Friday, 25 July 2014

Quantum physics fan Fabien Bouhier tackles the cosmic Qs at TEDxKL

Multiverses, black holes, stars... oh my: A quantum physics enthusiast tell us why we should be interested in all cosmic theories.

Mention quantum physics, and Dr Sheldon Cooper with his thought experiments come to mind. If you’ve been paying attention to hit TV shows, you'll know that Dr Cooper is the star of the The Big Bang Theory. And if the universe is paying attention to Fabien Bouhier, then he's about to become a star speaker at the next TEDxKL, themed The Open Future.

A social media expert by day – he's Twitter’s regional sales manager in Southeast Asia – and a quantum physics enthusiast by night, the Malaysia-based Frenchman shares with us why thinking about this area of science matters. Bouhier says he's always been keen on physics, and shares on his blog that it was Quantum Leaps a 2009 book by physicist and prolific popular science writer Jeremy Bernstein, not the 1980s TV show – that provided the epiphany which turned interest into passion. 

“I felt enlightened, and I started to feel like we were part of something much bigger but unaware of it,” says Bouhier, 28. 

Bouhier grew up in the Parisian suburbs, which were “infamous for being quite ghetto”, and lived with his mum in a tiny flat. They were “always concerned with surviving” so, unsurprisingly, “it was never the right time for me to indulge in my passion", says Bouhier. "Right now, I’m in a better position to share my passion.” So we asked him, via e-mail, about what we can expect from his 2014 TEDxKL talk in August.

What is quantum physics?

Classical physics is the science of the “big stuff”, like how a solar system is formed or the effect of gravity on Earth. Quantum physics is the microscopic science, dealing with things that we can’t see with the naked eye.

How has quantum physics changed your world view?

Now that I understand the concepts of physics in general, I find my conception of the world quite different. Probably the greatest difference is being more aware of what’s surrounding me.

On your blog, you say that we're all asking the same questions about being a part of something bigger. What's the biggest question that's being asked now?

These questions keep me up at night: Where do we come from? What existed before the Big Bang? Are we living in a multiverse? I don’t have the answers, but I do love being a part of the conversations centred on them.

What is the most challenging part of bringing forward quantum physics-related theories to the public?

Honestly, I’m concerned about accessibility – this subject matter isn’t easily accessible to anybody. As it is, only a few people are working in this field, but my dream is for everybody to be able to pitch in.

How would you increase awareness and knowledge of quantum physics and its concepts among laypeople?

My dream is to create a TV show in Malaysia, very much like (the science documentary TV seriesCosmos, but in a more simplistic way, so the future generation of scientists – or really, any curious mind at all – can grasp scientific concepts.

What's the most interesting or thought-provoking physics concept?

By far, it has to be the entanglement theory, which states that if you cut a particle in half and place the two particles at different sides of the universe, they will be able to “communicate” instantaneously with each other. Knowing that nothing travels faster than the speed of light, how is this possible? The idea is that, somehow, they are still connected. A natural question thus arises: What if we were all connected with each other since the beginning of time? I find this truly beautiful.

How can social media be leveraged to further spread the knowledge about the subject?

To be honest, I’m still working on it. This is a hobby for me, and I’m trying to share my passion with the world. But social media is definitely the best way to broadcast a message to the masses.

Why is it important to stimulate thinking about quantum physics?

It’s not just quantum physics, but science in general. People are naturally curious and tend to question everything. Learning about science is a way of making some kind of peace with yourself by understanding how the universe works, and what role you can play in it.

What issues will your talk at TEDxKL be centred on?

I won the (National Space Agency) Angkasa Try Zero-G contest with an experiment called “Growing bubbles in a glass of water”. (The contest was organised with the Japan Space Exploration Agency to find experiments that will be conducted on the International Space Station.) The idea is to investigate the possibility of carbonation – dissolving carbon dioxide in a liquid – in zero gravity conditions. That will be the main topic of my talk, A Journey Into Space.

> The 2014 TEDxKL event, themed The Open Future, happens on Aug 9 at the Calvary Convention Centre, Bukit Jalil, KL, from 10am-10pm. Go to for complete details. Tickets are RM150 if you register through the website; RM180 at the door; RM140 if you register with the promo code ‘thestartedxkl2014’ for the early bird seats. The Star is the official media partner of TEDxKL 2014.

>> Want to win complimentary passes? We have 20 TEDxKL 2014 tickets to give to some clever Star readers. Tell us in 30 words or less what “The open future” means to you, and the 10 best entries will get two passes each to the event. E-mail your thoughts and theories to by Aug 1, 2014.  

Tags / Keywords: Science Technology , Fabien Bouhier , quantum physics , TEDxKL


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