Fred's Wonderful World of Science: BBC

Hey kids, that's 250000 volts! (Careful!)


Check out WNET's page about the show
Nick Donaldson has a great site up about the series

The BBC is collaborating with PBS and WNET to produce a six part series entitled "Stephen Hawking's Universe." The series is about cosmology and the origins of matter and the universe as we see it today. One part of the series deals with particle accelerators, and their role in the unraveling of the mystery of the universe. Einstein's theory E=mc^2 says that energy can be changed into mass. This is done on a daily basis at various accelerator labs. The idea is that the particle accelerator recreates the conditions present at the beginning of the universe. Since I built two accelerators, they were interested in my knowledge.

The producer and me
This is a picture of the producer, David Filkin, and me. We are standing in the workshop where I set up my accelerators for the film crew

Naturally, they were looking all over the world for Ph.D. physicists, mathematicians, and professional scientists of all kinds to explain the complex inner workings of the universe. So I was surprised when a representative from Uden Associates, an independent production company in the UK, called my house asking about my research. They said that they were looking for someone who could explain particle accelerators in layman's terms. Apparently, they found me by word of mouth when they started looking for someone who had built a particle accelerator.

Since many of the parts for my particle accelerator were electronics surplus from a local scrap yard, the film crew wanted to shoot me getting things from the scrap yard. They rented a big red pickup for me to drive around and haul scrap with. I ended up getting 400 lbs and loading it into the truck. The crew wanted some interesting shots, so they put the camera on a big tripod in the bed of the pickup.

That's a '96 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup ->

Camera teetering in bed of the pickup

Explaining physics with my two accelerators in the background

The film crew was there for two days working my part of the show. I am still exhausted. It wasn't so bad explaining all of the physics from 1900-1932 in 200 words. That wasn't so tiring. What wore me out the most was running up and down a 110 foot mountain of scrap with a camera strapped to my back!

This is a scan of the picture that was a part of the article about me that ran in the Sept. 11 edition of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, TN

Copyright Fred Niell 9/16/96