Theoretical physicist Christophe Galfard puts on an impressive show at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015 as he visually explores the themes of his book The Universe in your Hand. Having worked alongside the likes of Stephen Hawkings his standing as a knowledgeable host is well established from the beginning.
This is Galfard’s first talk in the Scotland and in the UK. Galfard takes the audience on a journey using beautiful visuals and his endearing personality, speaking simply but never in a condescending way. Within the large audience there is obvious interest with his expertise and there is something to keep everyone captivated.
Galfard takes us from standing on a beach looking up at the stars and all the way through the Milky Way. He conveys his points well as he hands an imaginary phone into the audience to depict how long the delay would be if you could call into space. To call the moon would result in a two-second delay and calling the centre of the Universe would mean a delay of 40,000 years which really pushes home just how small Earth is in the galactic scheme of things.
Moving onto stars exploding into nebulas, Galfard shows real pictures of the events which are amazing to see. He discusses how stars and planets are formed and of how it will be 5 million years before our own star, the Sun, is estimated to explode.
He reiterates the point of how fantastically huge the Universe is by showing a galaxy that is 250 million lightyears away and even talks of how satellite imagery has reached a place where they can see no more of space: there is no light and no galaxies as if there is a wall at the end of space which is a fascinating concept to consider. However, it is known that there is more beyond that it but it’s just so far out it’s impossible to capture.
Galfard also discusses how all galaxies are moving away from each other, the distances being stretched and cooling as it does so, the Universe is very different from the smaller, denser hotter environment it once was.
Discussing the book itself Galfard describes how he wanted to put the reader at the forefront of what is going on and to create a different experience for readers with a different type of book on this topic.
Getting to the audience questions, there were a lot of interesting topics raised such as dark matter, dark energy, the crunch theory, how time was formed by the Big Bang and the complex issue of what was before it all. When asked whether he believes if we are alone in the Universe, Galfard answers that he does not believe we are alone but as yet there is no proof to back this up; an interesting debate that would no doubt have contnued if time hadn’t been running out.
Christophe Galfard is an engaging speaker who creates a wonderful atmosphere as he speaks on an already engaging topic. There is a lot of humour, wit, intelligence and, of course, interesting content. Author Gill Arbuthnot is a charming accompaniment as she chairs this fascinating event.