Science up close: My experience

I don’t talk much about what I do between the hours of my average weekday, mostly because I am not really into mixing work life with personal. But over the weekend and for the first time in around 15 years my place of work opened its doors for the general public.

Now if you work in retail that isn’t so special but where I work is the very forefront of cutting edge science.

Science up close was an event that took place at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire this past Saturday. This was my first real experience, like many, of dealing with members of the public, who I can say were thankfully enthusiastic and wanted to listen to what I had to say. With anything that is half the battle, whether you are selling a book, or performing on stage, if the audience don’t want to be there, well the struggle is real.

To me this was a first because wherever I have tried to engage large numbers of people to gain their interest, it has been me trying to interest them. But before the doors opened these enthusiastic and somewhat curious group wanted to be there. Curiosity and questions is the very pinnacle of what science is. Finding the answer is sometimes the outcome.

Throughout the laboratory site there were many displays happening, mine in particular consisted of a high voltage electronic area within the central laser facility. This particular area known as the Vulcan Capacitor Bank (yes Vulcan, but there wasn’t a captain Kirk in sight, honest), powered the Vulcan laser. Now this laser is damn powerful and one of a kind. In fact so powerful, it’s unit of measurement is in Petawatts (1015 Watts).

So the capacitor bank works by charging up high levels of electricity and then discharging them through a flash lamp which in effect amplifies the Guinness world record holding laser.


A flash lamp in operation

It’s surprising how much you know that the general public will find interesting. This is an area which I spend my work time, carrying out repairs and thinking of not much else. Whereas the public and even staff set their eyes upon this set up for the first time and looked in awe.

The range of people visiting consisted of young kids who were interested in visual science to older fellows who had worked with electronics or science in their lifetime.

Overall my experience with the public visiting my place of work was a positive one. Early reports are suggesting the whole day went really well and around 15,000 people came to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

It’s important that we have days like this, to inspire the future scientists who will equip us for this ever changing world.

me at work

Me at work in the Vulcan capacitor bank (blue cases are the caps) this area was open to the public






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