This weekend our department had a Physics Fair, free to the public, where hundreds of parents and kids came and learned about the research we’re involved in. There were grad students and professors available from many research groups including plasma, condensed matter, astrophysics, particle physics, and more.
I enjoyed interacting with the public and letting them know people from their community are involved in a project they’ve actually heard about in the news. Of course, many people who had heard of a “hadron collider”, heard about it because of “black hole” fear stories. Not that anyone was really afraid, it’s just that newspapers liked to make eye-catching, sensational headlines (like shown here).
If that’s what it takes to get on the cover of some newspapers, I’ll take it. It’s a starting point, and at least gets people talking.
We had a few things for kids to look at, including a cloud chamber to see particles from cosmic rays.
Another thing we had for kids was a “quark puzzle”, which was an improved design from previous fairs. See it here:
With this, kids could put together up and down quarks in whatever combinations of 3 they wished to create ether a delta-minus, neutron, proton, or delta-plus-plus. Then they pasted them together using a “gluon” glue stick. The quarks fit together in such a way that they can only make a circle with quarks of all three colors: red, green, and blue.
I know, I know, it’s way low budget, but a surprising number of kids enjoyed pasting quarks together. Some kids made pasted together a bunch of quarks and were really excited to be bringing home so many particles.