum mechanics. Dark matter and dark energy. The big bang, and what preceded it. For every riddle physics solves, deeper questions emerge. It’s fitting, then, that the world’s largest scientific gathering – the AAAS Meeting in Seattle this February – includes events that celebrate not only recent breakthroughs in physics, but the conundrums that drive it forward.
Attendees looking to stretch their brains with the latest developments in physics – and the enduring questions that the field has tackled for centuries –have no shortage of opportunities during AAAS. Here’s a look at some of them.
Secrets of the Universe – a 3D IMAX Documentary
In a special pre-conference event, the Pacific Science Center hosts the west coast premiere of Secrets of the Universe, an immersive new giant-screen documentary that takes viewers to a cutting edge of physics research.
Produced in association with Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (which also features in the film), the movie explores some of the biggest open questions in physics, taking the audience deep inside CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and other large experimental sites. Dazzling CGI and effects convey scientific concepts – including particle collisions and neutron star mergers – with visceral, enormous vividness.
This special pre-conference event on Feb. 12 features a 7 pm reception, a screening of the 40-minute film on a giant screen, and a Q & A session with the film’s star and creators. More info here.
Lovers of physics and film have numerous options at the conference, including a screening of Chasing Einstein, a documentary exploring one of the biggest open puzzles in science – the mystery of dark matter.
Einstein’s theory of relativity remains our best blueprint for the workings of gravity, even though it leads to the shocking conclusion that most of the universe must be made of a mysterious form of invisible matter that nobody has observed. Now physics stands at a crossroads. Some of the sharpest brains in physics have dedicated their lives to search for this “dark matter,” while others are working on a new theory of gravity.
Chasing Einstein chronicles the quest to decode dark matter at CERN, the XENON underground lab, the LIGO gravitational wave detector, and other major experimental sites.
Deeper Dives into Physics Issues and Research
Need to get your physics fill from top international scientists? Find the full list of physics symposia here.
For decades, the percentage of degrees earned by underrepresented minority (URM) students, particularly African Americans, has not kept pace with increases in the number of Physics and Astronomy degree holders. In contrast to increases in degrees by URM students in many STEM fields, underrepresentation in these disciplines persists. How to best tackle these issues is the topic at a panel discussion at noon on February 14 called “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Recommendations from Physics and Astronomy.”
The AAAS Meeting also features live Sci-Mic sessions by some of the top podcasters in science. Check out the Titanium Physicists podcast, recording an episode live at 11 am on February 16.