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Atom and Eve – an Alpbach Miniopera

Culture / Lecture
english language


Editor and co-founder, Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), Cambridge Abstract
ACT 1 -- "No Wandering Atom I"

NARRATOR (spoken): Tonight's opera is a love story. Eve is a lovely young scientist who falls in love with Atom. Atom is an oxygen atom. There are some obvious difficulties to be overcome.

Staging this opera presented a difficulty for us. We were unable to find an experienced singer who is small enough to play the role of Atom. And so we will make do with ____________. _____, will you please come out here and take a bow? You in the audience will have to imagine that he is actually the size of an oxygen atom.

Our other main character, Eve, will be played by _______________. _______, will you please come out here and take a bow? Margot is exactly the right size to play a beautiful scientist. You in the audience will have to imagine that she is actually the size you see here. And now, we begin the opera.

Atom is a poor, solitary atom, who yearns for companionship and true love. One day, Atom feels something strange and wonderful. Someone is looking at him through a scanning probe microscope. Perhaps, Atom wonders, perhaps that someone could be... the woman of his dreams. Let's join little Atom now as this thought enters his tiny mind.

[MUSIC: "A Wandering Minstrel I," by Arthur Sullivan, from "The Mikado"]

It's elementary.
I know I'm just an atom,
Down in the lowest stratum
Of humblest society.
From what I learned in school
I know I should be bonding.
My parents are desponding
Because I'm not a molecule.
My future seems so, so, so very miniscule.

What if I dream of bigger things?
They will object.
Oh, sorrow!
They say I'm made of tiny strings.
Are they correct?
Oh, sorrow, sorrow!
I feel some larger force
From some enormous source.
I dream of inter--.
Can we connect?
Tomorrow? Tomorrow?

Oh, a woman's love is just what I have wanted.
But women are on such a bigger scale
That a nanoscopic guy could well be daunted --
Yet somehow I don't think that I will fail!
It's true that I don't have a massive body.
Yes, it's true that what I've got is pretty crude.
Eight protons may seem far from being gaudy,
By thirty orders, more or less, of magnitude.

My unseen love may be looking at me
Through some big microscope.
If she's not a he, I am sure that she
Is excited at what little she can see --
At least that is what I hope!
I feel her gaze in a glancing way,
But how can she really know
That of all of the zillion little dots,
That in that crowd
There is standing proud
One who has the hots for her --
Though he's just a little schmoe!

No wandering atom I,
Now that I have caught snatches
Of who my perfect match is.
This very Eve I will try-y-y somehow to catch... this gigantical lady's eye!

ACT 2 -- "Eve's Song"

NARRATOR: Back in Act One of our opera, the little oxygen atom, Atom, intuited that someone was watching him through an atomic force microscope. Here in Act Two, we discover that that someone is Eve, a lovely scientist. For Eve, looking down through her microscope, it's love at first sight. Let's join Eve as she ogles her little Atom.

[MUSIC: "Poor Wand'ring One," by Arthur Sullivan, from "Pirates of Penzance"]

[EVE is peering down into her microscope. Her FELLOW SCIENTISTS watch her. All are wearing lab coats.]

Poor wand'ring one!
Look at this oxygen atom,
See him attract!
See me react!
See my heart run!

Could we combine?
Or would such love be forbidden?
Love that entails
Such diff rent scales --
Eensy and elephantine?

Does he know I exist?
If so, then will he resist
All the force of my nature
That yearns for us to have kissed?

Will he ask for a date?
When? Oh, when? Oh, why should he wait?
Here's a technical challenge:
Now, how will we copu---?

ACT 3 -- "I'm Nano!"

NARRATOR: In Act Three of our opera, the little oxygen atom, Atom, devises a clever way that he and his soon-to-be-beloved Eve can meet up. Let s join Atom now, and listen to his little cogitations.

[MUSIC: "Titwillow," by Arthur Sullivan, from "The Mikado"]

Oh, an oxygen atom is really quite small.
O, I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!
Why, compared to a woman, I'm nothing at all.
O, I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!
For conventional wooing, I'm not well designed,
But so what if my toolkit is underdefined?
I've a plan of a rather adventurous kind.
I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!
I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!

She inhales lots of oxygen with every breath.
O, I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!
Now, if she hyperventilates, she'll cause my death.
O, I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!
But if she breathes in softly, I'll go with the flow --
Diffuse in through a lung, and then next thing you know,
Hooked on fresh hemoglobin -- a-riding I'll go!
I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!
I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!

Sitting in a red blood cell, I ll zip through a vein.
O, I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!
And the bloodstream will carry me straight to her brain.
O, I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!
Once inside her cerebrum, who knows what I'll find --
If I m lucky, a place to relax and unwind.
See, the main thing I hope is: she'll keep me in mind!
I'm nano! I'm nano! I'm nano!

ACT 4 -- "Bose-Einstein Condensate"

[NOTE: this is the NEW version of act 4, written in June 2006, replacing the original 2003 version that used different music.]

[NOTE: In this act, Eve can be accompanied onstage by several non-singing scientists, each of whom should have a laser pointer.]

NARRATOR: When we last saw little Atom, he was hoping that Eve would breathe him into her lungs, from which point he would then enter the bloodstream and travel to Eve's brain. Alas, Eve was so-o-o-o-o excited that she hyperventilated. So, that plan turned out to be a no-brainer.

Now, here, in the final act of the opera, science will come to the rescue! The physics community, in a great triumph, has just figured out how to make a BOSE-EINSTEIN CONDENSATE. In a Bose-Einstein condensate, a huge number of atoms are cooled, using laser beams, to a temperature that is staggeringly cold. When that happens -- as predicted by the theories of Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein in the year 1926 -- when that happens, ALL the atoms suddenly behave as if they are a SINGLE, GIGANTIC, ATOM.

Let's watch as the scientists transform our little Atom into a gigantic, handsome, Bose-Einstein condensate.

[MUSIC: "On catlike tread" from Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance"]

EVE: My love affair
May seem a tiny hope--
A sad nightmare--
And me a dreamy dope.
But -- thanks to Bose! --
(And Einstein, thank you, too!)
I now suppose
I know just what to do.
ATOM (stage whisper):
aI cannot wait! I cannot wait!
I hope she makes a condensate.
EVE: Yes, I will make a condensate.
ATOM: (stage whisper):
Can't wait! Can't wait! Can't wait!

EVE: I need a little love!
On a normal sca-ale.
That's my holy grai-l.
Ide-al! Well, sort of.
I need just a little love!
I want the world to see
I am advocating
For atomic dating.
How coo-ool can it be-ee?
Almost absolu-utely!

Atom is in a state
in which he is unfulfilled.
Soon he will be ultra-cool,
with a manly build.
Here's what I'll do to him,
just as in my daydreams.
Skip the details.
But it involves using laser beams.


[MAYBE HAVE SIGN ON/OVER ATOM SAYING: "Magnification: 1000000000" and "Actual Size"]

EVE: I've turned them on!
ATOM: You've turned me on!
EVE: I turn you on?
ATOM: You turn me on!

EVE: My great big man!
You'll never go away!
So I will plan
To see you every day.
But, do you know
That if those lasers blink
Well, there you go --
You'll vanish in a wink.

BOTH: We want the world to see
That atomic dating
Isn't nauseating.
How coo-ool can it be?
Almost absolu-utely!
ATOM: A love so slight
May seem a bit unwise.
EVE: It's not quite right,
But it's all I could devise.

Student, Tiroler Landeskonservatorium, Innsbruck
Artist; Professor, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien
Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, Center for Theoretical Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; Nobel Prize Laureate for Physics


Editor and co-founder, Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), Cambridge

 Graduated from Harvard College with a degree in applied mathematics.
 Spent several years developing optical character recognition computer systems (including a reading machine for the blind), and later founded Wisdom Simulators, Inc., a creator of educational software.
 He was the back-page humor columnist for the late, lamented computer magazine Byte.
 He wrote a monthly back-page humor column for the engineering magazine Design News.
 He has been commentator for ABC-TV's World News Now and on public radio.
 He is the father and master of ceremonies of the Ig Nobel Prize.
 In addition to editing the magazine, Marc writes a monthly newsletter called mini-AIR, a weekly column for the British newspaper The Guardian, and a daily blog.
1990-1994, he was the editor of the Journal of Irreproducible Results.
 He also frequently performs lectures that show both the funny side AND the importance of science, medicine, and technology.
1994, after the magazine's publisher decided to abandon the magazine, the founders and entire editorial staff (1955-1994) of the Journal abandoned the publisher and immediately created AIR.


Student, Tiroler Landeskonservatorium, Innsbruck

2000-2005 Studium am Konservatorium in Innsbruck bei Shao-Yin Huang
2005 künstlerisches und pädagogisches Diplom
2004 Studium an der Sommerakademie Prag-Wien-Budapest bei Prof. Neol Flores und Prof. Martin Hughes (Musikhochschule Wien)
2005+2006 Meisterkurse bei Prof. Peter Feuchtwanger (London)


Artist; Professor, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien

1987 Ph.D., Comparative Literature, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
1986-1989 Assistant Professor, German Studies and Comparative Literature, Oberlin College, Clark University, Skidmore College
1989-1990 Freelance writer and editor, Hong Kong
since 1990 Trainer, Callagy English for Executives KEG, Vienna
since 1990 Invited to perform own material and moderate/perform at diverse art, music and theater events (on average twice a year)
1991-1997 External Consultant, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Vienna. Strategies for and implementation of technical reports, manuals and outreach materials for Industrial Operations and Human Resources Development, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship development for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and women in industry.
since 1995 Invited to contribute essays on dance, Falter Zeitschrift Gesmbh
since 1998 Lecturer, University of Art, Linz
since 1999 Lecturer, FH-Technikum-Wien, Vienna
since 2004 Foreign Languages Dept. Coordinator for Biomedical Engineering, Mechatronics/Robotics, and Intelligent Transport Services degree programs, FH Technikum-Wien, Vienna
 Current positions:
 FH Professor, FH Technikum-Wien
 Lecturer, Institute of Fine Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Art, Linz, Austria
 Senior Trainer, Callagy English for Executives KEG
 Performer/Moderator in the free art, music and theater scenes in Vienna
 Freelance Essayist/Columnist on dance, Falter Zeitschrift Gesmbh, Vienna
since 2004 Invited to write an annual column on dance, Falter Zeitschrift Gesmbh


Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, Center for Theoretical Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; Nobel Prize Laureate for Physics

1970 B.S. University of Chicago, IL, Mathematics
1972 M.A. Princeton University, NJ, Mathematics
1974 Ph.D. Princeton University, NJ, Physics
1974 Instructor Princeton University, NJ
1974-1976 Assistant Professor Princeton University, NJ
1976-1977 Visiting Fellow Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, NJ
1977-1978 Assistant Professor Princeton University, NJ
1978-1980 Associate Professor Princeton University, NJ
1980-1981 Professor Princeton University Princeton, NJ
1980-1988 Member University of California, Santa Barbara, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, CA
1980-1988 Professor University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
1987-1988 Visiting Professor Harvard University Boston, MA
1989-2000 Professor Institute for Advanced Study, School of Natural Sciences Princeton, NJ
since 2000 Professor Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Physics Cambridge, MA

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11:00 - 22:00Presentation CD-Laboratory "Biomechanics in skiing"Culture
13:00 - 13:30Welcome by the OrganisersPlenary
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19:00 - 20:15Research at the Cutting EdgePlenary
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09:00 - 18:00Junior AlpbachBreakout
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16:00 - 17:15Convergence and Complexity in Science and TechnologyPlenary
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19:00 - 20:00Atom and Eve - an Alpbach MinioperaCulture
20:00 - 23:30Reception sponsored by the Province of Lower AustriaSocial


09:00 - 10:00Energy and SecurityPlenary
10:00 - 10:30Alpbach 2006 - Resumée Junior AlpbachPlenary
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