Mr. Guilbert goes to the World Fair, Part I

Mr. Guilbert took a tript to Italy this summer which consisted of three parts. There was, in his words, "...a physics-related part (the videos shown at Expo Milano), a side-trip to Venice just to see it (which ended up being a far more historically fascinating place than I had imagined), and a third city, Trieste, because from there came the inquiry about the physics videos that got me to Italy in the first place." 

Below is a reflection on Part I; more to follow!

Just after the Class of 2015 graduated from Peddie, I received an email out of the blue.

coffee beans in their raw (lighter)
and roasted (darker) states
A staffer at a science museum in Trieste, Italy, was asking my permission to show in public some of the videos on Granular Matter that I had made with Mien "Brabeeba" Wang '14 and Kenny Griffin '14. Granular matter is a large collection of small solid objects, like rice or gravel or sand, and since the staffer's corporate sponsor for the exhibit where the videos were to be shown was a coffee company, the request made sense. I quickly gave my permission, thinking that the videos were going to be shown in something like a local science fair in Trieste.

I could not have been more wrong.

The permission being requested was to show the videos at Expo Milano, this year's World's Fair in Milan, Italy. The Expo, whose theme is food and energy, is a collaboration of over 140 countries and runs from May to early October of this year. Over 20 million visitors are expected to visit the Expo by the time it wraps up in October. In other words, the videos were going to be shown on a truly global stage.

 the Main Concourse, sort of the Main Street of the Expo, where the exhibits
 are located.  Every participating nation has designed its own exhibit hall
on the Main Concourse, and groups of nations which produce similar
agricultural products are often 'clustered' together.  The YouTube videos are
to be shown in the Coffee Cluster, whose sponsor is the Italian coffee
company Illy.  The founder of Illy, as it turns out, was the man who
invented the modern-day espresso machine
A visitor to the Expo interacts with
the Biology of Coffee exhibit run
by staffers at Immaginario Scientifico

Shortly after figuring all that out, I bought a plane ticket to Milan, because there's no way I wouldn't go to the Expo, if only to see the venue and meet some of the staffers from Immaginario Scientifico, the science museum in Trieste.

As it turned out, I couldn't be at the Expo when the videos are scheduled to be shown. I did attend the Expo for a couple days, and I did meet staffers from the Immaginario and talked by phone with Mr. Ettore Panzione, the man who had originally contacted me asking permission to show the videos.

The Biology of Coffee exhibit,
showing a projection of
a plant cell under the microscope
on the left in the photo
The way this all happened had the feel of winning the lottery ... not that I actually know what that feels like.  It was a completely unexpected stroke of good fortune.  And it's also not as if those videos on granular matter have been wildly popular, either.  Each of the seven has between dozens and hundreds of views, not exactly Taylor Swift numbers.

As a postscript to the story, Signore Panzione has made an Italian-language version of three of the seven YouTube videos on Granular Matter.  I will be posting those to the PeddiePhysics YouTube channel shortly after my arrival home, and then those videos will be bilingual, a first for me.
yours truly with Immaginario staff physicist 
May Sabbah at the presentation area in the
Coffee Cluster

And all of this started when Brabeeba, Kenny, and I started filming some of our experiments on Granular Matter.  Whodathunk?


  1. Cool Peddie story! Wish I could have visited the World Expo in Milano and from what I understand Trieste is a fascinating city.


Post a Comment