The guy left behind the brochure on the table, and it turned out to be the fall/winter 2008 issue of “Waterloo Revealed”. They list a website that however is under construction, neither does it seem to be cached, so I indeed hat to retype it (!).
The brochure features an article with “Revenge of the Nerds” by Marc Cameron about Perimeter Institute. The author seems to confuse Quantum Foundations with Quantum Gravity and Quantum Information, but otherwise his writing is a nice laudatio on fundamental research, and PI's outreach and art program:
“Researchers at PI, a self-proclaimed “Independent, non-profit, scientific research and education outreach organization,” operate under the auspices of what many might consider “pure research”. It's the kind of thing that some fear may be going out of style in corporate laboratories and universities: the notion of research for research's sake.
So what, you may be asking, do they actually do in that ominous building beside Waterloo Park? The research done there in areas like Cosmology, Particle Physics, and Superstring Theory improve our scientific understanding of the universe (once it trickles down from the halls of academe), but they also contribute to the pioneering of new technologies. It's hard to predict how scientific breakthroughs and new theories will impact technological advances, but fundamental discoveries - like Einstein's reckoning of light as a particle - lead to new ways of understanding the basic parts of the physical universe which allows for improvements in quality of life through technology for people everywhere.”
The last sentence suspiciously sounds as if it came from our PR department, but anyway. Einstein of course has to be mentioned when it comes to nerds and theoretical physics. About PI's outreach program Cameron writes:
“While theoretical physics bears the stigma of nerd-dom, PI goes to great length to bring physics to the people through numerous public and education outreach programs. Their (free!) public lecture series is probably the most well-known of PI's offerings to the community [...] The lectures have been televised on Rogers Cable channels in many Ontario markets on the program Celebrating Science, as well as special episodes of TVOntario's Big Ideas. Starting this fall, select PI public lectures will also be airing on Discovery Channel.”
The latter was news to me. But the upshot of the article is this highlighted paragraph:
“Science they say, is the new religion. For certain it's a belief system and a philosophy about life and the rhythms of the universe. When it comes down to it, religion and science are each ways of asking questions about the intangible. If the architecture of the PI building is any indication, Waterloo has its own Cathedral of Theoretical Physics. And, like most Holy sites, they open up their doors to share freely what they have with the scientific layperson, like you or me, not because they'd like to convert us, but because they've found something exciting that maybe, just maybe, could make life a little better for all of us.”
Well. One would have hoped that after all the public outreach the message would have gotten across that science is the very antithesis of a belief system. You'd better call it a 'doubt system'.
The title of the article is btw completely unmotivated. Maybe however it's indeed time for the revenge of the nerds.