Energy yesterday and today

Kew Bridge Steam Museum / Nelida Pohl

What happens when a young nuclear physicist walks into a steam engine museum, and meets an engineer who has run the greasy behemoths since 1975? Can humanity’s age-old quest for energy be behind this unlikely acquaintance? Meet Philip and John, and discover the passions that drive them and their common love for the sound in the machine…

The theme of energy is approached from the perspectives of steam and nuclear fusion powers, tough scientific topics softened by the personal passions of Phil and John, the physicist and the engineer. Their gentle reveries end with a literal bang that introduces us to the science of unleashing energy. The sounds from the nuclear fusion lab and steam museum create a spatial soundscape through which to follow Phil and John comparing their experiences with energy, and also embody the musicality of machines. As they describe the sounds the steam engines make, they are effectively tying their sounds to their clunky physicality and capacity to be tinkered with; something lost and mourned for in the digital era.

Nely Pohl is a editor of Refractive Index, and is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College, London.

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