Physicists explore Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

On 16 January, Block 4 and 5 physicists visited the Appleton Rutherford Laboratory. The day really gave an insight in to life at the lab, and for those of us considering science as a career it was very enlightening. We looked at the huge neutron microscope, the cryogenics labs, the space centre and the computer data rooms. It was a freezing cold morning but everyone was buzzing with excitement. This lab is one of the top science labs in the UK and we were allowed to spend the day exploring it.

In the visitors’ centre we enjoyed using plasma balls, model hydrogen cars, lasers and microscopes. Then we were split into groups to look around the site with a tour guide. We were taken to the ISIS neutron microscope, where they look at the structure of objects, from ancient artifacts to the minute structure of crystals.

We were also treated to a talk on the electromagnetic spectrum run by charity Science Oxford. The talk was really interesting, focusing on how visible light can help us tell what elements make up stars (by the colors of the rays they give off), and how sun cream works. We used a thermal imaging camera which used infrared to find out our body temperatures. There are some igneous applications of infrared, such as seeing stars and planets that are in a dust cloud and so cannot be seen by visible light.

We also looked at the Space Centre (ISIC), which can control two satellites and is one of the main space centres in the UK; the 3D projector, where an image of a satellite can be created and people can walk through it and look at it; and their spark room, where ideas for new space-based companies are produced. This room also had a state of the art touch screen table which was awesome.

After lunch my group visited the cryogenics laboratory, where we explored all the uses of super cool material, such as really steady space images and super conductors.  Other groups looked at the banks of computers in the storage rooms. The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is the main centre in the UK which receives information from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. This takes a huge amount of memory (along with the information produced by the labs themselves) and so the computer centre is huge.

After we had finished the tours for the day there was a fantastic display using liquid nitrogen where batteries, phones, flowers and balloons were all frozen. However, at minus 196 degrees Celsius it would not be something I would want to do at home!

Overall the day was awesome. Thanks to Tobias we were given a real treat of being allowed to look around one of the top labs in the UK and it made things we had learnt in lessons seem more relevant to the real technological advances in the real world!

By Juliette Perry, Block 5

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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