Looking Back on Quantum to Cosmos: Ideas for the Future

See a Review and link to video-on-demand presentations from PI's 10th Anniversary celebration.

It’s already been called “the Woodstock of science festivals”: the most ambitious onsite and online science outreach event ever held in Canada. The scope and scale of Perimeter Institute’s 10th Anniversary celebration was truly impressive: lectures, panel discussions, pub talks, cultural activities, a PI documentary premiere, a sci-fi film festival, an art exhibit and the hugely popular Physica Phantastica exhibit centre, a 5,000 ft2 space filled with demonstrations, hands-on activities, experiments and an incredible immersive 3D tour of the universe narrated by Stephen Hawking. Most programming is available through the Q2CFestival.com video-on-demand service and select events will continue to be televised in Canada on TVO throughout 2010.

Festival Follow-up

The Festival brought people into the big tent of science – literally. It attracted some 40,000 attendees (including over 6,000 in the high school program involving youth from across Ontario and New York State) and will reach nearly one million more people through a combination of the live online streaming and television programs, ongoing video-on-demand and pod cast services, a documentary playback and coming broadcasts of repackaged Q2C content for a range of audiences, from children to adults.  In fact, special editions of TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” from PI’s Atrium in Waterloo, Ontario, reached hundreds of thousands with just five live broadcasts and the related online resources.

The Festival program was exceptional for its quality and creativity—from the wonderfully clear distillations of research given by leading scientists, to films and cultural events that refracted scientific ideas through art, to provocative televised panel discussions and informal pub conversations.

This rich tapestry of events and online accessibility combined and recombined people with ideas in wonderful ways. In the lectures, you could learn about cutting edge science from leaders in the field who, in turn, were engaged by the many thoughtful questions from audience members in the lecture theatre and online—including email questions from across Canada, the United States and overseas. In the meantime, at the Physica Phantastica centre, you could hear animated conversations between PI postdoc volunteers and interested 9 year-olds about the Big Bang, or watch a prototype quantum computer riveting the attention of several retired engineers. Up the street, at ‘Science in the Pub’, you could listen to Q2C guest speakers and audience members sharing provocative concepts over some pints, creating an intimate swirl of heady ideas.

Launching Pad

Quantum to Cosmos also provided the launching pad for several exciting new PI Outreach offerings that will gain new audiences year-over-year. These included the wonderfully whimsical Alice & Bob in Wonderland animations designed to get kids thinking scientifically, The Power of Ideas web resource on connections between theoretical physics and innovation, The Challenge of Quantum Reality in-class module to assist science teachers and their high-school age students, The Quantum Tamers broadcast documentary for general audiences around the world and additional Meet a Scientist online video clips for those who may be thinking about pursuing a life in research.

Behind the scenes, a major IT effort resulted in a new, multi-functional website that enabled a much wider online audience to take part in the Festival virtually through streamed broadcasts, forums, and even tweets. These new capabilities will be used in the years ahead to augment PI’s Outreach programs. 

The Festival also catalyzed new relationships, and strengthened existing ones. The Outreach and Human Resources teams drew on the deep interest and affection for PI in our community to recruit a small army of 120 dedicated volunteers. New links were forged with sponsors who also appreciate the importance of science communication. Through their generosity, the Festival attained break-even and delivered upon the full array of programming for students, teachers and the general public.   

It was a fitting celebration of Perimeter’s 10th Anniversary: innovative, multi-faceted, outward looking. A major contribution to Canada’s National Science and Technology Week and the International Year of Astronomy, Quantum to Cosmos also provided opportunity for PI to work with others involved in science communication, to forge many new partnerships, to publically thank our investors and public stakeholders, announce the naming of The Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute and launch the ‘Expanding the Perimeter’ advancement campaign that will carry all of PI’s research and outreach activities into the future.

Quantum to Cosmos tuned in and turned on vast new audiences of all ages and from all walks of life to the fascination of science and power of theoretical physics.  And it’s not over! People around the world continue to attend Festival lectures online, to download podcasts and animations, order educational presentations, and above all to ponder for themselves the constellation of ideas that is Q2C.

About Perimeter Institute

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 


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