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Lancaster Engineers Contribute to Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

(l-r) Dr Nicolas Delerue (Oxford, John Adams Inst.), Dr Lee Jones (STFC Daresbury Lab, ASTeC/Cockcroft Inst.), Suzie Sheehy (Oxford, John Adams Inst.), Dr Michelle Warren (Diamond Light Source), Penny Jackson (Oxford, John Adams Inst.) (l-r) Dr Nicolas Delerue (Oxford, John Adams Inst.), Dr Lee Jones (STFC Daresbury Lab, ASTeC/Cockcroft Inst.), Suzie Sheehy (Oxford, John Adams Inst.), Dr Michelle Warren (Diamond Light Source), Penny Jackson (Oxford, John Adams Inst.)

Lancaster Engineering staff in the Cockcroft Institute spent the start of July convincing the public that particle accelerators are not just for particle physics and there are "Accelerators Everywhere" as part of The Royal Society annual Summer Science Exhibition.

Over all five days of the exhibition, there was a constant stream of interest from the public, school parties and the media.

The "Accelerators Everywhere: from the Big Bang to Curing Cancer" exhibit was a massive hit with the public. The team's stand was packed with a huge variety of components from real accelerators, plus activities and giveaways designed to stimulate enquiry and conversation with visitors to draw attention to the myriad of ways in which particle accelerators have improved their lives.

The stand was swamped with inquisitive visitors for most of each day, and parties of schoolchildren were amazed to learn about other applications of particle accelerators besides the iconic LHC particle collider which has become so indelibly fixed in the public mind.

On the opening day, the exhibition was visited by His Grace Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. Despite there being 39 other exhibits, Prince Edward spent several minutes at the stand, and he left with the key message that particle accelerators have an exciting future application in the treatment of otherwise-inoperable cancers.

A highlight of the week for the exhibitors were the two black tie evening soirées to which all Royal Society Fellows were invited, plus a list of special guests and VIPs. The Director General of CERN, Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer, visited the stand and met the team during one of the soirées, and duly gave his approval! Many senior scientific figures who attended the soirées also made favorable comments about the exhibit and its message.

Most of the UK accelerator community was represented in what was a massive collaborative effort, with significant efforts from STFC staff via the Cockcroft Institute (which includes Lancaster, Manchester, Liverpool Universities and ASTeC), ISIS, the John Adams Institute (which includes the universities of Oxford, Royal Holloway and UCL), the DLS and CERN.

One of the highest-impact activities was the 3D virtual reality tour of the ALICE and EMMA accelerators at Daresbury. This allowed visitors to walk through the entire machines whilst examining them in detail, and greatly aided their understanding of how these machines work. The comment "awesome" or "fabulous" was often heard from the queue of school children who waited for the experience, and many visitors were surprised to learn that these cutting-edge machines were being developed in the United Kingdom.

The impact of the event is difficult to fully evaluate, but it is clear that we have demonstrated to the visitors that the UK is playing a leading role in particle accelerator development, and that their lives have already been improved by particle accelerators, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

"The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition has just closed, and I feel absolutely shattered, hoarse from talking, and yet strangely sad to see the end of such a fabulous week", said Lee Jones as the public reluctantly began to leave the exhibition hall.

Fri 21 August 2009

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