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Published: 12 March 2013

Wonders of the University

Inspiring TV star physicist Professor Brian Cox recently returned to the University of Surrey to deliver a far-reaching lecture on quantum physics…

Fans of BBC documentary series like Wonders of the Universe will be familiar with Professor Brian Cox’s now trademark infectious enthusiasm. Inspiring fascination with some of the most complex ideas in quantum physics is no mean feat, but Cox’s extensive knowledge, effortless charm and sheer love of physics proved a captivating blend at a recent guest seminar held by the Department of Physics.

For a man who recently set out to explain the Wonders of Life through a five-hour BBC television series, he is nothing if not ambitious. “I’m compressing a whole [Physics] first-year course into an hour. This is quite a technical seminar on quantum physics,” warned Cox early in the lecture.

Unfazed, the packed audience of undergraduates and Surrey alumni sat in rapt silence, listening intently throughout the highly detailed session, which ranged far beyond the scope of a traditional public lecture. Professor Cox took time to elaborate on the central theses of recent book, The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen, co-authored with Jeff Forshaw, in which they explain key techniques in quantum mechanics pioneered by Richard Feynman.

Despite the complexity of ideas covered, the talk served as an excellent taster for anyone wishing to start unravelling the subatomic questions at the heart of understanding our universe. Not that this overly troubled Cox. “In some ways, I am not worried about whether they understand – at university the job of understanding is transferred onto the students who can go away and read up on the subjects,” he admitted.

The talk prompted an intensive debate on the night, and continues to fuel discussions around the Department.

The visit followed on from a sold-out appearance as part of the University’s popular ‘Jim Meets…’ series in 2011, where Cox discussed his own life, career and research with our very own  Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics and Professor of Public Engagement in Science.

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