Cafe Scientifique poster for Quantum: What is it and why should I care?

Yesterday the Ontario Science Centre held their monthly Cafe Scientifique at the Rivoli, a local Toronto cafe and bar, and I was one of the panelist. The other panelist were Yasaman Soudagar, Daniel James, and Rob Spekkens. This weeks topic was "Quantum: What is it and why should I care." There was an impressive turnout - I estimate more than a hundred people came out.

The event was run as a roundtable with each speaker initially given ten minutes to address the topic and talk a little about quantum mechanics. After this there was a 15 minute break that allowed people to mingle, chat, and ask questions about quantum mechanics. The break was followed by an open question and answer segment. Some of the questions and issues raised were very good and deep. I think I will write a follow up post about a couple of the questions that were asked.

My girlfriend took a couple of videos of the event. The first is the talk that I gave about why I love studying quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and why quantum mechanics is difficult to explain. I also make an attempt at reciting some poetry.

he second video is of Daniel Jame's talk. Daniel talks about how he got into studying quantum mechanics (it was government ordered) and what a quantum computer is. The auto exposure on the camera went nuts so Daniel appears as a shadow most of the time - a very charismatic shadow.

Rob and Yasaman also gave excellent talks which I wish we got on video (stupid technical difficulties). I did manage to record the audio of all four talks though. If you are interested, you can download it here.

Donna Francis, the host and organizer, did a great job of keeping things on track and moderating the discussion. I was very impressed with the program, and think that outreach activities like these are an important way to familiarize the general public with science.

Finally, Donna gave me a wicked coffee mug in the shape of a beaker as a thank you for participating. It is now my most highly prized nerd possession. I think I will fill it up with some tea and spend the evening reading this months edition of Blog Carnival.