Canadian Gem

PI Spring Lecture Series Returns

One of the most unusual new developments in Canada is the world renowned Perimeter Institute (PI) started by Mike Lazeridis. who is co-founder of Research In Motion of BlackBerry fame. 

In 2000, Lazaridis founded the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics with $100 million of personal funds, along with $10 million contributions from fellow RIM executives Jim Balsillie and Doug Fregin.  The Canadian Government kicked in a sizeable amount to help create a unique research laboratory in Canada rivaling The Princeton Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey and CERN in Switzerland.

Each of these three powerhouse organizations has a different charter, but  much in common.  PI has a 100 year goal in theoretical physics wherein they are interested in the most basic research in physics and cosmology.  It's a real 'think tank' with no time rushed deliverables.  They have been very involved in the community around the University of Waterloo and beyond.  Canada can be very proud of PI. 

We have a local connection to PI in John Matlock longtime summer vacationer and son of Tony Matlock who has a home on Huron Street.  John and his wife the well known CTV personality Diaene Vernile come to Southampton often with their three children. John is the Director of External Relations and Outreach at PI

John and his team are responsible for a broad range of partnerships, products and programming. This includes the Institute's popular outreach activities specifically designed for students, teachers and members of the general public. Information and interactions involving key stakeholders, government, the media and other groups are also coordinated through his department.

One of the things John has done is to reach out to the community and beyond with a fantastic lecture series that includes some of the most brilliant people in the world.  I've had a chance to attend some of these sold out lectures in Waterloo.  Having outgrown their 250 seat auditorium at PI, they have moved to a bigger venue nearby.  Attending a lecture live is like going to a great concert, but the stars are these giant brains.  What a privilege to have this wonderful spot near us.

John Matlock and Wayne MacDonald ( longtime KW and Southampton resident, Wayne is a contributing writer for The Saugeen Times) collaborated last year for a set of lectures on DVD that were recorded at PI by Rogers for public airing.  The lecture series was very well attended in the afternoons.  They were held in the 114 seat auditorium at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.

The attendance and audience survey showed that Wayne and John had been right.... people are very interested in more than fluff.  Furthermore, they love to watch great lectures on a big screen with others around them.  So much for sound 'bytes' and 20 second coverage in both the world of TV and radio, not to mention the print media.

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The best news is that more lectures are coming back this spring.  The times will be Wednesdays at 2 pm to 3:30 pm.  We will put them in summary in the Event Planner, but will list some highlights here.

March 19  The Large Hadron Collider at CERN.  I attended this lecture 'live' and I can tell you it is amazing.  We had VIP seats in the front.  The place was packed.  At the last minute they brought in more chairs and allowed some high school students to pour in for the lecture.

The highlight for me was the question period afterward, when one of the students asked famed physicist John Ellis a long question.  It was one of those magic times. Would Ellis dismiss the young man?  Dr. Ellis had a choice and he took the right path!  He was very patient and I'm sure made the student's year by remarking on how good the question was and answering it fully.  It was one of those moments like a great song at a concert after a nervous pause.

                                    April 2 details the new move to privatize space tourism. The lecturer is Michael Belfiore science journalist. 2-3:30 PM



April 16 Physics Information with Bob MacDonald of Quirks & Quarks along with 4 panel members discuss the state of physics.  One of the panel is Nobel Winner Sir Anthony Leggett.

April 30  The Search for Miss Leavitt by George Johnson.  This is great story because this relatively unknown woman discovered how to measure the universe!  She worked in obscurity.  Find out what the word computer really means. 

May 14  A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin. Her lecture details the life and meaning of two 20th Century Giants... Alan  Turing and Kurt Goedel

Turing a great eccentric and key mathematician on famed and then secret Enigma in WWII, comes out of the mist for us.  He was responsible for proving what a computer can do and machines of a certain type are called 'Turing Machines'   The great Quantum Computer lab at Waterloo is surprisingly NOT a Turing Machine.

Kurt  Goedel is one of my favorite eccentrics.  He was a longtime friend of  Albert Einstein and he showed the limits of human knowledge in his amazing proofs in the foundations of logic and mathematics.  He changed the world.

May 28 Florentine Heretic? Galileo, the Church and the Cosmos with Professor David Lindberg.  This lecture is a classic in that it cuts to the core of both the truth and the myths surrounding the battle of science and religion which raged at the time.  I think you will be surprised at some of the facts.  Dr Lindberg produces a great lecture and shows how the controversy has an echo today.

The Saugeen Times will try to bring some background material forward prior to some of the lectures... stay tuned

Thanks again are owed to John and Wayne for bringing the lectures to the BCM&CC