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ATLAS physicist voted sexiest in the world
Feburary 2009

Brian Cox from People Magazine

Adventurer Bear Grylls, Knife Thrower Todd Abrams, Latin Singer Juanes, Tennis Player Rafael Nadal… What do all these men have in common? They all appear in USA-based People Magazine’s A-Z of sexiest men in the world, along with none other than ATLAS’s own Professor Brian Cox.

Taking the Q-slot, Quantum Physicist extraordinaire Brian works on ATLAS, teaches at Manchester University in the UK, and has carved himself out a successful media career, explaining particle physics with characteristic enthusiasm and clarity to radio, television, and lecture audiences around the world.

In the wake of this recent accolade, we caught up with Brian, to find out how he feels about being Mr Q: Quantum physicist.

“I think that’s why I’m in the list you know,” he laughs. “If it was A, it would be actor, or P could be popstar. But Q? What else could it be?” Modesty aside though, People Magazine is one of the biggest in the USA, and Brian has already experienced the effects of his new-found status:

“I was filming a BBC program on fusion recently, at the National Ignition Facility in California, and the director said to me, ‘It’s an honour to be interviewed by one of the sexiest men in the world!’” he laughs.

It’s perhaps unusual for physicists to be described as sexy, but Brian thinks the field gets a bad rap because of the people who speak for it. “It’s delicate, because obviously if it’s a serious political news story, the broadcaster will want the gravitas of having the top people,” he explains, “but the problem is that if all you ever see in the media is the Nobel Prize winner who’s usually male and tends to be older, then that’s not necessarily the best thing for kids.”

Indeed, three-quarters of ATLAS authors are in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. “Most work on high energy physics is done by post-docs and young people,” explains Brian – those who are not yet tied into teaching commitments with their universities.

Giving talks in schools, Brian has noticed that if you ask a student to draw a physicist, they typically draw a sketch of an aging Einstein: “Hair all over the place, no socks, that kind of thing!” And yet during Einstein’s most productive year, 1905 - arguably the most productive year any physicist in history has had – he was only in his 20s. “Young physicists need to be more visible … to get the message across that physicists are young and energetic,” says Brian.

Asked about his tips for young physicists wanting to become as popular with the ladies as he now finds himself, Brian reckons that the key is for them to talk about their subject more and express the excitement that they feel about it. It all comes down to the way that they put it across, he concludes: “I think, actually, that people do find physics sexy. If people ask you what you do for a job, and you say, ‘I explore the Universe as it was a billionth of a second after the Big Bang,’ – that’s sexy!”

Ceri Perkins (ATLAS eNews)

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