Max Tegmark - "The Future of Life: a Cosmic Perspective"
My Source: YouTube
Last viewed: 22nd September 2013
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MIT Professor Max Tegmark gives a lecture at a TED-style two day event whereby he explores his own views of the cosmos, what it is, how it will develop, how it could end and perhaps that we are alone in the universe and what that means. Prof. Max Tegmark is not your average cosmologist, nor your average lecturer. He's excitable, engaging and has a very visible passion for what he does but in a different way to how I would describe others who are clearly engaged in their field. It is more that he wishes for others to engage, be excited and become passionate for the field, rather than simply just wishing to demonstrate the depth of his own involvement in the subject. He is also often a benchmark contributor for big documentaries such as 'The Ultimate Guide to Black Holes' (post below) which allows his enthusiasm to reach a wider audience. He has, therefore, become the contributor I look for before watching a documentary! As you will see if you visit his website, he is a very open academic who believes that scientists should 'get off their high horses' and get as many people involved in learning, teaching and research as possible. He is a personal favourite of mine, a very distinct personality and almost his own little wave in cosmology. Don't believe me? Look below to 'Meeting Prof. Max Tegmark'.
- His personal website: http://space.mit.edu/home/tegmark/
- Facebook page for his first book 'The Mathematical Universe' (out soon) which he personally manages: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Max-Tegmark/461616050561921?fref=ts
Meeting Prof. Max Tegmark at the Royal Institution, London for a talk on his new (and first) book "Our Mathematical Universe - My Quest For The Ultimate Nature Of Reality" (2014)
So, this little story will illuminate how wonderful Professor Max Tegmark really is and what I mean when I say I am ultimately very thankful for my insomnia (a common Twitter rant)!
It was very late on the 28th January 2014 and I couldn't sleep, as per usual, so I logged into Facebook. I then saw that Max had posted on the page for his new book (link above), that he was on his way to London and should anyone wish to attend the talk he was giving, they should ask. I immediately jumped at the opportunity and soon found Max asking for all those who had requested a ticket for their contact details so he could let us know if any should become available! Over the moon and very aware that it would be on a 'first come, first serve' basis I took to watching my Facebook like a hawk. I saw this request for a mobile number and sent mine via e-mail immediately. I'm not even sure Facebook had managed to turn it's automatic timescale from "a few seconds ago" to "one minute" before I had replied to Max telling him it was on its way!
Knowing I had done all I could, I continued to hover around any electronic device which had a Facebook 'notifications' feature and waited to see if any tickets had been arranged. It was now the day of the talk and I knew I would have to leave for London by around 3pm (to meet a good friend whom I very seldom see before hand) and therefore, despite not knowing if I had a ticket at 12pm I decided to get ready anyway. Then, at around 2pm, I had a phone call and I immediately knew who was going to be on the other end. Now, I am not one for buying into 'celebrity' culture but I have those who I admire greatly and Max is one of them. So, if I was to say I 'kept it cool' and used all the social skills I have to restrain myself from bursting out in an ecstatic "Oh my god" whilst burying my head in my hands with a grin from ear to ear, I would probably (definitely) be lying to you. Needless to say I heard "Hello Alainah, it's Max Tegmark here!" in his lovely, excitable voice and I died, a little, of happiness. The ticket was arranged and Max told me of how to obtain it when I reached the doors. But, that was just the beginning of my Max Tegmark experience, which I will try to list from here.
When I arrived at the venue, I used my magic word and discovered that I didn't need to pay for a ticket as I had expected, which was extremely generous of both Max and the venue staff, who arranged this for myself and the other 'winner' of the ticket (only two had become available! - the 'hawk-eyed' approach paid off!) and I walked up the stairs and saw Max. He had said on the phone that I should make sure and say hello, so, of course, in light of his generosity I wanted to introduce myself, and of course, thank him. I waited as Max took a photograph with a young school child and when he turned around and walked towards me, we shook hands and I introduced myself. To my surprise he smiled, nodded and said he recognised me. In text, this may not seem a 'like a big deal' but in situations like this (having approached academics at conferences etc.) this is the first time I have felt as though I was approaching a stranger whom I knew (from their careers) but that did not know me, but had made some effort at least to consider the possibility that I was worth meeting too. In essence, for Max, who has seen thousands of faces to have recognised the face of a fan from Facebook is very simply, 'making an effort'. That is the only way in which I can describe the rest of the evening, speaking to Max later when he signed my book and again after that. He had taken the time to ask if I was sticking around and to speak of the prison research I hope to conduct in the summer of this year.
By describing this evening I am hoping to iluminate the point that Max is a very warm and generous academic and there are not many like him. I am not stretched to think of friendly academics, but I am certainly stretched to think of any as welcoming and humble as Max. Therefore, the point of this post (there is one, other than me simply gushing over the evening) is that if you want to get involved in physics or cosmology, that you look into Max. Look for YouTube videos of his lectures, documentaries he has been involved in, events he may be holding and of course, read his first and very new, book. For I may be twenty-two and perhaps I should have 'grown out' of responding so strongly to those I admire, but the reason I have still continued with this post (other than because I am not embarrassed of enjoying the things I enjoy!) is also because it is very easy for me to see already how the effect of Max's affection towards his fans (particularly if they are young and wish to move into physics/cosmology) could be life changing for them. Now I know Max's answer would be that in parallel universes just millimetres from where I stand now there is another Alainah who is a cosmologist, but from this version of myself... if I had met Max at seven or eight years old I can only imagine how encouraging his support would have been. Perhaps, right now, I would be finding time to squeeze in reading his new book not because I am at university and busy with my own course, but because I am at university, busy and studying astrophysics. Who knows!
Now, Max, you said you had seen my blog so, if you have stumbled across it again - thank you for everything! And, it was a pleasure to finally get to meet you in person too!
BA Criminology & Sociology
University of Kent
Third year undergraduate