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Pauline Gagnon | |

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Too exciting to leave it only to physicists

Most physicists agree: physics is too interesting to leave it only to physicists. For the first time, the European Physics Society (EPS) dedicated a whole session to Outreach this year at its ongoing Particle Physics conference in Vienna. The participants reported on a wealth of creative initiatives undertaken by individuals or institutions to share the best of particle physics with the general public.

Most activities described aimed at students of all ages, in developed and developing countries. Kate Shaw, a researcher from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, stressed how science can help solve various environmental and developmental problems. The world needs more scientists, Kate stated, and investing in education, technology and cultural institutions plays a key-role in developing a knowledge-based economy. Fundamental research stimulates applied sciences through innovation, technology and engineering. She also mentioned the importance of reaching out to all minorities and low-income students everywhere.

Kate initiated the Program “Physics without Frontiers” at ICTP and conducted “Masterclasses” (see below) in the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Lebanon, Nepal, Vietnam and Algeria. Not only does she inspire students to study in science, but she also mentors them to help them access Masters and PhD programs. Kate received today the EPS Outreach Prize “for bringing particle physics to countries with no strong tradition in particle physics”.

Palestine

Students taking part in a Masterclass in Palestine sponsored by “Physics without Frontiers”

Masterclasses refer to a full-day of interactive activities designed for high-school and undergraduate students. Physicists first describe their fields and their experiment. Then the students can interact with them over lunch before launching into real analysis with real data. Every year, an international Masterclass brings together some 10000 students from 42 countries. They join scientists at 200 nearby universities or research centres, measuring meaningful quantities in collaboration with the other international students. You too could participate in a Masterclass.

Masterclasses participants and other groups are also often treated to a virtual visit of a top-notch experiment. A scientist located at the laboratory interacts with the group, then “walks” them through the facilities using a live video connection.

Are you looking for an inspiring activity that is simple, cheap and accessible to all for a special event, conference or group? Treat them to a virtual visit to CERN (ATLAS or CMS). In January, 500 students from Mumbai “visited” the IceCube. experiment at the South Pole 12,000 km away, flooding the scientists with questions.

The CERN’s Teacher Programme is also thriving, with one thousand participants so far. High-school teachers from all over the world are treated to unforgettable experiences to make sure they will share their enthusiasm and excitement with their students when they return home.

Public lectures and popular science books aim at more general audiences. Many scientists worldwide, including myself, will be happy to come give a public lecture in your area upon request. Just ask.

Pauline Gagnon

To be alerted of new postings, follow me on Twitter: @GagnonPauline  or sign-up on this mailing list to receive an e-mail notification. You can also visit my website

 

 

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