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  • MELISSA FRANKLIN: Hi.

  • You know, they don't usually let me up here.

  • [CHUCKLING]

  • But when they do, there's people sending paper airplanes at me

  • during the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, which takes place every year,

  • and I'm sure some of you will attend.

  • Hi.

  • I can't see you, but I know you're young.

  • [CHUCKLING]

  • You have some glasses, and those are sort of diffraction grating glasses.

  • You don't have to--

  • I just want to say, if you get bored with what I'm saying,

  • just start looking up there, because it's really just very, very relaxing.

  • [CHUCKLING]

  • But later, we're going to actually use them for a demo.

  • But to begin with, I just want to tell you, I'm very interested in the vacuum,

  • in measuring the universe with nothing in it.

  • So I guess I should get the clicker.

  • So this stuff-- the apple, all that virus, I'm not interested in that

  • at all.

  • It's stuff.

  • I get that out of my universe.

  • Now, here's an atom.

  • The atom has a nucleus, and it has electrons.

  • And the nucleus is made up of protons and neutrons, which have quarks inside,

  • which I'm sure you know.

  • And I'm interested in the quarks.

  • I really like quarks.

  • But I'd like to have the universe without any atoms in it.

  • Here is my world.

  • So if you think about me, my name is Melissa.

  • You would look at the quarks.

  • All the quarks that exist in the universe that make up all the matter,

  • and all the leptons--

  • electrons, et cetera, the neutrinos--

  • and all the forces that hold all those particles

  • together to make matter, and black holes, and stuff.

  • [CHUCKLING]

  • Here's what you would find.

  • And unfortunately, I'm really old, but--

  • I was not a part of finding the charm quark, the c quark.

  • And I was not a part of finding the bottom quark, but almost.

  • But after 25 years of trying, I was on the team that found the last quark.

  • You can't find one.

  • It's over.

  • [CHUCKLING]

  • There's only six.

  • So I was on that team.

  • And then I was also on the team recently that discovered the Higgs.

  • And I wanted to tell you what I'm interested in,

  • and why we were looking for the Higgs, and what it meant to me.

  • So here is what's called the standard model.

  • Those are all the particles and the forces.

  • And if you're a theorist, and you have soft skin and stuff--

  • I'm an experimentalist-- you would write this equation down, and you would say,

  • this is the standard model, and this describes the universe.

  • But people like me don't really--

  • it doesn't fit inside my head.

  • I like reading it aloud.

  • When you go home, you could try reading equations aloud.

  • It's fun with friends.

  • It's very fun.

  • There must be a game.

  • It's not a drinking game.

  • It's more of a just good fun game.

  • So here's the thing.

  • For each of these terms in this equation--

  • the way experimentalists like to think about it is a diagram.

  • And this is a Feynman diagram.

  • There's a guy called Feynman, and this is his diagram.

  • And a diagram takes one of the terms in that equation and says,

  • let's see what it looks like if we're human.

  • And so here, for instance, time is going along to the right.

  • And what it's showing is matter and antimatter electrons come together,

  • annihilate into light, which then turns into antimatter and matter muons.

  • These are just heavier particles.

  • And we say, oh.

  • Ha.

  • I can write this down.

  • Can I measure it?

  • So that's sort of my life.

  • I can write down every possible diagram like this and try and measure it.

  • Now, for the people interested in archeology,

  • you might want to understand Feynman diagrams, because 1,000 years from now,

  • after everything happens, probably, you'll

  • find diagrams like this, just sort of like hieroglyphs.

  • And you'll probably understand them.

  • Could be sooner than 1,000 years.

  • It could be-- OK.

  • But I'm just saying.

  • I'm just saying.

  • People who are interested in linguistics or stuff like that, just look at that,

  • and don't just not think about it.

  • OK, here is me.

  • When you're in science, you have a lot of thoughts about yourself,

  • who you are.

  • Here's the top quark on my shoe.

  • That's me.

  • But as an experimentalist, I can make me a line drawing,

  • and it has just as much information.

  • So this is the real me on the left, and before children, and the right me.

  • [CHUCKLING]

  • The me that-- it's the spiritual.

  • For those interested in religious studies, this is the spiritual me.

  • So I want to describe the vacuum.

  • I want to describe the world with nothing in it.

  • I take everything out.

  • Is there something there?

  • I'll give you a hint.

  • Yes.

  • But it's kind of an interesting idea.

  • And if you're a literature person, you will

  • see that Samuel Beckett thought about this a lot.

  • Samuel Beckett starts with two people and nothing else--

  • Waiting for Godot.

  • And then he goes to Murphy, which is just a guy

  • strapped to a chair sitting alone.

  • And then The Unnameable, which is nobody, really.

  • So in literature, we discuss this idea of the vacuum.

  • And the Samuel Beckett, if you haven't read him, then you can start tomorrow.

  • And so if I want to understand the vacuum-- so there's nothing there--

  • what do I do?

  • So I want to tell you one thing.

  • And if this is the only thing that you remember, it's this.

  • The ground state doesn't talk to us.

  • So what do I mean?

  • The lowest energy state of anything doesn't say anything to us.

  • It doesn't reveal what it is.

  • And I want to do a demo with my friend Daniel Davis to show that.

  • So do we understand the ground state?

  • The lowest energy state is just there, like a lump sitting on a chair.

  • And you can't tell anything about that lump.

  • So to begin with, put on your glasses, and pull down the house lights,

  • and rock and roll.

  • So what we're going to show--

  • so these glasses are diffraction grating glasses, and they will act like a prism

  • and separate all the colors that are coming out.

  • So right now, what you should see from an incandescent light

  • is a spectrum of the rainbow.

  • Do you guys see it?

  • Look a little to the right or to the left.

  • AUDIENCE: Yes.

  • MELISSA FRANKLIN: Yeah?

  • OK.

  • Now, next to it, we have something which is just hydrogen gas.

  • Hydrogen gas, normally, you can't see anything.

  • Now what do you see?

  • Do you see two lines, or three?

  • AUDIENCE: Three.

  • MELISSA FRANKLIN: OK.

  • So what we're doing is we're exciting the atom because we're putting

  • an electrical current through it.

  • So I'm just saying, I don't want to just look

  • at hydrogen. I want to put electrical current through it.

  • And then I can see its nature.

  • I can see about its structure by looking at those lines.

  • And then if I look at the next one down, I'm

  • going to put an electric current through helium.

  • Isn't it beautiful?

  • Do you see the lines?

  • Is anyone thinking, I don't know what you're talking about?

  • [CHUCKLING]

  • No?

  • So helium is a different atom.

  • So you can see the structure of helium by the light it gives off.

  • And the final one is neon.

  • AUDIENCE: Whoa.

  • MELISSA FRANKLIN: [CHUCKLES]

  • I love this.

  • I love demos.

  • Daniel also loves demos.

  • OK.

  • Thank you.

  • OK.

  • So you're saying, what does that got to do with anything?

  • Not really anything.

  • Doesn't really have anything.