APS News

DAMOP Lecture Wows the Public

By Ernie Tretkoff

Eric Cornell delivers the DAMOP public lecture to a packed house in Tucson.
Photo Credit: Alexander Cronin
Eric Cornell delivers the DAMOP public lecture to a packed house in Tucson.
The main goal of World Year of Physics 2005 will be to bring the importance and excitement of physics to the public.

WYP organizers are urging members of the physics community to plan local events that will achieve this goal. A public lecture is an excellent example of such an event. Planning in advance and promoting the lecture can help ensure that it is well attended and enjoyable for the audience.

Illustrating the appeal of a public lecture, hundreds of people showed up at the DAMOP meeting in Tucson, Arizona on May 26, to hear Nobel laureate Eric Cornell speak about how things become weird as they get colder and colder. Cornell described how he achieved a Bose-Einstein condensate, and peppered his talk with amusing personal stories and anecdotes. Pierre Meystre, a physicist at the University of Arizona who helped organize the lecture, said, "Most importantly, Eric conveyed the idea of how exciting and how much fun research is."

Meystre began planning well in advance. "Trick number one was to line up a great speaker," said Meystre, who invited Cornell two years before the lecture. "We were lucky to have a superb speaker who can connect very well with everybody from kids to grown-ups ." Next, it helped to have someone in charge of organizing the lecture: University of Arizona physicist Alex Cronin.

To get ideas on how to advertise the lecture, they consulted with fellow professors and students, university science writers, and the department media consultants. They printed hundreds of color posters and sent them to local high school and community college science teachers and students.

They also placed the posters around the university campus, and used a posting service to distribute them around town. An email message announced the event to physics department faculty and students, and professors mentioned it to their classes.

To reach the public, they sent press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations, and had the lecture included in several newspaper and online event listings. These announcements stressed that this entertaining lecture would be appealing to the general public. "We are not pros at this business, so we did everything we could think of and more or less afford," said Meystre. "The public lecture wound up being a tremendous success."

World Year of Physics events, including public lectures, should be registered on the WYP web site [www.physics2005.org] as soon as they are planned. They will be entered into a data base that can be searched by those interested in finding WYP events in their area.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette