Jan van den Berg offers a guide to physics for the layperson at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013
This article is from 2013.
Being an example of a ‘lecture performance', Higgs escapes the usual necessity of dramatic theatricality: a rambling monologue about one man’s enthusiasm for the quest for evidence of Higg’s hypothesis that a particular field is behind the existence of mass in the universe, it is heavy on personal anecdote and relatively light on big science. Certainly, it is a charming presentation, and those moments where the mathematics get difficult are handled with care.
It doesn’t offer a complete appreciation of the state of modern physics and, a conversation with a Papua New Guinea chieftain aside, offers little in the way of philosophical reflection on the path of modern physics. A guided tour around the Hadron Collider generates excitement about the wonder of modern experimental technology, and Jan van den Berg’s love of Higgs the thinker and person is more emphatic than any detail of physics.
The lecture falls between the two stalls – it reflects more a general excitement about what humanity might be about to learn than much about the nature of that knowledge, yet interludes from the film Higgs are the most theatrical moments. Ironically, it is a perfect snapshot of the response of many artists to science’s advances: something is happening here; it is beautiful, exciting but mysterious.
Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, until 17 Aug (not 5,12), 8.20pm, £10 (£8).