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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Atomic Model of a Quazicrystal Surface
Dr. Dan Shechtman, similar to the quazicrystals he discovered, isn’t afraid to be different. Despite years of ridicule and harsh skepticism from his peers, Dr. Shechtman received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2011 for the discovery of quaziperiodic crystals or quazicrystals.

Quazicrystals, unlike conventional crystals, lack symmetry in their ordered atomic structure. Prior to Shechtman’s discovery, it was widely accepted in the scientific community that repetition in atom packing inside crystals was necessary for their very existence. It wasn’t until the morning of April 8th, 1982 that Shechtman would unearth an image that would prompt him to ask the scientific community to follow him down the quazicrystal rabbit hole.

Dan Shechtman Ph.D.
The seemingly impossible image Shechtman exposed was that of a crystal with an arrangement of atoms that were not in repetition, similar to that of aperiodic mosaics. The discovery triggered oodles of uproar causing Shechtman’s own research team to ask him to ask him to leave the group.

Ultimately the scientific community had to re-evaluate their understanding of solid matter as other scientists obtained quazicrystals in the lab as well as discovered them naturally. Quazicrystals may have applications in diesel engines and frying pans but more importantly for use as a reminder that with an inquiring mind questioning the impossible might win you a Nobel Prize.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yelena Lacey and daughter Alexie explore the
peculiar effects of liquid nitrogen
Over 1000 kids and parents flooded the field at the University Charter Middle School on October 21st for the third annual CI Science Carnival. Eager to learn about science and math in this hands-on Halloween themed event, kids were able to experience the effects of liquid nitrogen while enjoying cotton candy and the bending of light while they munched popcorn. 
Ashley Reyes learns about how fossils are made 
at the “Prints from the Past” demonstration

“Events like the Science Carnival show kids that science and math can be fun,” said Dr. Philip Hampton, coordinator of the Carnival for the past three years. He went on to say that “too often kids are told that these subjects are hard and, as a result, they can get discouraged from viewing themselves as being able to succeed at them.” I’m happy to report that the kids at the carnival were anything but discouraged.
Tori Hoge prepares to launch a marshmallow
using a compressed air gun
Currently, a five-year Department of Education Hispanic Serving Institutions grant funds the Science Carnival. With attendance for the event skyrocketing year after year it is Dr. Hamptons hope that the event will continue to grow and eventually become sustainable though building partnerships within the community.

Theodore Parra stares in awe at the splitting of 
light through his diffraction grating glasses
While some of the science behind the demonstrations and experiments might be difficult for the kids to understand, Dr. Hampton assures that “by being exposed to these subjects in a fun setting, they can also see that while the subjects might be challenging, they can also be incredibly rewarding.” It doesn’t take a mad scientist to know that’s a lesson worth learning.