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What is Paul the Electron Doing in the Elevator?

PGI Young Investigator Wins Einstein Slam

October 26, 2012

Knowledge transfer as you’ve never seen it before: explain a scientific topic in a few minutes to a wide audience in the most entertaining and easily comprehensible way possible – that is the aim of participants in the so-called “Science Slams”.  Based on the model of poetry recital competitions found in literary circles and known as “Poetry Slams”, scientists are judged by the audience who evaluates the scientific content, ease of comprehension and the entertainment value of short presentations given by the largely young competitors.

On 19 September at the “Einstein Slam”, part of this year’s science festival “Highlights from Physics” held in Göttingen, Germany, Robert Frielinghaus, a PhD student at the Peter Grünberg Institute, working in the Division of Electronic Properties, was able to impress his listeners with his lecture. In less than ten minutes, the 28-year-old physicist explained to an enthusiastic audience in the “Theatre im OP” how current flows through microscopic nanostructures with the help of beer bottles and elevators, with humorous borrowings from Loriot.  The audience selected him as the winner, and in addition, he was presented with a “Golden Albert” trophy, a palm-size bust of the famous physicist, the competition’s namesake. 

“Performing was actually a lot of fun, as the atmosphere between the competitors and the audience was great!” said Frielinghaus.  Nevertheless, before he went on stage, he did feel nervous as it was the first time he had ever taken part in this type of event.  Previously, he had been in the audience at Science Slams. “This gave me the idea to do a performance myself as I really enjoy explaining physics and making people laugh.”

The combination of knowledge and entertainment has proved popular with audiences.  “Enormous interest was shown in the Slam and not everyone could be admitted as the venue was full”, reported Frielinghaus.  This performance will not be his last.  Next year, he is planning to go on stage at least one more time, as the third Einstein Slam will take place in Wuppertal as part of the “Highlights from Physics” event and Frielinghaus has been invited to defend his title.


To watch a video of Robert Frielinghaus' lecture

Research at the Peter Grünberg Institute – Division of Electronic Properties (PGI-6)

Highlights from Physics (in German)