This month, researchers took science from the Centre for Quantum Technologies to the Singapore Science Festival, participating in no fewer than three events.
Over the weekend 18-20 July, we were at Xperiment!, a science carnival in a mall. It's a local joke that shopping is a national sport of Singapore, so where better to find the crowds? CQT teamed up with the NUS Science Demo Lab to present an exhibit on light, looking at spectra and fluorescence. For younger kids, this meant seeing rainbows with spectroscopes (and building their own to take home). For older ones and their parents, a spectrometer and the fluorescence demo gave opportunities to talk about light being photons, how they are produced, and how light is central to CQT research.
"This year's festival was calling on kids to 'be the next rock star of science'. When you hear their oohs and ah-has at the exhibit, you wonder if that's where the influence will take them," says Jenny Hogan, CQT's outreach manger, who worked with Christian Kurtsiefer's group and other CQT volunteers on the event.
The following weekend, 26-27 July, we were at the Singapore Mini-Maker Faire. Held at a community centre and having a more indie flavour, this event showcases people and businesses sharing a DIY spirit. From 3D printers to papercraft, ceramics to robotics, the exhibit hosted an eclectic mix of talents. CQT researchers took along some experimental tools and a 'levitation' demonstration with a superconductor on a magnetic race track. Participation in this event was coordinated by CQT Research Fellow Nick Lewty and again involved members of the quantum optics group. Setting an example of transferable skills, CQT researchers were also participating at the Mini-Maker Faire at the stand for the Singapore Homebrew Club.
Last but not least, a CQT researcher took questions from school children at a movie-screening. A panel of people involved in space-related research answered questions from students who had just watched the film Gravity. Yau Yong Sean, an engineer working on CQT's satellite project in Alexander Ling's group, met with curiosity about many things. His favourite question, he says, was about the speed of objects in orbit. Far from being still, as it sometimes appears in movies, anything in orbit is zipping around the Earth at kilometres per second (and zipping round the sun at tens of kilometres per second as it follows Earth's orbit). Amazing, isn't it?