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Are Angels Ok? Goes To Britain

Tuesday 23 June 2006

From the Royal Society of New Zealand

Are Angels Ok? Goes To Britain

A troupe from New Zealand has been invited to present a very unusual project at the Cheltenham Festival of Science in June. New Zealand's legendary public radio broadcaster, Kim Hill (MC); author of Whale Rider, Witi Ihimaera; eminent physicist Paul Callaghan FRS; and comedian/playwright Jo Randerson, will explain how 10 top creative writers and 17 physicists came together in a risky, but very successful blind date. The Are Angels OK? anthology, just published by Victoria University Press, is the creative consummation of these relationships.

As well as appearing at the Festival, the troupe will also be presenting in Cambridge and London. Details of these fixtures are given below.

The Are Angels OK? project was initiated to celebrate 2005 World Year of Physics, which honoured Albert Einstein's many brilliant achievements in 1905. Martin Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society of London and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Sian Ede of the Gulbenkian Foundation, were referees for the project. The writers took up the challenge of learning about the profound and often very difficult concepts of physics and cosmology with surprising enthusiasm. Since then, they have been winging their way through wave-particle duality, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, dark energy, anti-matter, quarks and the like.

One of the contributors, poet Glenn Colquhoun, who is also a general medical practitioner, re-discovered his first love: physics, which, despite his passion, he had failed more than once. "Physics was the best looking girl in the room. She only went out with the best- looking boys. I was the guy she should have married. She never knew it. I would have treated her right. I told her she'd be back, and now she is," said Glenn, who has written a series of poems based on some key mathematical formulae. That meant finally getting to grips with Maxwell's equations on electromagnetism, or light, as we most commonly experience it.

Other contributors were Margaret Mahy, who was recently awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Author Award 2006, Elizabeth Knox, Glenn Colquhoun, Vincent O'Sullivan, Dylan Horrocks, Catherine Chidgey, Lloyd Jones, and Chris Price.

The project was directed by poet Bill Manhire and scientist Paul Callaghan, who participated in the project, with Jo Randerson. Professor Manhire directs the International Institute of Modern Letters, which manages Victoria University's prestigious creative writing programme. He was New Zealand's inaugural Poet Laureate. Professor Callaghan set up, and now directs, one of seven centres of research excellence in New Zealand, the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.

Professor Manhire said, "Heisenberg writes in his memoirs that science is always rooted in conversations. He was thinking of the way scientists work with one another. Our greatest hope is that the Angels project will be one way in which science has a conversation with all the rest of us."

For more information contact , 64 4 470 5758 or 64 4 386 3525. Glenda's mobile no in the UK, 3-19 June, will be 0044 7736980725.

Details of Are Angels OK? Presentations

Cheltenham Festival of Science Cheltenham Town Hall 2.15pm, Friday 9 June (The book will be on sale at Ottakar's Bookshop)

McCrum Lecture Theatre Corpus Christi College University of Cambridge 6.00pm, Monday 12 June

NZ High Commission Penthouse Suite 9th Floor NZ House 80 Haymarket 6.00pm, Tuesday 13 June


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