In the news: Scientists bringing dark matter to the pub

—by Stephanie Gardiner for Australian Associated Press

Dark matter and quantum physics might seem out of place among the Coffin Bay oysters, schnitzels, and icy schooners on the menu of a country pub in South Australia.

But that will all change when a group of scientists stop in at The Bentleys Hotel in Clare, north of Adelaide, later this month to talk about the mysteries of the universe.

Researchers from several major universities are embarking on a 7000 kilometre road trip throughout August, bringing the complex science to schools and pubs in 38 regional towns.

Jeremy Bourhill, from the University of Western Australia’s school of physics, says the trip aims to educate and unearth the next generation of scientists.

“History has shown that great scientists can come from anywhere, from all walks of life,” Dr Bourhill told AAP.

“If we can highlight some of this ground-breaking science to regional communities, maybe we can inspire one or two kids to think about it as a career.”

Dark matter is particularly intriguing for young minds because although it accounts for 85 per cent of matter in the universe, it remains shrouded in mystery, Dr Bourhill said.

Future scientists will discover the greater potential of quantum technologies, already used in smart phones, medical imaging, transport and manufacturing.

“Science has always been a field where we stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said

“So to explain the cutting edge is to expose younger people to something they won’t have seen in school.”

During a similar road trip in regional Western Australia last year, Dr Bourhill mixed science with schooners when he took a dark matter demonstration to country pubs.

Dr Bourhill said revellers at the Rose Hotel in Bunbury proved to be enthusiastic amateur scientists.

“I was expecting a much more cynical reaction than we received. We were greeted with open arms,” he said.

This year’s road trip will include three pub trivia events – in Clare, Bendigo in Victoria, and Quairading in WA – and Dr Bourhill hopes the events will open up science to young people who may not think they are smart enough to get involved.

“There’s such a road block for children if they feel like they’re weak in maths,” he said.

“But science is for everybody, you don’t have to be an expert.”

The National Quantum and Dark Matter Road Trip, which received funding through a Science Week grant, will visit towns across Queensland, NSW, ACT, Victoria, SA and WA until August 26.