John Connolly Talks Quantum Physics with Kids in the Big Top

John literally exploded on the scene, and drew the children in. It went something like this…

“Take a deep breath – huge breath out. Anyone want to tell me what you just breathed in? Air! And what’s in air? Oxygen. And what’s in them? Atoms. They’re very very small…guess how many are in your body? “5 million.” NO – shall we go higher or lower than 5 million? 7 million. There are more atoms in your body than there are stars in the universe. And atoms recycle. In the breath that you took – the law of averages say that you just ate an atom by Julius Caesar – you just built an empire and got stabbed to death…”

“If aliens arrived on this earth, they’d learn everything they’d need to know about the universe from you. Guess what? You’re all made from stars. Those atoms came into existence and it’s part of you.”

“Think of a space where could fit everyone on the planet? (Limerick, Russia, Ireland, the moon). The actual place is in my bag of Hell’s Bells button badges.”

As John continued to explain scientific theories from Einstein up to modern day, including the movement of atoms, black holes, gravity, etc, the children were enraptured. Then, imagination hit:

Q: “If I had a time machine who’d go back in time?” Where do you want to go…

A: “war” “dinosaur times” “the Vikings” “World War II”

Q: What about forward in time – why would you do that?

A: “To see how we improve stuff”, “to see when the recession is going to be over”, “to see what happens with astronauts”, “so I’m old enough to join the navy”, “to see how I’m going to die”.


Now, has anyone heard of the the grandfather paradox? (One of the older children did – John recounted…)

“If you were to go back on time and kill your granddad – what would happen to you if your mum and dad hadn’t met yet? You wouldn’t be born. But you already exist – so you cant exist and not exist so it’s a paradox. But if you want to go back in tie and kill your granddad, you shouldn’t be allowed a time machine!”

After lots of audience participation to explain the Heisenberg Theory, with children running around being little atoms, John moved onto the concept of time:

“In Doctor Who, there are villains, that are described as quantum beings – they’re in every state at every time. If you cant predict where particles are, maybe they’re everywhere at once. Maybe we’re a bit like that? Every time you make a decision, another universe splits off. we used to think of time as a line – but now, maybe time looks like the branches of a tree. Maybe there’s all these different little different you living all these different little lives. Scientific fiction is now looked at as scientific fact.

Then came the horrible historical facts…such as  adding wee to beer and cakes in the middle ages. Next: a list of Ivan the Terrible’s awful deeds – “He didn’t like beggars, so he’d drown them. Terrible or not terrible?”

Finally, John read from Hell’s Bells – “The main character is Samuel Johnson…demons come to have revenge on him, but I’m going to read you a little bit about love.”

Before the extra circus entertainment came on, John had even inspired some of the boys to share their love life failures and successes! An absolutely amazing event and believe me, he was mobbed at the end for book signing.