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27 May 2020
Lockdown Lectures: UWC’s Nuclear Physics Stars Share Science - And Support Students

(Published - 27 May 2020)

“The world needs more nuclear physicists. We need a new generation to master the complex mysteries of the atomic and sub-atomic world - and someday provide us with the tools to tame the energy of stars, nuclear fusion, on which the future of civilization may well lie. And while we’re looking for those secrets, we can help African people with better and cheaper alternatives to cancer imaging and treatment.” 

Professor Nico Orce of the University of the Western Cape has spent years helping to produce that next generation of nuclear physicists exploring the basic building blocks of our universe; and that requires applied training, hands-on experimentation and world-class equipment. 

Unfortunately, those things are hard to come by at the moment during the national lockdown due to COVID-19.

The solution was simple: a YouTube channel dedicated to showcasing the bigger picture of doing nuclear science at UWC. 

“I was looking for ways to motivate and teach students during the lockdown, so I started making my own movies,” Orce says. “Then I realised that the next step was to go online with it - and YouTube was perfect for that, naturally. We could post lectures, talk science - and we could share it not just with students, but with all nuclear physics enthusiasts!” 

Viewers will get to learn how Isaac Newton links up with Cristiano Ronaldo, Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee -- with animating cartoon characters including Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein --  why the normal force isn’t always normal; even try their hands at doing some interesting physics pracs at home (with care!)

Nico’s Nuclear Physics Extravaganza

Prof Orce’s channel isn’t just a celebration of what makes nuclear physics interesting - it’s also a celebration of UWC’s achievements in nuclear physics.

“Our Afican breakthrough CERN experiments, GAMKA, Modern African Nuclear DEtector LAboratories at UWC and UNIZULU, our students leading publications in top journals, visits and talks from Nobel Laureates, national and international exchange programmes and collaborations. And none of this would have been possible, if not for the support of the entire UWC community,” he says. 

You’ll see students and post-docs from UWC and UNIZULU - including rising stars like Kenzo Abrahams, Craig Mehl, Cebo Ngwetsheni, Sizwe Mhlangu and Senamile Masango - discuss their research, explain what motivates them, and share their goals and dreams.

As Professor John Wood, a US-based expert in the theoretical and experimental study of nuclear structure, explains: “When you sow seeds, you want to put the seeds where they will grow the best - and here in South Africa, the young people can make a tremendous difference with their knowledge. That’s why I come here!”

The YouTube channel is intended to help those seeds grow - by eventually collecting funds for UWC students who need to be taken care of during these hard times. 

“With enough subscribers, we can start generating advertising revenue - and we can use that to provide our students with some logistics support, such as transportation or internet connection,” Orce notes. “Then at the end we have a new YouTube video channel, not only for showing the fun of doing Science, but for teaching, motivating and maybe collecting funds, if the students subscribe and watch the movies. Please subscribe and watch!”

The channel has just launched, and they’ve been experiencing exponential growth. But they need 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watchtime before the funding plan can kick into action.

“I'm entirely new to all of this, so I don’t know how this whole thing will work out. But we need to reinvent ourselves under the current circumstances,” Orce says. “I expect everyone who goes to watch our videos to enjoy them - not only do they have important messages, but they have lots of heart as well. And no matter what, the sure thing is that we now have another platform to teach and motivate and show that Science is Fun!” 

Like and subscribe to Nico’s Nuclear Physics Channel - and help support a student now.