How much does a physicist make?
What made the early universe clumpy?
Are you an atheist?
I was delighted by these, and many other, questions asked by students over three periods during and after my presentation, “Big Cosmos, Little Universes,” at the Highland Park High School Science and Technology Festival (SciFest).
My presentation connected the vastness of the cosmos to the small things that played big roles near the beginning of time. I tried to take the audience on a tour of the cosmos from the Earth to the visible universe, using the speed of light as a means to communicate the seeming insurmountable breadth of our universe. Then I showed them how the early universe – hot, small, and dense – can be recreated in miniature using particle accelerators to make sense of those first moments of the universe.
Students asked great questions, and several of those who were in my last period presentation stayed after to talk more, ask additional questions, and engage in deeper discussions about mentorship, the stresses of being a student, and the structure of the universe.
I am eternally grateful to the parents who organize the HPHS SciFest for their consideration, hospitality, and collegiality. The school is so kind to host this event and the students are so fantastic. I hope to be invited back again in the future to participate in this event.
(All photos in this post are by Alex Wagner)