• Question: If you were to meet one famous scientific person who would you choose to meet and why?

    Asked by to Aimee, Dave, Greig, Laurence on 25 Jun 2014. This question was also asked by .
    • Photo: Greig Cowan

      Greig Cowan answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      I would like to meet Richard Feynman. He is a famous physicist from the 1960s. He is famous for some of his ideas related to quantum mechanics (he won the Nobel prize for physics in 1965) and also for his excellent teaching ability and science communication in general. You should try and watch some of his Feynman lectures


      they are very informative and entertaining. As you will see, he was a bit of a character so I think he would be a very entertaining dinner guest!

    • Photo: Laurence Perreault Levasseur

      Laurence Perreault Levasseur answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      Ho my! I would SO love to meet Richard Feynman!! I’ve watched so many of the documentaries he’s in, so many of his lectures, I almost feel like I know him already!! He’s been such an inspiration for be in becoming a theorist, I just LOVE the way he explains everything like it’s so logical, beautiful and simple. But he ALSO is famous for playing the bongos and painting, and knowing how to break into safes, which makes him definitely awesome.

      If not Richard Feynman, I’d really like to meet Paul Dirac. That one is mostly because I am very curious. There are so many rumours about how shy and weird he was. He use to speak so little that he would often stop for long periods of time between two sentences in the middle of a conversation, just to make sure he was using the exact minimal amount of words to say what he wanted. His colleagues even invented a unit of measure, a Dirac, to say the minimum amount of words one can say in an hour while still being part of a conversation!! He was also obsessed by the idea that the laws of nature had to be beautiful and elegant, and because of this he made one of the most important breakthrough of the 20th century in theoretical physics. And he predicted anti-matter along the way. I’d just like to know more about him, because he looks like such a mysterious genius. I’d like to understand his motivations, the reasons why he was so convinced that nature was simple and govern by the human idea of ‘mathematical beauty’.

      Few years ago I’d probably also have answered Stephen Hawking, but since I’ve been working alongside him for the past three years, I guess I’ve already met this one 😉

    • Photo: Aimee Hopper

      Aimee Hopper answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      argh, there’s a few. Feymann, Carl Sagen, Maxwell, even Hawking would be good 🙂 Hopefully that last one could happen at some point 🙂

      Why? because they are all incredable thinkers and people can learn a lot from them! Simply listening to them talk could be a lesson in life 🙂

    • Photo: Dave Jones

      Dave Jones answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      It would be difficult to choose! I suppose I’d probably pick a modern physicist, just so that we’d be able to communicate about the same things, so that rules out amazing scientists like Newton and Galileo. Of the modern era, there are two people who really stand out for me, Richard Feynman (who seems to be a really popular choice with everyone else) and Carl Sagan. Both were excellent physicists who were also famous because of their work communicating science to normal people. Both were amazing in their ability to explain the most complicated things in modern science to everyday people who have never been exposed to that kind of thing before, putting things into simple language so that it was so clear. They both have hundreds of interviews and videos on youtube, so I heartily recommend searching for them!

      As lots of other people have gone for Feynman, I’ll advocate for Carl Sagan. Sagan was an astronomer and cosmologist from the 1960s (about the same time as Feynman!), who worked mainly on the study of other planets and on the possibility of the existence of life on other planets. He was one of the team that showed that the building blocks of life (amino acids) could be formed by the reaction of basic chemicals (which had already been discovered on other planets) and radiation from the Sun, proving that it might well be possible that life also developed elsewhere on other planets. This basically started the study of exobiology, a really active field today, which studies the effect of space and other planets on living things.

      He studied other planets in our solar system, unfortunately finding them all to be inhospitable to human life (and so unlikely to host other life forms). When the satellites Voyager I and II were launched they placed a record inside, so that it would be the first form of communication with any alien species that would come across it. Sagan was in charge of compiling the contents, selecting sounds from nature on Earth, popular and classic musical, as well as messages from world leaders at the time. He also helped choose the site on Mars where the Viking lander would land, ensuring that the first mission to Mars would be a success.

      Sagan made his big contribution to public understanding of science through a TV series called “Cosmos”. They are currently remaking it with another cool scientist called Neil de Grasse Tyson, but Sagan’s version was first, and inspired a whole generation of new astronomers! He was also massively involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), using telescopes to search for signals (mainly radio waves) that would be from an alien race. All together he was an amazing guy and I’d love to have met him (he sadly died in 1996), although I’m not sure I’d know what to say! I’d be too star-struck!