Explaining Science through Drama in AUC’s Cairo Science Festival

By Marwan Abdel-Moniem

 

Photo by Marwan Abdel-Moniem

The American University in Cairo’s annual Cairo Science Festival organized a screening of “Einstein’s Big Idea” on Thursday April 26. This science festival highlighted the importance of women in forming and applying Einstein’s E=MC2 equation.

The docudrama highlights both the history of scientific discovery surrounding the theory of relativity, alongside the personal drama that affected these discoveries. These discoveries include Michael Faraday’s discovery of electromagnetic fields, Antoine Lavoisier’s discovery, alongside his wife, that mass is never lost, and Emilie du Chatelet’s falsification of Newton’s theory on falling objects.

The docudrama shows how Albert Einstein’s theory later combined Faraday’s E for energy, Lavoisier and his wife Marrie-Anne’s M for mass, and Du Chatalet’s squared speed in C2. Later, the application of such a formula was demonstrated through Lise Meisner’s work on uranium; it led to her conclusion that splitting an atom would release large amounts of energy.

“What we have seen is the history of scientific development as it happened, and when we read or teach books, we take results out without its personal and the human context [Sic],” said assistant professor of space astrophysics Dr. Alaa Ibrahim, who coordinated this event.

Dr. Ibrahim then elaborated that the drama within the documentary was essential in exposing the circumstances surrounding such scientific discoveries; it is a good way to expose science by means of “popular culture”. “In TV and press, we do not see science in a language that is directed to the popular culture,” added Dr. Ibrahim.

Abdelrahman Al Gammal, studying biotechnology at Cairo University, commented, “we learn these things in textbooks, but I never got to understand this much about the equation… [Through drama] I got to understand how they think and how we can think like them.”

Although the turnout at this event was very low, Dr. Ibrahim still remains hopeful to reach out to more people, as other events under the Cairo Science festival have.