Ordinary Meeting, 2006 December 16
Abra Cad Astra
Prof Brown explained that the theme of his Christmas Lecture would be 'Christmas Crackers'; he presented descriptions of astrophysical explosions on scales ranging from the Big Bang, through the collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter, to that of lightning strikes on Earth. These, he interleaved with a show of magic tricks.
He remarked that many of his serious-minded academic colleagues might find his passion for magic somewhat flippant. He thought, however, that there was much of relevance to science which could be learnt from the art – about observation and reasoning, for example. He had observed when performing tricks how much sharper young children's apparently unconditioned eyes could be, as compared to those of adults. He added that he also tried to weave stories around magic tricks to illustrate aspects of physics. By so doing, he could produce memorable analogies to effects such as relativistic length contraction, which could never be demonstrated for real.
Following the applause for Prof Brown's lively and festively-themed mix of astrophysics and magic, the President proceeded to present a brief Sky Notes for the month.