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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.

Light: past, present, and future applications

Messina_IYLLight is life. Light is fundamental for many biological processes. It is involved in a huge quantity of technological applications, which make our daily life simpler. Nevertheless the awareness of the important role played by light lies in shadows for most of the average people. In Physics, the double (wave-particle) nature of light is one of the most fascinating aspects, which engaged the attention of the scientific community for more than a century. In order to celebrate the International Year of Light (IYL2015) the Messina YM Section organized different activities. They can be grouped into two main categories: seminars and outreach. The former was mostly addressed to students from bachelor to Ph.D. level, while the main target of the latter was stimulating interest in Light, and more in general in Physics, among undergraduate students and children.
Light seminars were organized with the help of the “Appunti di Fisica” group in Messina. They ranged from astronomy and basic concepts to the most useful applications involving light. The following is the list of the events proposed to the scientific community:

  • The birth of Light: a brief story on the visible Universe (C. Cecchi-Pestellini – INAF Palermo)
  • The laser calibration system of the muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab (A. Anastasi – YM Messina member)
  • Light in Chemistry (S. Campagna – University of Messina)
  • Sun as renewable energy source (G. Gambadoro – University of Messina)
  • Quantum Light-Matter interactions (S. Savasta, L. Garziano – University of Messina)
  • Light trapping in a 2D-fractal system (B. Fazio – CNR IPCF Messina)
  • The invisible light: An industrial application of infrared microscopy (S. Patanè – University of Messina)
  • One-day workshop on Light (6 speakers – appuntidifisicamessina)

After each seminar a coffee break was offered by our section to the participants, also to stimulate further discussions and promoting YM section activities.
Regarding the Outreach activities our main target was to arise high school students’ interest on the physical nature of light, by diffusing knowledge from the basic principles of electromagnetism to some of the many possible applications. We managed to do it by means of demonstrative experiments in which light was the main character. We met students in high schools or in the university locals. During these events we performed different experiments, such as interference with laser, diffusion of light through prisms and so on. In these activities students had the opportunity to play with hands in the experiments, handling polarizers, lenses and prisms. We think that this approach is the most effective to get involved students with physics.
By collaborating with a local environmental group (“Fare Verde”), we also took part to European Solar Days, a project finalized to raise the awareness of the importance of the solar energy among people and especially children. For this reason we organized a demonstration of devices and toys working with solar energy in the main square of Messina.

Ab initio simulations in investigating the origin of life

Messina_seminarioComputer simulations are nowadays an irreplaceable tool in predicting and exploring phenomena which occur at regimes difficult to achieve in ordinary laboratories. Moreover, they are capable to identify with an atomic resolution molecular re-arrangements or important chemical reactions elucidating inter alia the underlying delicate mechanisms. Only recently, it has been possible to simulate in a microscopic detailed fashion chemical reactions which may be occurred in some specific environments in the prebiotic era; these reactions, previously not known, represent another important route by which the bricks of life (i.e., the amino-acids) could formed on Earth.
Prof. Marco Saitta is one of the most important scientist in this interdisciplinary field since he is even developing with his group at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) – Sorbonne Université in Paris (France) new numerical tools which will be of extreme help in order to reproduce the energy landscape of any chemical reaction in a smart and simple manner.
In order to amplify the audience of this topic which can be tackled from many scientific points of view an in order to give the possibility to our University to host an high-profile scientist, we organized this Seminar. Although our primary targets were graduate and undergraduate students, a great participation of established scientists was appreciated. Prof. Saitta, by using on average an informal approach, has treated with meticulous clarity and depth this fascinating topic, stimulating important and delicate discussions at the end of the talk which involved many scientists present at the event. At the beginning and at the end of his presentation, Prof. Saitta did not lose the opportunity to acknowledge our YM Section and the general YM philosophy. Indeed, almost surprisingly, he has also shown a YouTube video made by another YM Section in which our colleagues “play” with different physical fields in which Prof. Saitta himself is deeply involved. Finally, Prof. Saitta, being a co-organizer of two important Schools on related arguments (i.e., computer simulations), has invited students and researchers to participate obtaining an enthusiastic response.
Just after the ending scientific discussions moderated by an our member as chairman, a refreshment was offered by our section to the participants. During this latter, informal scientific interactions were catalyzed by a convivial environment and the students had also the opportunity to interact directly with Prof. Saitta and discover different approaches to the study of physics present at the UPMC in Paris, one of the most recognized scientific institutions in Europe.

The seminar was hosted on the 2nd of October 2015 by the Messina YM Section.

Visit to the Planetarium

The Messina Young Minds Section, thanks to the financial support of the European Physical Society organized a special visit at the Planetarium Pythagoras in Reggio Calabria, Italy. The Planetarium Pythagoras has one of the most remarkable external geodes in Europe.
Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences and astronomical phenomena have always had a great influence on human life. Unfortunately, observation of constellations is not possible, due for example to light pollution from city lights, or cloudy weather conditions. This is not the case at the Planetarium, which reproduces almost all astronomical phenomena that can be observed at day and at night, at any latitude and at high speed. It is also possible to combine celestial motions to achieve particular effects such as the starry sky observed from the moon or from a space station.

The guided tour was followed by a solar observation through a telescope equipped with a special filter, which allowed participants to observe sunspots, visible as dark circles on the photosphere of the Sun, and solar flares, evidenced by sudden brightening observed over the Sun’s surface. A lecture on optical properties of interstellar grains completed the visit and was presented by Dr. Antonella Iatì, a researcher of the Institute for chemical and physical processes of the Italian National Research Council [IPCF-CNR] in Messina.

This event was addressed to bachelor and master students of the University of Messina. The visit at the planetarium is a simple and effective way of approaching astrophysics. The aim of EPS YM Section of Messina with this visit was to promote new scientific interests and trying on different experiments available at the Planetarium.