13 February 2008

Open House 2008: Get a positive charge out of science

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It's free. It's fun. It's for everyone!

It is the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory's annual open house, which pulls in thousands of positively charged people of all ages each year in search of scientific wonders.

This year's open house, "Science in Action," takes place Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the magnet lab's Innovation Park headquarters, 1800 E. Paul Dirac Drive.

The educational and fun-filled event offers a chance for the public to explore the record-breaking 45-tesla hybrid magnet and the 900-megahertz superconducting magnet, as well as other powerful research instruments. This year's event also offers visitors the first-ever look inside the lab's Applied Superconductivity Center (ASC), located across the street in the Shaw Building (if you're looking for the "Mag Lev" train this year, that's where you'll find it).

At both buildings – and at the Center for Applied Power Systems also in Innovation Park – exhibits and booths will line the hallways, featuring scientific explanations, hands-on demonstrations, and activities related to physics, chemistry and biology and more.

Among the attractions lined up for 2008:

  • Lighting in a bucket: Lab scientists teach visitors about lightning phenomenon such as St. Elmo's fire by constructing and operating an electrostatic generator using only running tap water and a few tin cans.
  • The incredible shrinking machine: Watch in amazement as a single-shot pulse magnet shrinks a quarter down to the size of a dime. After each demonstration, someone in the audience will win the shrunken quarter.
  • The S.S. Electricity & Magnetism: Check out a boat that is propelled through salt water using only electric current and a magnetic field.
  • Magnet War: This "erupting" demonstration will show how superconducting magnets save both energy and money compared to magnets made out of materials such as copper.

This year's Open House will mark the debut a series of talks on magnetism, electricity and superconductivity that are geared toward high school and college students and adults with an interest in science. With titles such as "The Shocking Truth about Electricity and Magnetism," and "What's so Super about Superconductivity?" returning Open House visitors are sure to learn something new. See schedule below.

Dozens of other community organizations from the area participate in the lab's Open House, including St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge, Mission San Luis and the Challenger Learning Center. Food will be for sale for those who want to make a day of it.

Inaugural Open House Lecture Series

All talks will take place in the B101 conference room, right inside the main entrance.

The Shocking Truth about Electricity and Magnetism (10:30-11 a.m.)

Turns out, electricity and magnetism are related – so related that you can't have one without the other. Learn about the interplay between electricity and magnetism, from the earliest understandings hundreds of years ago to the latest research on the continuing mysteries.
Speaker: Greg Boebinger, director, National High Magnetic Field Laboratory

Magnets: From Mini to Mighty (11:30–noon)

There's a lot more to magnets than you think. This talk features a rundown of magnet types, uses and strengths, explained in a way that will help make the facts stick.
Speaker: Mark Bird, director, Magnet Science & Technology group

What's So Super about Superconductivity? (1:00-1:30 p.m.)

From MRI machines to high field magnets, this "frictionless electricity" is changing our world. Learn about the physics and potential applications of superconductivity.
Speaker: David Larbalestier, director, Applied Superconductivity Center

The Pull of High-Field Magnets (2:00-2:30 p.m.)

Learn why more than 900 scientists from around the world visit the Mag Lab each year – and what they hope to discover while they are here.
Speaker: Eric Palm, director, DC Field User Program