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Rutherford, radioactivity and the future of physics

The Cosmic Shambles Network are hosting a night at the Royal Institution to celebrate the 'Father of the Nuclear Age', Ernest Rutherford.

John Gaffen via The Cosmic Shambles Network

Event description

Often dubbed the 'Father of the Nuclear Age’, Ernest Rutherford’s pioneering, and Nobel Award winning, discoveries in nuclear physics and radioactivity changed the way we see and understand the world forever.

This year marks 150 years since his birth and so The Cosmic Shambles Network are hosting a night at the Royal Institution, where Rutherford was once the Professor of Natural Philosophy.

Join Robin Ince and Helen Czerski, with Jim Al-KhaliliLinda Cremonesi, Jon Butterworth and Sunayana Bhargava, as they host a night to celebrate, and discuss, Rutherford, the scientific legacy of his discoveries and the future of physics.

The Cosmic Shambles Network is where science, comedy, music and art collide. They create and curate podcasts, digital content, documentaries and both in person and online live events for people with curious minds. The Cosmic Shambles Network brings together the world’s leading scientists, comedians, writers and performers to create entertaining content fuelled by curiosity and science. Subscribe to the Cosmic Shambles Network for exclusive shows on Patreon.


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About the speakers

Robin Ince is many things. A comedian, an author, a broadcaster and a populariser of scientific ideas. The Guardian once declared him a ‘becardiganed polymath’ which seems about right.

He is probably best known as the co-host of the Sony Gold Award winning BBC Radio 4 series 'The Infinite Monkey Cage' with Professor Brian Cox. He also co-hosts the podcast 'Robin and Josie’s Book Shambles', which gains over 100,000 listeners a month, which is part of The Cosmic Shambles Network, which he also co-created.

He has received an Honorary Fellowship of UCL, an honorary doctorate from Royal Holloway College (University of London), and is a fellow of the British Science Association.

Helen Czerski was a Christmas Lecturer for the Royal Institution in 2020. She's a physicist with a love for the natural world, and she cares deeply about exploring the ideas and challenges in the physical world around us.

Her twin passions in physics are the under-appreciated ingenuity of the everyday world and the physical engine of Earth: our atmosphere and oceans. Her own research focusses on the physics of the ocean surface, especially the bubbles formed by breaking waves.

She's lived and worked all over the place, but her academic home is now the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University College London.

Jim Al-Khalili has presented The Life Scientific on Radio 4 since 2011. Although his ‘day job’ is as an academic professor of physics at the University of Surrey, where he also has a chair in the public engagement in science, he has achieved wider prominence as a public scientist, author and broadcaster. He has fronted a number of radio and television documentaries, mainly on BBC4, including Chemistry: A Volatile History, which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2010. 

Linda Cremonesi is a neutrino physics expert with research interests spanning neutrino oscillations, neutrino interactions and neutrino astronomy. She gained her PhD in 2015 at Queen Mary University of London, performing the first measurement of neutrino resonant pion production on water at the T2K experiment. She went on to do a post-doc at UCL, where she initially focussed on the ANITA experiment, making leading contributions to the integration and commissioning of ANITA-IV in Antarctica in 2016. In 2015 she also joined the NOvA and DUNE neutrino oscillation experiments. On NOvA she co-convenes the Near Detector working group, overseeing the 15 neutrino interaction cross-section analyses currently in progress. On DUNE she led the integration and commissioning of the purity monitors for ProtoDUNE dual-phase. In 2020, she was awarded a £1.5M UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and joined the Particle Physics Research Centre as a Fellow and Lecturer in Particle Physics.

Jon Butterworth works on the ATLAS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). He leads a UCL group which contributed to the tracking, trigger and software. His own work has focussed on physics processes at the LHC which will help us discover more about electroweak symmetry breaking, or basically "why some things have mass". This included searching for the Higgs boson, discovered in July 2012. He wrote some of the first papers on using the substructure of hadronic jets to identify the decays of boosted, massive particles - including the Higgs. He is now working on using precision measurements at the LHC to constrain or characterise physics beyond the Standard Model. He was convener of the ATLAS Monte Carlo group (2007-2009) and of the ATLAS Standard Model group (2010-2012).

Sunayana Bhargava is a poet and x-ray astrophysicist & cosmologist Postdoctoral Researcher at CEA Paris-Saclay. She is a three-time Barbican Young Poet and current member of the Octavia Poetry Collective. As a poet, her writing has been featured in the Bloodaxe Books anthology ’Hallelujah for 50ft Women’, the BBC World Service and The This Magazine. Her science writing is featured in Astro Bites and she is an editor for Consilience, the peer-reviewed science poetry journal.


The live stream will go live at 6.55pm, and the introduction will begin at 7.00pm. If you register but miss the live stream, the video will be available to you via the same link for up to a week after the event date.