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Spreading Optics in the School

img-1630One more year, the USC Young Minds Section is devoted to outreach activities in several topics of Optics for children of different ages, from five to eighteen years old. In particular, in this academic course we have performed two activities with schools, one for children from primary level and another with kids from secondary. The experiences performed during these events were the same in both cases but adapted to their level of knowledge and age. Briefly, each member of the YM Section performs one Optics experience to a reduced group of 10-15 children in order to have a more personalized attention. These activities are: 1) the functioning of the eye, where ametropies such as myopia or hyperopia are explained as well as how the human eye works by using different lenses. 2) Light-mater interaction, where concepts like fluorescence are shown by using laser pointers and olive oil or white paper. 3) Polarization, where this phenomena is explained in asimple way and some of its applications, like cinema glasses, are shown. 4) Light propagation, where concepts like reflection, refraction and transmission are explained as well as some fiber optics applications in their daily life are shown. This activity has had a very good reception among teachers and children. Since we have performed this Optics experiences from some years, we count with the contact of some schools that are interested in our activities year on year, making more easy to organize this event and to combine it with the duties of the member of the Young Minds Section.

Let’s make room for science

Spaziotempo2The year 2016 has brought one of the most awaited and important discoveries of modern physics of all times: the first observation of gravitational waves. This event, confirming once again the Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, has given rise to a renewed interest of the general public toward the fascinating topic of gravity. It is in this spirit that the EPS Young Mind section of Rome has organized a whole new project called “Let’s make room for science!”, regarding the three topics of gravity, light and energy. The project, partially founded by 2017 Activity Grant, consisted in creating at the Physics Department of the University of Roma Tre three rooms of exhibits and experiments dedicated to each topic.
Regarding gravity, we used a trampoline to simulate the curvature of space-time induced by different masses. Balls of different density and weight allowed the public to reproduce the gravitational force together with the keplerian orbits of the planets around the Sun. The effect of the strong gravitational field of a black hole (the heaviest ball) could also bend the light, reproducing the effect of gravitational lensing. A ripple in the space-time gave an idea of the gravitational waves.
Light and energy were instead treated together with the electromagnetic spectrum. A thermal imager allowed the public to have a first-hand experience of the concept of wavelenght and temperature, but also of the transformation of energy. In this sense, the human body is a perfect laboratory: the sensory organs, for example, are warmer than the hair! The thermal imager, moreover, could reveal the thermal footprint we leave on any surface. The visible light has beeen instead treated through simple but eye-opening experiments with colors (for examples, with prisms). The high energy part of the spectrum (like X rays) has been illustrated by the means of detailed panels. Experiments with currents and circuits concluded the guided tour about electromagnetism.
The “Let’s make room for science” project had more than 600 partecipants between primary and secondary school students and University students. Moreover, the exhibit area has been dedicated to the general public during openening events at University of Roma Tre, like “Eyes On Jupiter” 2017 (http://orientamento.matfis.uniroma3.it/occhisugiove.php).

Students Meeting at the Start of the Semester

DSCN1028Students Meetings, organised by Prague EPS Young Minds section at the beginning of the semester, are getting more and more popular among students of Czech Technical University in Prague. The third, the last one, was in March 2017.

After gravitational waves and manned and unmanned flights to Mars we stayed in the topic of Universe, but from a bit different point of view. Now the dean of the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering of Czech Technical University in Prague gave the talk about physics of Star Trek – presenting various inventions, similar to science fiction gadget in the movie. This topic was extremely popular and in the future we will probably focus on the events with the topic of the same kind.

Before the lecture, we advertised all of the planned events of our section, as well as the section itself. During the discussions, it was a great opportunity to meet students and talk with them about their opinion on our activities.

Approximately 70 students came and enjoyed coffee and tea before the lecture and then attended the presentation. During the subsequent discussion, they enjoyed refreshments that were partially sponsored by rohlik.cz, czech online food distributor.

The large attendance at the event was mainly thanks to the large number of posters, that were distributed in the universities in Prague. Our event was as well shared in our Facebook sites and than shared by several other sites.

This event was again generally rated as a good idea. There is no doubt, that such an event is a unique opportunity to connect students of different age and from different universities, via an interesting multi-discipline contemporary presentation, that everybody is interested in.

International Particle Physics Masterclasses 2017

33751378542_8cfe349c9d_hInternational Masterclasses is an annual event traditionally held in the first third of the year. 15 to 19 year old students are given an opportunity to discover particle physics. A total of approximately 10.000 high school students from 47 countries participate every year, effectively obtaining insight into topics and methods of basic research at the fundamentals of matter and forces. Not only are they given a chance to spend a whole day outside of school without receiving detention, but they also put their hands on an experiment themselves by performing measurements on real data from particle physics experiments at CERN. Almost 200 universities or research centres are involved in this project.
There are three participating institutes in the Czech Republic – the Institute of Physics at the Silesian University in Opava, the Institute of Particle and Nuclear Physics at the Charles University in Prague and the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering at the Czech Technical University (FNSPE CTU) in Prague.
This year’s International Particle Physics Masterclasses at the FNSPE CTU took place on April 7 2017 at the faculty’s headquarters with approximately 60 participating high-school students. The Czech part of the project is being organised in cooperation with the International Particle Physics Outreach Group, Prague EPS Young Minds section and CERN. The students are given a unique opportunity to become a particle physicist for one day without needing any prior knowledge of the subject.
In the morning, the students attended a series of instructive lectures given by scientists who actively work at CERN, whereas in the afternoon, an actual data analysis from two major LHC experiments – ATLAS and ALICE – was carried out. While analysing the experimental data from ATLAS, the students were given a chance to (re)discover the intermediate W bosons. The results were forwarded to CERN. The highlight of the day was a live videoconference with CERN physicists and with other teams from several universities abroad. At the very end, the best team (the team with the most accurate results) was proclaimed and awarded. During the day, organizers took care of having the lunch delivered as well as the preparation of refreshments, beverages and coffee for participating students.

More photos could be found at: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUQ8fPA

Physica in Fabula

19055886_1779600192352896_900413531917606646_o“Physica in Fabula” is born by the idea of put together two worlds apparently distant: literature and physics.
After reading a brief literary step, some simple experiments, which are related to the physical phenomena present in the story, are shown and explained; for example “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is linked to some experiments of geometrical optics for understanding if it is possible to recreate the Cloak of invisibility. Last piece is followed by a laboratory, called G-Lab, in which the audience realizes the experiment using poor materials, such as building a hologram prism for smartphone and tablet. This activity was presented for the first time in occasion of the presentation of the book “La Nascita Imperfetta delle Cose” by the Italian physicist Guido Tonelli, hosted by the bookstore laFeltrinelli Libri e Musica in Naples and organized by Fondazione IDIS – Città della Scienza.
In the last year “Physica in Fabula” became a real format that has been performed in various neapolitan libraries and during the XXXI edition of “Futuro Remoto”, organized by Città della Scienza.
The format has been expanded with new readings and adding some excerpts of animated movies.
Targeted mainly to children, the purpose of Physica in Fabula was to stimulate the interest both in physics and literature, using the powerful effects of literature on imagination to light the sparkle of curiosity towards physics, and showing how many real physical phenomena are hidden in the stories we are used to read.

Scientific Adventure Playground

18359147_1761579790821603_5542796366632819535_oScientific Adventure Playground is an outreach initiative designed and organized by PONYS – Physics & Optics Naples Young Students, in partnership with the Environmental Department of Naples City Council and the National Institute for Nuclear Physics.

The idea
Playing is a very powerful way of learning, as everyone knows. Over the last years PONYS have designed a large number of demonstrative experiments, exploring different areas of physics, which have been proposed in many outreach events as a collection of separated stands. What if these very same experiments were collected in a consistent way, giving rise to a scientific game where participants can play and learn at the same time? And what if this could be done in a wonderful location, such as an urban park, delivering also an environmental message? And what if this scientific game took place in two of the toughest neighborhoods of Naples? Put all this together, and you’ll catch the idea at the heart of the Scientific Adventure Playground.

The event took place in two urban parks located at the opposite sides of Naples, one week away one another:
“Villa di Scampia”, April 22ndScampia has become worldwide famous in last years because of its involvement in organized crime issues, as witnessed by Roberto Saviano’s bestseller book “Gomorra” and the subsequent screen adaptations. Its characteristic buildings, “le vele” (“the sails”) have become the symbol of the degradation of this area.
“Parco Massimo Troisi”, San Giovanni a Teduccio, April 29thEntitled to the Academy-Award-winning actor and film director Massimo Troisi, who was born in this neighborhood, this park is located just a few steps away from a huge portrait of Diego Armando Maradona, painted in 2016 by the street artist Jorit.
Target and Objectives

The event was addressed mainly to children of 8 – 13 years old, but it turned out that this kind of activity is perfectly suitable with little variations to a much larger audience.The objectives of Scientific Adventure Playground were:
• Stimulate interest in physics and science in general;
• Make children explore the urban park, walking around and discovering its beauty; • Sensitize the public to environmental issues and to the respect of public places.

The Game
The aim of the game is to explore the park using the Scientific Explorer Kit provided at the entrance, attend a number of physics experiments and overcome the challenges, namely answering some simple questions.
There are three routes to follow, of three different colors. Each route develops a topic and is divided into three stages: each stage consists in a stand focusing on a particular area of physics, thematically coherent to the whole route. The routes are:

• Waves Route, Blue – Optics, Electromagnetism, Acustic
• Elements Route, Red – Geophysics, Astrophysics, Fluid Dynamics
• Energy Route, Yellow – Combustion, Soap Bubbles, Smart Materials

Following the routes and answering the questions the visitor can fill his/her Scientific Passport with stamps, which mark his/her proceedings, and win some prizes provided he/she answers correctly to at least one question out of three for any given route.

The framework of the game provides motivation and engagement. Paying attention to the experiments is essential to answer correctly and win the prize, which works just as a catalyzer. In order to stress this point and avoid to overestimate the importance of the prize, the criteria designed to win it have been chosen carefully, focusing on the importance of the experience itself rather than on the stakes.

The Scientific Explorer Kit
At the entrance of the park, the visitor receives the Scientific Explorer Kit, containing all the necessary to play. It contains the following:

Map of the park. Drawn by PONYS, it contains some elements useful to orient yourself in the park (buildings, trees and so on) in addition to other elements which are essential to the game, such as the colored flags, which mark the stages od the routes, and the Checkpoint, where visitors go to check their answers.
Scientific Passport. It marks the proceedings of the visitor. It’s personal, customizable with Name, Surname, Date of Birth, Signature and Photo. Each box to be stamped carries the name of a famous scientist and little logo attached to it: this simple feature, besides offering the opportunity to talk about great scientists of our history, stimulates interest through the idea of “collecting scientists”.
Challenge Sheet (red, blue or yellow). It contains three multiple answer questions, related to the three stages of a given route. After answering the first Challenge Sheet, the visitor can take another sheet at the Checkpoint and continue to play, until he has finished all the routes.

The Physics Garden
This is an open area, separated from the colored routes and the question-answer game, where the link between physics and sport is investigated through interactive experiences. Many activities are covered: football, basketball, dancing, diving and others. This area allows to continue to play even after all the routes have been completed, and is particularly fitting to the park setting.

The INFN Stand
The Naples Section of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics supported the event and participated with a stand illustrating the physics of cosmic rays and how muons coming from outer space are currently used for volcanos and subsoil radiography. This part of the activity was particularly suitable to grown-up kids and adults accompanying their children

Futuro Remoto

19054912_1777202052592710_5072035612927482245_oFrom May 25th to 28th 2017, PONYS joined “Futuro Remoto”, the most anticipated Naples science festival organized by Città della Scienza (link http://www.cittadellascienza.it/). The event was hosted in Piazza del Plebiscito, the principal square of Naples. The focus topic of this year was “Connections”, a wide theme held in all its senses.
During the four days of the festival, PONYS presented Passione fisica (link http://ponys.fisica.unina.it/?p=1566), an activity designed as a journey through different fields of physics. The aim was to let scientifical interest araise in all the people visiting our exhibitions, by showing how complex physical phenomena can be appealing and accessible when they are made with simple experiments.
The event was designed as a scientific adventure journey, where the visitor received a customizable scientific passport and a quiz with questions about the topics discussed. Following the exhibitions and answering the questions the visitor could fill his/her Scientific Passport (link report PAS) with stamps, which marked his/her progress. Taking care of the main theme of Futuro Remoto, PONYS decided to connect with other research centers by involving them in their scientific adventure. With this idea the visitor, having the scientific passport, could go to visit other exhibitions and collect stamps from them. This idea has been a great success and involved hundreds of people.

Ranging from Electromagnetism and Optics to Geophysics and Particle Physics, most of the experiments was made of everyday materials, in order to both stimulate the audience with familiar objects and to make those experiments easily reproducible and interactive. This year acoustic experiments were introduced in order to show how to generate a sound wave. A special area was dedicated to interactive demonstrations about physics of football, basketball, dancing, diving and others.

Furthermore, PONYS realized three appointments of Physica in fabula (link report PIF) and a scientific speed dating (link report SD). The former was a funny and interesting laboratory for kids; the latter involved several scientists to answer public’s questions.
Also this year more than 100 volunteers among students, PhD, researchers and professors of the Physics Department of the University of Naples joined this PONYS experience!

A historical journey on characters and discoveries in physics

Outreach_1The YM group of Messina have realized many outreach activities. Some of them were carried out in several High Schools of Messina and dealt with the historical development of the main physical branches. First of all we talked about the main personalities that provided fundamental contributions to classical Physics: Galileo and Newton as concerns mechanics and optics, Boltzmann and Clausius for their work on thermodynamics, Maxwell and Faraday that founded the electromagnetic theory. Afterwards we talked about the main consequences of their researches and we showed to the students some theoretical and experimental results. The participants enjoyed two activities the most. In the first place we talked about telescopes and how they work, since we used the one that our group already have. Thus, we organised a sunspots watching, emphasising the significant work done by Galileo Galilei, who first observed these anomalies on the sun surface in 1610. Furthermore, optics experiments got a lot of attention, especially the dispersion of white light by means of a prism. Our aim was to get the students interested in Physics, since it is considered the toughest of all sciences and, for this reason, each year just a few people decide to enrol in our department. We believe that the participants had a good feeling about these experiences, so we hope that either the entries of our department increase and that we will have the opportunity to do again these events.

On June 11th, some of our members and students of our department took a hike on Mount Etna with a volcanology and alpine guide, Dr. Giuseppe Amendolia. He explained in detail the history of Etna and the events (eruptions, earthquakes) that brought to its actual shape: aside the 5 summit craters, it consists of hundreds of secondary volcanic cones. We organized this jaunt to understand scientifically the phenomena that often affects Sicily, especially Messina and Catania.
The hike started at the University of Messina where all participants gathered in the morning. They moved to Mount Etna, up to the so-called “Rifugio Sapienza” (1910m) where they met Dr. Giuseppe Amendolia at 9 a.m. and started the guided tour. From Rifugio Sapienza they reached 2500m using the cableway and then started the walk. The group visited several minor craters at this altitude and one of the biggest at 2900m. They wanted to walk nearer the summit craters, but rain and fog hindered the excursion. However, the stroll has been tough since it was about 10 km. The participants were satisfied and enthusiast by this activity and hope to come back to end the excursion on the summit craters. This experience gave them the opportunity to better their scientific culture on a theme that is so fascinating. In fact Mount Etna was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is one of the most studied volcanos of Europe and Asia. For this activity we used 600€ allowing 15 participants to take part at this excursion.

Pizza Physics & Beer

ppb_photo_nuclear_seminar_smallThe EPFL Young Minds section expanded with success during its first full year. As planned, monthly seminars were organised under the label ‘Pizza Physics Beer’ (PPB). We noted a rise in participations from 20-30 students per seminar during the first semester, to 30-45 during the second semester. We are now 7 students fully invested in the organisation of the PPB meetings and other events.
The subjects covered in the PPB meetings were: nuclear fusion, with a visit to the Tokamak reactor at EPFL; surface treatments to create ultra hard materials; safety measures regarding fission nuclear reactors, and the risks associated with human failure; the fabrication of anti-hydrogen at CERN; correlated dynamics in quantum systems; the use of perovskites for optoelectronic applications; the social behavior of solitons in microresonators.
This seminars were attended by PhD students from the whole EPFL Physics PhD Doctoral School (EDPY) as well as curious master students. This allowed some interaction between students, both during and after the seminar. The after-seminar gatherings lasted, in some cases, more than one hour.
Rogério Jorge, the association’s secretary, attended the leadership meeting of the EPS Young Minds associations in Naples, bringing a large number of innovative ideas to develop within the coming years, including “Physicist Speed Dating” and “Recruiting Event” activities. This first year, made possible by the EPS grants, is clearly encouraging. It reinforced us in our goal to make the EPFL physics community more interactive both within EPFL and with other members of the EPS community.
We are now focusing on the organisation of the physics day: a major event that will take place the October 16 at the Rolex Learning Center, EPFL. The four speakers of this event include the Nobel prize Stefan Hell as well as three other prominent physicists (L. O. Silva, P. Hazzi, A. Kellerer). This event will also be the occasion of a poster competition between the physics PhD students and will foster interactions among physicists of the physics doctoral school of EPFL.

School for Young Physicists

4Another school year has passed, and another SYP season has concluded as well. This year, turnout was at its highest level, with an average of 176 students taking part in each session.

The topics covered in the nine sessions throughout the season were:
• Deconstruction of popular urban myths with physics
• The physics of sound
• Radioelectronics
• Astronomy and cosmology
• Simple mechanisms
• Electromagnetism
• The role of numerical solutions in physics
• Geophysics
• General and special theory of relativity

Highlights of the season include (but are not limited to) using an elastic membrane to simulate the bending of spacetime, students being introduced to the numerical Euler’s method, which is never touched upon in any high-school curricula and a UL professor telling everyone the basic idea of why Earth has a magnetic field, explaining the underlying concepts of magneto-hydrodynamics.

The 2nd School Cup was awarded at the end of the season. This year, Aizkraukle Regional gymnasium’s team “Re, kā!” were the winners. They took away the main prize; second and third place winners also received prizes, as did the students that performed best throughout the season. Students thoroughly enjoyed this year, as the season closed with thunderous applause from participants.

Aside from our main sessions, we also participated in a popular nation-wide physics competition “eXperiments”, providing two out of five challenges for contestants to solve in the finals, as well as entertaining the supporters of the contestants with a small show, demonstrating a few fun experiments. The competition is running for the 22nd year, and is well known among teachers in Latvia.

Our summer season has also kicked off: as in previous years, our School for Young Physicists took part in the extreme sport festival “Playground”, once again upping our workshop in size, scope and popularity. As in previous years, staples such as the potato cannon (two, this time) and the tennis ball catapult were set up again, and popular experiments such as the hold-fire-in-your-hand and mushing around in a non-Newtonian fluid were demonstrated.

The full list of experiments and activities (in addition to those already mentioned), all free of charge, includes:
• vinegar and soda bottle rockets
• demonstrations for the gyroscopic effect with a wheel
• a self-programmed puzzle game for all ages
• a membrane for demonstrating spacetime curvature
• a large-sized wave pendulum

The last three activities were new to our workshop setup, and were very successful. In particular, the spacetime membrane with marbles on it acting as planets was popular with kids!

All in all, this year has been a success, and we will look to further improve our monthly sessions and increase the scope of our activities in the future.