The Belgian city where the Big Bang theory was born


Religion remains a constant for Lemaître, and he serves mass at St. Peter’s Church, which maintains its air of solemnity to a world distant from nearness Oude Markt. This friendly hub, which now has more than 50 pubs, serves straw-colored Stella Artois pilsner, which was first brewed in the city in 1926.

Travelers can also find the scholar in the nearby university town of Louvain-la-Neuve. Here his statue poses at the Catholic University of LouvainPlace des Sciences, chalk in hand in front of a copper blackboard engraved with a swoosh of atoms.

To travel between the two statues, the 21 miles long Big Bang Road The bike path is marked with QR-code signs, revealing Lemaître’s story and creating a symbolic union between the two university towns where he taught.

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Leuven’s heritage of innovation

It’s tempting, says Mohamed Ridouani, mayor of Leuven, to see this thread of technological curiosity and scientific brilliance running through the city, almost like a lifeblood.

“The key word is innovation, and since the Middle Ages Leuven has been a safe place where scientists can freely express their ideas,” says Ridouani. “There are 100,000 people living here, but more than 60,000 students. It is an excellent framework to stimulate the imagination.

The city has long encouraged scientists who push the boundaries. Among scholarly scholars are anatomist Andre Vesalius, which produced the first comprehensive account of the human body in the 16th century. Then there is the cartographer Gerard Mercator, whose work influenced the development of GPS navigation, and Jean-Pierre Minckelers, who first invented illuminating gas to light the world’s major cities.

The last polymath, says Ridouani, is Professor Hertog himself, whose quantum theory in progress builds on Lemaître’s 90-year-old breakthrough. The abstract – “not touching the origins of time, but losing the laws of physics itself”, says Hertog – is enough to short-circuit the thoughts of any traveler.

It is ultimately the genius of Louvain: it nurtures geniuses who illuminate the universe.

Mike MacEacheran is an Edinburgh-based travel writer. Follow him on Twitter.


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