During the opening weekend of QED: A Play at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield, Illinois, a live panel of regional physicists responded to outstanding questions posed by patrons. With two full-houses in attendance, inquiries from the infinitely large to the infinitesimally small were interactively discussed, and geared toward an informal and non-technical audience.
Dr. John Martin, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of Illinois – Springfield, Dr. Brian Carrigan, Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences at Benedictine University, Dr. Joanne Budzien, Assistant Professor of Physics and MacMurray College, and Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, Associate Professor and Chair of Physics at Illinois College fielded questions written down by the audience during intermission as well as after the show.
Over twenty-six questions in all were sorted through on the spot and selected to feature during each performance. From “how many galaxies are in the known universe?” to “why does warm air rise?” and “how is Voyager 1 able to communicate from outside the solar system?”, the panel was energized and tackled each question with their combined years of experience studying the field. Several questions even tested the limits of our current understanding in physics, such as “why is there more matter than anti-matter?” with the only response being: “if you could answer that one, then you’d have the Nobel Prize!” We aptly completed the discussion on Saturday night with an extended explanation on the many options to “how does the Universe end?”
Co-producer and Director of the show, Matthew T. Dearing said, “This experiment in merging informal science education with live theatrical entertainment has been so interesting to develop, and the lively interactions between the patrons and the panel was exciting to witness. People were truly inspired to dive right in and ask about our universe and wonder about it what it can reveal.”
Additional questions provided by our audiences during the opening weekend are listed below, and we invite you to respond by commenting after this article. If you have additional questions that you would like to submit to our panel, please include them as well in the comment section below.
“Why does the tail of a comet not end? How does it stay ‘alive'”?
“What is the physical difference between a living creature and the same creature when it is dead?”
“Is there any dark matter in the solar system? If not, then how likely is it that there is a huge quantity in the galaxy?”
“How is God in the ‘god’ particle?”
“Can you explain the new age theory that everything comes from nothing as made famous by Dr. Lawrence Krauss?”
“What is the ‘friendliest’ sub-atomic particle?”
“How many fundamental forces are there at last count?”
“Do atoms that are part of a living organism behave differently than those that are part of, say, a rock or a pool of liquid steel?”
“Please discuss the concept of a continually expanding infinite universe. How can something infinity small (the universe at the moment of creation) be uniform in extent? What does it mean to expand infinitely?”
“Did Feynman write a popular text book?”
“What are some of the great discoveries by physicists?”
“Politics and ‘public policy’ aside, what is the reality of global warming: is it real? If so, is modern man to blame?”
“Have there been any major errors discovered in Feynman’s work?”
“Space and time may not be fundamental… comments?”
“Is it true that slide rules are coming back?”
“If all living individuals are a pile of atoms, then how do we define life from non-living things?”
These are some rather impressive questions, and dynamic patterns theatre is honored to have been the first to bring such an IN-TER-ES-TING and unique experience to a general audience in Central Illinois. Again, please feel free to comment below and add your own questions about our Universe that you would like answered by our “Ask a Physicist” panel.
There are opportunities to see the show in the coming weeks as QED: A Play will continue performances in Jacksonville, Illinois on September 20 & 21 at 7:30 pm at the Playhouse on the Square with the final weekend in Decatur, Illinois on October 4 & 5 at 8:00 pm at the Madden Arts Center. Tickets are $10 general admission, and additional information and directions to the theaters may be found on our feature page.
Production photographs by Donna Lounsberry
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