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Relatively Simple

This week, Liverpool physicists attended this year’s Ogden Trust Liverpool Partnership lecture at South Sefton Sixth Form Centre.

The lecture was given by Dr Heather Williams and Dr Nate Adams. Heather is a founding Sciencegrrl, senior medical physicist for Nuclear Medicine at Central Manchester University Hospitals and an honorary Lecturer at the University of Manchester. Nate Adams works at the University of Sheffield, researching the intricate dance of reactions that nature performs to make plants turn green.

Wendy Daly, Assistant Headteacher, attended the lecture with students from Hillside High School: “Relatively Simple explained how Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity changed the way scientists had viewed the Universe and how it works. Obviously much of the lecture was really complicated but Heather and Nate brought it to life with a range of tricks and props to demonstrate some of Einstein’s famous ‘thought experiments’. Heather’s derivation of the E=mc2 equation left us speechless and covered several sheets of paper – that’s one we possibly won’t be trying at home!

“On the way home students were puzzling over whether or not we were actually moving when we were on the bus as to each other we were sitting still but to people outside we were traveling quite quickly – we then added in the speed at which the Earth is rotating and moving through space and decided that our heads hurt!”

Heather regularly gives public lectures but normally sticks to the more familiar territory of medical imaging. She explains why she developed this new lecture, first delivered to the Liverpool partnership: “I wanted to get back to some of the core physics that first drew me to study physics at university. Relatively Simple is about how physics works, and the necessary disruption introduced by revolutionary ideas and how these are responded to, focusing in on Einstein, special relativity, and mass-energy equivalence.

“It's a re-working of a lecture I did ten years ago with Professor Richard Lawson to mark Einstein Year, we've kept the overall story and some of the demonstrations and elegant mathematics, but updated other aspects for today's audience. Staging the lecture wouldn't have been possible without the assistance of Dr Nate Adams, an enzymologist from Sheffield University, who has also done work with the BBC and knows how to combine science education with entertainment. We're looking to tour the lecture throughout the UK in 2016 so if other Ogden Partnerships would like us to visit then they are very welcome to get in touch - @alrightPET.”