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Academic featured in BBC documentary looking at the most famous scientific equations

Posted on 13/12/2010

Presenter Matthew Collings is exploring the Dirac equation

Dr Glen Cowan, from Royal Holloway, University of London, is featured in the documentary Beautiful Equations, which will be broadcast on BBC Four tomorrow (14 December) at 9pm.

The programme is part of the BBC’s year-long celebration of science, with BBC Four exploring the tools and ethics that underpin the mechanics of modern science.

In Beautiful Equations, artist and TV art critic Matthew Collings plunges into the world of mathematical equations tackling the concepts of beauty, elegance and simplicity that have been used by scientists, from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking, to advance their work.

One of the equations featured in the programme is the ‘Dirac Equation’ which predicts the existence of antimatter. Dr Glen Cowan of the Department of Physics showed the presenter a cloud chamber which allows the tracks of antimatter to be seen. 

Dr Cowan explains: “In 1929, P.A.M Dirac proposed a theory that predicted the existence of antimatter, and he famously justified it on the basis of the beauty of its equations.  But an important aspect of a theory's beauty is connected to its ability to describe the real world.  With that in mind, the BBC requested from us a simple "tabletop" demonstration of the existence of antimatter.  We attempted to provide this by using a radioactive source of positrons – anti-electrons – and a cloud chamber.”



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