The column “Idees de physique”: from science popularization to TV shows and experimental conferences

You are here

E. Kierlik, J.-M. Courty
Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, France
Forum 2014 Helsinki
WG1 : Inspiring the young

We try to promote physics in the society by showing first that physics is all around us and second that physicists have a rich and unique vision on the world. We would like to share our experiences and discuss how it may (or may not...) contribute to make physics attractive among young people.

The heart of our actions is since twelve years the writing of a two-pages montly column called “idees de physique” in the french edition of Scientific american. Without any maths but keeping numbers, taking advantage of events and news, we present a result or a concept of basic physics, illustrated with exemples from every-day life. Readers of this journal are mainly mature and educated people, including physics teachers. Our texts are used in high school classes and already provide resources for national examinations. To expand our audience especially towards the young, we progressively varied the character of our actions.

- First, we propose conferences where we make live-experiments using both very simple objects that everyone has at home or more sophisticated scientific equipment (like IR camera). We hope that these approaches can make physics less intimidating since people may repeat experiments and have seen equiped scientists get out their labs but speaking the common language. (see

- Second, we have been regularly invited in a TV-show “On n’est pas que des cobayes” on France 5 network. The show is quite popular especially among young around 10 years old : each of the three parts deals with a simple , funny or intriguing question (“may ice be melt in a microwave oven ?”) which is answered experimentally. We play the role of scientific expert who gives clues to design the experiments.

JM Courty and E Kierlik, “Les lois du monde” (2003), “Le monde a ses raisons” (2006), “La physique buissonnire” (2010), “La physique surprise” (2013) Belin-Pour la Science