On the Road with Sci Fi Science


When I was a child and decided to become a physicist, I never dreamed that I would be traveling all over the world with a TV film crew, or lecturing to audiences in different countries. Back then, I just wanted to learn about physics and the universe. For example, I just finished lecturing in Barcelona day before yesterday, am now speaking in Brazil, and will soon lecture in Copenhagen and Singapore in the next 2 weeks. And after that I will be filming with the Science Channel for the second season of Sci Fi Science (the number one new series on the Science Channel).

Some people ask me, does it hurt my research? If I was an experimental physicist, and was married to my lab equipment, then all this traveling and lecturing would be impossible. As soon as the vacuum pump sprung a leak or a computer failed, I would have to take the first flight back home. Luckily, being a theoretical physicist, my laboratory is my pencil, and I can carry it with me anywhere I go.

Also, being on the road, I get to meet fascinating people and visit interesting places. For the BBC Time series, I got to film at the edge of the Grand Canyon, over a live volcano in Hawaii, at the rim of Meteor Crater in Arizona, and on top of the Alps. And filming for Sci Fi Science, I got a first hand look at the cutting edge research being done at universities around the world. I got to meet experts in time travel at Princeton, in nanotech at MIT, in robotics at Stanford, in invisibility at Duke University, and in laser physics at the largest laser in the world at Livermore, Calif. Last week, I even got into a swimming pool and swam with dolphins (for an episode on Extra-Terrestrials and how deciphering dolphin language may help in deciphering alien languages). We also filmed at the Hayden Planetarium in New York about the possibility of turning Mars into a Garden of Eden. And because my colleague Stephen Hawking talked about evil aliens from outer space, we even got good quotes from scientists for our episode about how to fight off super-advanced aliens.

In some sense, this is a dream come true. When I was a child, I read that baseball players and physicists share one thing in common - and that is, we both get paid to do what we love. And when I interview all these top scientists, I realize that they, too, love what they are doing, working at the cutting edge of science, working on questions that intrigued them as a child and that many people may think of as science fiction.

There is a big challenge filming for Sci Fi Science, however. On one hand, we want to be scientifically honest and present valid theories. (The program, of course, is not strictly about science fiction, since Hollywood does it better than the Science Channel. That is why we go to great lengths to interview the top scientists in each field). But on the other hand, we want to introduce the special effects and interesting sets and locations to keep the viewers glued to the TV screen.

If YOU want to be on Sci Fi Science, visit my Facebook fanpage where it describes how you can get on national TV and be part of the great adventure of making science fiction come true.

(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
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