Open Day at the Aussietron

Today was the annual Australian Synchrotron open day. On show were eight beamlines, some which have been fully operational for a long time time now, like powder diffraction, and others which are still in the process of coming online, like medical imaging. In addition, there was an accelerator physics display with models of the storage ring and the bending magnets. There were a huge number of volunteers present too (hey organisers, next year give the volunteers properly fitting shirts!).

Bending Magnet

Bending magnet, with quadrupole (red), dipole (yellow) and sextapole (green).

The videos accompanying each beamline were particularly good. Most of the beamline scientists were adept at describing the potential uses of their instruments, and the movies were short enough to hold your attention. The beamline staff also appeared to be very proud of their instruments (which of course, they should be – some of these scientists built their instruments from the ground up with their own two hands) and I think a fair amount of time had gone into tidying and presentation of the experimental areas.

If the number of people in attendance is anything to go by then surely the Australian Synchrotron open day was a resounding success. There were people of all ages from primary school-aged children, to the elderly. I even saw a number of teenagers who were sufficiently distracted by the awesome science to have the looks of perpetual boredom wiped off their faces. I suspect that the majority of those who attended were not professional scientists like myself and Other Half, simply members of the public with a healthy interest in science.

And this is what I find so encouraging. What is it about the Synchrotron that draws the people in? Other Half and I didn’t live in Victoria during the construction and commissioning period, maybe the government really pushed the publicity at the time? It’s got to be more than the cool-sounding name, even though the word ‘synchrotron’ is one that prompts questions and curiosity. There is genuine interest out there over and above the media-friendly stories like “How Synchrotron Science Confirmed What Killed Phar Lap” that are trotted out (pun intended) time and time again.  I don’t believe their interest is restricted to synchrotron science, the Australian public want more accessible science and I feel it is up to us, the scientists to  provide it.



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