By KATHLEEN LAUFENBERG
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Want to see candy being made the same way as high-tech superconducting wire is — and then eat some of the tasty treat? Or don a helmet and a light and crawl through a simulated cave full of stalagmites? Or check out 3D printers? Or enjoy a scoop of “Einstein’s ice cream,” whipped up using a vat of smoldering liquid nitrogen?
You can do all that and more at the MagLab’s Open House on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s Tallahassee’s biggest family science event of the year — and it’s free. But please bring a canned good to donate to the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Big Bend.
“This is a great, fun way to get kids of all ages interested in science,” said Greg Boebinger, the MagLab’s director. “We’ll have something of interest for everyone, and we’ll have some of the world’s best scientists here, volunteering their time, running demonstrations and answering people’s questions. It’s an incredible opportunity for families to come out and experience new things together.”
More than 80 demonstrations will be simultaneously underway at the MagLab during Open House. All you need to do is grab a lab program-map, peruse the list of demos and their locations, then go see and do what appeals to you most. You can launch a potato from a cannon and calculate its speed and distance; create a huge smoke ring; watch a giant magnet smash stuff; or see how fast you can run using a radar gun.
This year, you’ll have more demonstrations than ever to choose from — including visiting a giant wind tunnel — because three of the MagLab’s Levy Street neighbors are also holding open houses on the same day and time. They are the Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS), the High-Performance Materials Institute (HPMI) and the Aeropropulsion Mechatronics & Energy Center (AME). In all, you’ll have more than 100 science demonstrations, experiments, tours, displays and encounters to choose from during this mega Open House day.
For 19 years, the MagLab’s scientists and engineers have been dreaming up ways to playfully showcase their high-tech tools, materials and some of the scientific principles they use daily. For example, the lab annually uses about 2.3 million liters (609,000 gallons) of liquid nitrogen, a cryogenic substance that keeps experiments super cold. But during Open House, scientist Hans van Tol will instead use some of the lab’s liquid nitrogen to whip up batches of “Einstein’s ice cream.” Using the liquid nitrogen allows van Tol to make this creamy treat in minutes rather than hours.
In another area of the lab, you can launch a toroidal vortex. Or (in plain English) you can aim a huge smoke ring (which, as a giant circulating mass of air and smoke, is technically a toroidal vortex) at a candle, and see if you can blow it out. Or you might prefer to watch as a quarter is shrunk to the size of a dime. The shrinking quarter machine was created by MagLab staff, and it employs the power of magnetic forces to demonstrate a basic law of physics — Newton’s Third Law, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Down the street, at CAPS, you also have a chance to build a mini-motor and take it home with you, as well as learn about smart energy grids and the future of Navy ships. Across from CAPS, at HPMI, you can tour the labs. And at AME, check out the cool robots and don’t forget to see the wind tunnels.
You’re sure to get hungry during your stay, so head to the MagLab’s outdoor food-truck food court, in the parking lot of the lab’s front atrium entrance. There, you will find a giant outdoor grill where you can buy regular and vegetarian burgers and hot dogs, as well as four food trucks: Fired Up Pizza, M.E. Tasty Tacos, Street Chefs and Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery.
The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is the world’s largest and highest-powered magnet facility. Located at Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the interdisciplinary National MagLab hosts scientists from around the world to perform basic research in high magnetic fields, advancing our understanding of materials, energy and life. The lab is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR-1157490) and the state of Florida. For more information, visit us online at nationalmaglab.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at NationalMagLab.