Cosmic Cabaret: Behind the Scenes

‘Peake into Space: Cosmic Cabaret’ was an evening of live poetry, music and comedy funded by the Institute of Physics and performed at Glasgow Science Festival 2016. The entertainment was directly inspired by the work of physicists and engineers from the University of Glasgow, working on cutting-edge research linked to space exploration. We chatted to one such engineer, Michael Perreur-Lloyd, about the cosmic work he’s doing in the School of Physics and Astronomy.

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Michael at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida

1. Who are you and where do you work?

I am Michael Perreur-Lloyd and I am a Mechanical Design Engineer working in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow.

2. What was your involvement with the Cosmic Cabaret night?

As part of a group of scientists and engineers I met with the Cabaret artists to tell them about my area of research and what my job entailed. The artists took that information, and that of many other researchers, to craft the songs, poetry and comedy that was highlighted at the Cosmic Cabaret.

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Michael demonstrates safety procedures to poet Calum Rodger, comedian Gemma Flynn and musician Stuart Cromarty


3. Can you explain your work (in simple terms!)?

I design instrumentation for space gravitational wave observatories. I am project engineer for the Glasgow team that developed the optical bench interferometer for the European Space Agency LISA Pathfinder mission that was launched in December 2015. An interferometer – mostly made of very high quality glasses – is essentially a very precise measuring device that reads out the interference pattern of two laser beams and is sensitive to measurements as small as a picometre (10^-12m), or one trillionth of a metre. The LISA Pathfinder mission has successfully tested many technologies that will find their way on to a space gravitational wave observatory called eLISA in the early 2030s.

4. What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I am very fortunate to work with many intelligent and talented people on a beautiful campus in the west end of Glasgow.

5. Impress us with your favourite science fact

The LISA mission will involve flying three satellites in a triangular formation at a spacing a million kilometres!

We would like to thank Michael and all of the other scientists who helped inspire the fantastic performances at Peake into Space: Cosmic Cabaret. You can watch clips of some of the performances below.

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