Quantum physics, metal and me
Iron has been a very heavy influence throughout my academic career. Not in its raw elemental form, but as part of the ‘Iron Maiden’ compound – an especially energetic form of the metal that has been the backdrop to many hours slaving over a scanning probe microscope and/or a synchrotron beamline.
I am not alone in this appreciation of the heavier things in life – a Venn diagram of physicists and metal music fans has quite some overlap.
That’s one of the reasons I wrote When The Uncertainty Principle Goes To 11 (or How To Explain Quantum Physics With Heavy Metal) (Ben Bella Books, 2018). I wanted to bring together two of my favourite things – metal and physics – and explore just how heavy-as-le(a)d riffs and, um, spandex pants could explain quantum mechanics. The juxtaposition also appeals: one has a fearsome reputation for being intellectually challenging. The other hasn’t.
"I am not alone in this appreciation of the heavier things in life – a Venn diagram of physicists and metal music fans has quite some overlap."
By bridging the divide between art and science – and yes, heavy metal is an art form – we can engage a wider audience. Joshua Wood, over at Metal-Rules.com, put it like this: “So what on earth would possess me to read a book about quantum physics, something I’m not really interested in and know little about? Well, the answer is simple; that natural desire to improve myself coupled with the power of metal!”
Philip Moriarty is a Professor of Physics, School of Physics and Astronomy.