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Let’s make fun with science: Sun, light and colored shadows

According to the spirit of the “Let’s makastrogarden20e room for science!” project, aimed at discovering the concepts of gravity, energy and light, the EPS Young Mind Section of Rome developed new activities concerning the same topics also in the last months of 2017. These activities were partially founded by the 2017 Activity Grant.
Thanks to the collaboration with the Physics Department of the University of Roma Tre, we started organizing guided observations of the Sun using the solar telescope of the Department. The observations were dedicated to children and young kids from local schools, but they also gave us the opportunity to involve undergraduate students of the Department, who immediately proved not only to be curious about the telescope, but also to be ready to tell themselves what they knew about the Sun to the younger children. During these observations, we also used little globes that could be oriented in order to simulate the illumination state of our Earth, so that participants could learn about the apparent motion of the Sun in the sky during the day, the seasons, equinoxes and time zones.
The concept of light was investigated also with a new exhibit: the “Colored shadows”. We started with three lightbulbs of red, green and blue light, aiming them all at a white screen. A pencil placed in front of the lights would then have not just one, grey shadow, but three and more colored shadows! Turning off one of the colored lights, it was then possible to notice how the color on the screen changed. This simple exhibit allows to deal with different concepts. First of all: the way in which our eyes are able to perceive colors (we have only three types of receptor called cones, that can see the red, green and blue light – from their combination, we are able to perceive millions of different colors). But then it is possible to talk about how the light travels in a straight line. And obviously, how the colors mix to form new shades.
The “Colored shadows” exhibit was used during the European Researcher’s Night 2017 at Roma Tre University. It drew the attention of lots of children who enjoyed watching their ever-changing shadows, but also the young students who were curious to discover the reasons why they were seeing those particular colors.
At the end, the “Let’s make fun with science: Sun, light and colored shadows” project had more than 300 participants between primary, secondary schools students and general public.

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).

Play with water

Rome2Sharing our knowledge with anyone who is not an expert is always so nice, especially when it comes to dealing with curious people and especially with kids, those who have thousands of interesting questions all the time.
In 2016 the Rome Young Minds Section organized several interactive activities for the public during two events at the Department of Math and Physics of Roma Tre, namely “Eyes on the Moon” and “Eyes on Jupiter”. During these events there is a large public participation involving people of all ages, from kids to high school students to ordinary citizens (about 1400 particpants in total).

The topic of our activities is mainly focused on:
– water dealing with issues such as Archimedes’ principle, capillarity and the surface tension of liquids (hands-on labs).
– optics laws. The purpose of the activity was to provide an opportunity to discover optics (geometrical and physical) by means of hands-on labs.
– interactive exhibition about Jupiter and its moons. This activity was organized by means of printed images and interactive web sites, some of which created by us for this event (https://roma3astrogarden.wordpress.com/). The exhibition was animated for people browsing around, giving them the chance to discover Jupiter’s moons, its stunning auroras, the missions that are now studying the planet, and the large range of phenomena linked to it. This activity was run with the help of some third high school year students.
– the Earth and the Moon. We built a model of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun orbiting around each other (orrery) to show why the Moon is mischievous and always shows the same face. And what about the seasons? This orrery helped in getting the answers to these and many other curiosities, such as lunar phases and tides.
-the eye and the 3d vision. An experiment focused on eye’s functionality, divided into three steps: the anatomical components of a healthy eye, how these components work together, and why, if one eye works perfectly alone, we have two of them? In this regard, a demonstration on how our brains are able to make us understand the three-dimensions, using a stereoscope, was given. Moreover was explained the concept of the cinema 3D vision, with practical demonstration of the three-dimensional view of a siderite through anaglyph glasses.

Popular Science Writing Course 2016

Rome1On March the 3rd and the 4th at University “La Sapienza” Physics Department was held the workshop on scientific writing “Laboratorio di scrittura divulgativa” .
The workshop, mainly addressed to PhD students in scientific subjects (physics, chemistry, biology), was intended to give to the participants the basic tools on the non-academic scientific writing: the students would learn how to write articles for the general public instead of papers for the academic community.
To achieve this aim, the workshop was held by Manuela Cirilli and Massimiliano Razzano, both physicists and science communicators. Manuela Cirilli, in fact, is a particle physicists who works in the Knowledge Transfer Group of CERN, while Massimiliano Razzano is an astrophysicists and a professional journalist who writes for some of the most popular italian newspapers.

The workshop was divided in two days corresponding to two main parts. During the first part there was a theoretical introduction about the scientific communication in general, with a particular focus on the non-academic scientific writing. The second part of the workshop was instead more practical, because the participants were asked to become journalists themselves: under the guidance of the teachers, the students simulated an editorial meeting and wrote their own scientific articles. In this way, they learned not only how to present to the general public their scientific work in a more intriguing way, but also how to interact with the editorial staff.

This year we organised also a social event at the end of the course, in collaboration with the “Assaggi” bookstore, to present section activities to physics student and increase the section active members.

ACCASTAMPATO writing courses

2015_Rome_Acca_01On 26th and 27th March 2015 the Rome YM Section organized the 2nd edition of the writing course.
We invited the same teachers of the previous edition, Manuela Cirilli and Massimiliano Razzano, because we really appreciated their communication skills and teaching approach. Further more, we believe their experience as physicist is very valuable for teaching science communication to physics students because both of them are physicist themselves. Manuela worked for years as a researcher in the ATLAS experiment before moving to CERN Knowledge Transfer Office, where she actually works. Massimiliano is an INFN researcher and a journalist for “la Repubblica”, one of the most important Italian newspapers. Besides their experience as researchers, they are very experienced in teaching communication, for instance Manuela is a teacher of the Science Journalism Master of the Ferrara University.

The course was held in the Informatics Laboratory of the Physics Department of “La Sapienza”, in order to give to all the students the possibility to use a computer connected to the internet. As already happened for the past edition, the course has been integrated in the experimental school on science communication co-organised with the “Assaggi” bookstore and “MadMaths” association.

The school lasted two days, with more than 14 hours, of lesson and practical sessions. Manuela and Massimiliano presented the general rules of writing during the first part of the course. The second part consisted of two practical writing sessions where we had the opportunity to simulate an editorial meeting, proposing and selecting titles for different kinds of magazines and writing some of them. The articles were then corrected and the most common errors analysed and discussed.

Play with optic

Rome_IYL__01On February 27th,at Roma Tre Mathematics and Physics Department, was performed the event “Occhi su Giove: l’autovelox per la luce”. About 600 persons took part at the evening.
During the event it was possible to observe with telescopes of the Department and to took part at the ‘Play with optics’ experiments.
Our experiments concerned arguments studied during the degree course and expanded for personal curiosity. Experiments concepts were:

  1. OPTICS LAWS: The purpose of the activity was to provide an opportunity to discover the optics (geometrical and physical) by means of hands-on labs. To explain these phenomena we used:
    • laser pointers and mirrors , to show refraction and reflection laws of light in water and in other materials;
    • different torches to show diffusion in a medium and to answer questions like ‘Why is the sky blue?’;
    • bottles filled with water to produce waveguides;
    • 3D cinema glasses and a LCD monitor, whose screen was used as a polarizing filter, in order to explain the polarization of light;
    • Slits, laser and participants’ hair were used to talk about the diffraction of light.
  2. THE EYE AND THE 3D VISION: The experiment was focused on eye’s functionality and was divided into three steps: the anatomical components of a healthy eye, how these components works together, and why, if one eye works perfectly alone, we have two of them?
    In this regard, a demonstration on how our brains are able to make us understand the three-dimensions, using a stereoscope, was given.
    Moreover was explained the concept of the cinema 3D vision, with practical demonstration of the three-dimensional view of a siderite through anaglyph glasses.
  3. GRAVITATIONAL LENSES, MASS THAT DEFLECTS LIGHT: The idea at the base of the experiments was to show that the general relativity’s topics aren’t so far from reality. In fact, many theory’s arguments have a practical application like the gravitational lenses, which are used for astrophysics’ investigations. To do that, minor experiments have been used. Some of that were: a sheet bended by a ball to simulate the warped space-time and a mirror that shows how candle’s light could be reflected or distorted, as the gravitational lenses do.
  4. AUTO-GRAVITING WATER: The goal of the experiment is to obtain an optical effect that gives various perception of water drops: flowing downward in slow motion, suspended in the air, flowing upward. To achieve this goal, two tools have been used: a subwoofer and a strobe light. The water flowed in a little tube attached to the subwoofer that made it oscillate, and when the water was spilled out, it was enlightened by the strobe light at different frequencies. The demonstration of these three optical effects have been made possible by using specific frequencies of the strobe light.