When science meets art

4 May 2018

Prof Lewis was invited by Audry Journal, an online magazine for performing arts audiences in Sydney, to discuss "The Children" by Lucy Kirkwood, a play now showing at the Opera House.

The story revolves around the seemingly peaceful and quiet life of two retired nuclear scientists, Hazel and Robin, in the face of an apocalyptic disaster, a nuclear power plant that has been torn apart. Outside of their cosy walls, the world is in chaos.

"Not everybody wants to read about these things in dry newspaper articles. The more lively prospect to present science as part of a story is a very valuable contribution," says Prof Lewis.

Can they, as aging scientists, help? Can they save the world for future generations? In this dilemma, we see the characters as both human beings and as scientists who feel the responsibility for future generations. This becomes the central focus of the play, on reparation and redemption. But:

Prof. Lewis wonders "Were these people, even if they did go to the reactor, able to solve the problem? Is it really a problem they could actually solve? This is something to think about".

Together with Prof Lewis, there were three others University of Sydney scientists from the School of Physics: Professor Zdenka Kuncic, Professor Manfred Lenzen and Professor Kevin Varvell.

In the video essay below the four scientists discuss the drama, its terrifying premise and science underpinning the story.