What football has in common with physics and how the Picnic has changed – speaks Professor Łukasz Turski, Chairman of the Programme Council of the Copernicus Science Centre and of the Programme Team of the Science Picnic.
What are Your impressions after the first visit at the National Stadium?
They are great! It really is a remarkable object. The conference at the Stadium – during which we announced that this year’s Picnic is held here – was for me actually the first opportunity to see it from the inside. Although I had been in this place before when there still was the Tenth Anniversary Stadium. Once I even came specifically to see the flourishing trade.
And how does the old compare with the new?
I remember when I showed an American friend of mine around Warsaw in the 1970s. He told me then: nothing looks new in this city. The National Stadium is the next object created in recent years that luckily breaks this rule. It is a denial of Polish kitsch and gray. Yes, a door handle falls off somewhere, something is leaking, but with such a large-scale construction similar problems are the norm. This does not change the fact that the place is simply beautiful. The only question is how the authorities of the Stadium will use its potential. Filling such a facility with life is a difficult task. After all, we are not a football power to make tens of thousands of people came to the games every week. Looking even from this perspective, the organisation of the Picnic at the Stadium is a bull’s eye.
Will the Picnic change accordingly to the change of location?
Probably just a little bit this year but we will try to prepare the subsequent editions (the agreement with the Stadium was signed for five years – ed.) in some different way. We will focus on interactivity but we will also try to expand the exhibition part. We want to promote the recent developments of science to a greater degree. Many of them were difficult to show in the current formula of the Picnic.
I mean the new achievements of medicine, for example the innovative surgeries carried out with the use of technologies that emerged in the 21st century. After all, we cannot perform them on the spot. But we can offer some modern presentation of such treatments with a discussion raising awareness of the Picnic’s participants about the difficulties in the implementation of medical progress in our health care system.
Why not present the achievements of the Polish cosmetics industry as well? Manufacturing of cosmetics is now using high technology. Products created in this manner, for example of the brand Inglot, are conquering the world. It is worth the praise it, also at the Picnic. The more that Poles often are not aware of that fact.
So far, we were limited by the available area: the park (Rydz-Śmigły Park – ed.) was not spacious enough. We also lacked darkened rooms. This problem has been solved, so we can develop.
During the conference, you also mentioned a book that could become required reading for this year’s Picnic participants.
The fact that the biggest outdoor event popularising science is at the sports facility is a great excuse to reach for “Physics of Sport” by Krzysztof Ernst. In each chapter of the book, a different discipline (e.g. skiing, football) is described from the perspective of the laws and phenomena of physics. I recommend it primarily because it is well written. But the fact that Krzysztof and me were bosom friends is not without significance. He was with us from the first picnic and it did not change until his premature exit. He was a professor of physics and a huge sports fan. His “family bilingualism” enabled him to be a sports correspondent from Italy. He played basketball. Every year, his teammates meet at a mass celebrated in his memory. During the last years of his life, Krzysztof valiantly struggled against cancer. He did not manage to finish his last book “Physics of the Dance”.
According to you, sport is one of the mechanisms that best integrates the society. Why?
First, it helps relieve tension accumulated in humans. It is not a coincidence that in ancient Greece wars were suspended for the duration of the contests. Secondly, it teaches many of the features that are vitally needed in society. Like facing the challenges. For example, we get a shot and our task is to put it. Yet not in a slapdash way but according to the established rules and – most importantly – we are to do the best we can. And yet, life is about overcoming the challenges. Although it may sound controversial in the context of the recent doping scandals, sports also teaches honesty. Because you can clearly tell who is better. In turn, team games teach cooperation.
These features make the society function well. Americans are well aware of this fact. Therefore, sports coach is one of the most important educators of youth in the local school education system, which I had a chance to observe while working at many universities.
Did you experience the educational role of sports in your life?
I remember when I was a teenager. Some so-called difficult youth was transferred to the Warsaw school which I attended and which enjoyed good reputation. Our gym teacher quickly solved the problem. He introduced boxing classes. Thus, instead of being rowdy and frolic in school hallways, the boys began to compete with each other in the ring. They did not lay waste. One of them is even a professor of history at a good American university.
Therefore, I believe that it is very important to restore school sports in our country. Why could not nationwide races of students in bags or school football league matches be held at the National Stadium? As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Raising children in the sporting spirit will translate into the fact that Poland will have better industry, business and science.