17 October 2011

Culture Night at NBI – is this a rock concert here?

Is this a rock concert? – no, it is actually the queue to get in and listen to a physics lecture on ‘Theories of the Very Smallest’ with Holger Beck Nielsen. The popular physics professor attracted hundreds of guests and his lectures had to be repeated in order not to disappoint the many attendees.

Many visitors there were indeed for this year’s Culture Night, when the Niels Bohr Institute once again opened its doors for a festive mix of physics and play. The nearly three thousand guests in attendance could experience many interesting physics offerings – from the nanotechnology of the future to hot news from CERN and the early evolution of the universe. A new programme item this year was the popular “stand-up physics”, where the institute’s physicists, with a twinkle in their eyes, answered questions from the audience and competed to provide the best answer.

Soap bubbles filled with gas is set on fire.

For several of the guests this was not the first time they had visited the Niels Bohr Institute on Culture Night: “This is the third year in a row that I have come here – and it is probably not the last. I just think the lectures are so inspiring”, said an older physics fan. “It is really exciting when science becomes almost philosophical and your worldview is challenged”, said a smiling woman who had taken her two teenage kids along with to the lecture on “The Dark Universe” with the astrophysicist Anja Andersen.

Physics for fun
But it was not only the adults who had the chance to experience the world of physics. The younger guests could visit ‘The Scientific Playroom’ and live the dream as mad scientists as they set fire to soap bubbles, fired off smoke pistols and froze marshmallows in liquid nitrogen. In a large tent there was experimenting with microwaves, sound and fire – all to make physics fun and relevant for the many young Culture Night visitors.

There were full houses at all lectures.

In another corner of the Niels Bohr Institute, the youngest visitors were queuing up to gaze up at the starry sky through a large telescope. They could also learn how to build their own telescope and they could answer questions about astronomy and get a Junior Astronomer Diploma.

There was also an open house in the basement of the institute and the many guests could visit the big freezer where the ice cores from the Greenland ice sheet are stored. In the basement below Blegdamesvej they could also see the quantum physics laboratories where the institute’s physicists send laser light around using mirrors in order to hold atoms examine them at ultra cold temperatures close to absolute zero, minus 273 degrees. All in all, this year’s Culture Night was a resounding success.