Smiles all round as ISIS opens its doors to the public.

Friday 23 August 2013

ISIS's Steve West explaining to visitors the ISIS facility using a mod

ISIS's Steve West explaining to visitors the ISIS facility using a model.
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On Wednesday the 21st August the sun wasn’t the only thing beaming at the STFC, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. There was a real buzz about the place as more than 200 people came from far and wide for a unique and exciting opportunity to see ‘behind the scenes’ of a cluster of the world’s leading science facilities.

The visit brought people of all ages together to discover the joy of science. Many visitors were taken on a tour of ISIS and were able to get a glimpse of the psychedelic array of machines, in the second target station. It was hard to miss the expressions of amazement as the visitors eagerly explored the suite of instruments that are used to delve deep into the complexity of matter. Guided by ISIS staff and volunteers, people were able to look inside one of our instruments Engin-X, with the opportunity to meet real scientists and engineers to ask any burning questions.

Visitors at ISIS's ENGINE-X beamline.

Visitors at ISIS's ENGINE-X beamline.
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The tours were a great opportunity to showcase what we do and some of the ground-breaking discoveries that come off the beamlines. Visitors were given a taste of cutting –edge science, from atoms and molecules to particle accelerators and brilliant neutron beams.

One of our engineers and who toured visitors around ISIS spoke of the success of the visit “It’s great to have the public’s interest in the research that is carried out at ISIS and the opportunity to inspire non-scientists,” explains Hanna Fikremariam. “Future technology for everyday life depends upon the research carried out today and we need public support to improve the facility so we can stay competitive in the global economy and carry on producing excellent research.”

Many were amazed and inspired by the experience. One of the visitors was involved in the design of the Nimrod proton synchrotron operating at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory back in the 1960’s and was surprised to hear that some of the components of the linear accelerator are operating as part of the ISIS injector today. “It was absolutely fascinating to come back to the site and see how science has moved on after so many years. It’s great to see that they’re still using parts of the old Nimrod!”

It seems some visitors just can’t get enough of RAL as this was their second visit to the site, one enthusiastic visitor I spoke to commented on the RAL experience; “Each time I come here I learn something new and I’m still wowed by the different applications of science.”

Many were simply impressed with the sheer size of ISIS which equates to about 3 or 4 football pitches. One of our very proud younger visitors exclaimed, “There are just so many buildings at ISIS! And so many workers. One of which is my dad!”

There was also the opportunity to discover many other experiments on site, including the Central Laser Facility, Scientific Computing, the Research Complex, RAL Space and Technology, as well as the visitor centres which offered a collection of exciting activities. Visitors had the chance hold the core of a planet, a Sikhole Alin Iron Meteorite found in Argentina and to see chunks of the moon which were made from basalt and not cheese as some visitors were lead to believe! Visitors were intrigued by the objects which helped to make the concept of Space more tangible.

The day finished on a high with a fantastic demonstration of levitation by one of our instrument scientists Dr Stephen Boag. Visitors watched in amazement at the display of the Meissner effect in which a magnet levitates above a superconductor cooled by liquid nitrogen.

The Meissner Effect

The Meissner Effect in which a magnet levitates above a superconductor cooled by liquid nitrogen. Credit: Dreamstime
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If you would like to come to see ISIS, keep an eye on the STFC website, where details of the next Public Access Day will be made available: http://www.stfc.ac.uk/2611

                                                                                           Felice Laake

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