Pure science = pure fun at Fermilab open house

  • Lilly Hattrem, 6, and her brother Carter, 8, of Oswego, watch an experiment Sunday at the annual Fermilab Family Open House. The atrium was filled with hands-on experiments for kids.

    Lilly Hattrem, 6, and her brother Carter, 8, of Oswego, watch an experiment Sunday at the annual Fermilab Family Open House. The atrium was filled with hands-on experiments for kids. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Vera Graver, 5, and Krithik Prasad, 6, both of Naperville, try an experiment Sunday at the annual Fermilab Family Open House. They spent a lot of time in the physics carnival, in the atrium of Wilson Hall, experimenting. Krithik said he wants to be a scientist when he grows up.

    Vera Graver, 5, and Krithik Prasad, 6, both of Naperville, try an experiment Sunday at the annual Fermilab Family Open House. They spent a lot of time in the physics carnival, in the atrium of Wilson Hall, experimenting. Krithik said he wants to be a scientist when he grows up. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 2/9/2015 5:41 AM

Fermilab proved Sunday that pure science could be pure fun at its annual Family Open House that drew thousands to Wilson Hall on the Batavia campus.

Supported in part by Fermilab Friends for Science Education, the day featured tours of the linear accelerator/main control room and live presentations, including a journey through cosmic structure. Visitors also had the opportunity to ask questions of Fermilab scientists.

 

While there were plenty of highly technical demonstrations, visitors also had the chance to enjoy some entertainment, courtesy of Jerry Zimmerman, aka "Mr. Freeze." Zimmerman demonstrated that cryogenics can be cool in more ways than one by showing the effects of liquid nitrogen when placed in various containers, resulting in popping plastic bags and flying bottles.

Zimmerman, who spoke with a rapid-fire delivery, set off a few puns as well, referring to a dog-shaped balloon used in the demonstration as a "chilly dog."

Young visitors like Krithik Prasad of Naperville were inspired.

"I want to be a scientist," he said.

The event quickened the curiosity of adults as much as children.

Anne Haas of Warrenville expressed wonder after speaking with one of the scientists about neutrinos, one of the fundamental particles of the universe.

"It's happening all of the time. We don't even think about these things, but they are all around us, they are interacting with us, and we know so little about it," she said. "It's fun to come here and try to understand it."

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Stefano Tognini, a scientist from Brazil here working on his doctorate, said "pure science" is how inventions come about. For example, he said the work of 19th Century scientist James Clerk Maxwell in the area of electromagnetism led to such practical creations as radio, television and the mobile phone.

Fermilab scientist Phil Adamson, who lives in Naperville but is originally from the United Kingdom, said his peers have as much fun with the annual family day as the kids who visit.

"The general concept, I think, a lot of people get," he said. "We have had really smart questions from members of the public from all walks of life, whether they are science teachers with a scientific background or whether they are guys who drive trucks for a living."

Along with the professionals, high school science students from Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park were giving demonstrations.

"We don't usually get to use what we learn in physics," Sandburg student Craig Santo said. "So it's kind of the first time we get to test all of this out for ourselves, too."

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