Outreach Event: I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!
4 June 2015
Prof Lidunka Vočadlo will be joining the Extreme Force Zone to answer students’ questions. Event runs: 15 -26th of June. ‘I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here!’ is an online event where school students get to meet and interact with real scientists. It’s an X Factor-style competition between the scientists, where the students are the judges. Students submit questions which the scientists will try to answer by the next day. Students then have live online Facebook-style chats with the scientists, where they ask questions, learn more about the scientists, and let scientists know their opinions. It takes place online over a two week period.
The Extreme Force Zone: In this zone there are scientists who research what happens when we look at forces in extreme conditions and strange situations. One scientist looks at how distant galaxies collide under their huge gravitational forces, another at what the core of the earth is like deep beneath our feet at massive pressures and temperatures, and one wants to find out if the sun and other stars experience star-quakes. One scientist is thinking about how sub-atomic particles behave when you make them as cold as possible, and another is using lasers and the electromagnetic force to defend aircraft from attack.
Why do the scientists do that?
It’s a unique, fun way of developing communication skills, gaining a fresh perspective on your research, and finding out what young people think about science and the role of scientists.
I try to work out what is going on in the Earth’s core and in the cores of the terrestrial planets, e.g. Mercury. The Earth’s core (and those of other terrestrial planets) is made mainly of iron. I use computer simulations to calculate the properties of iron, and iron alloys, in order to find out what happens when you heat them up to 6000 degrees and squash them to 3.5 million times atmospheric pressure. On a computer I set up a box of atoms and calculate the energetics of the atoms, from which many useful properties can be worked out. The only real observations of the Earth’s core come from seismic waves propagating through the Earth after earthquakes. My job is to try to find materials with calculated velocities which match those from seismology. When we get this right, we will know something about the composition and evolution of the Earth and other planets, such as Mercury.
Lidunka is the 2nd member of our department who is participating in this type of challenge. Our PhD student, Rehemat Bhatia participated in “I’m a Geoscientist, get me out of here!” , in the Earth Zone during June 2014. Rehemat studies the geochemistry of Eocene age planktonic foraminifera to understand more about their palaeoecology.