Shyne Mouledoux, 12, and his sister, Kaijia Mouledoux, 13, both of Baton Rouge, leaned in closer to Amanda Root, of ExxonMobil, while Root demonstrated an experiment Saturday that demystified invisibility.
“What do you know about invisibility?” Root asked the two during a demonstration at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s NanoDay event. “Do you think you can make something invisible?”
As the doubting youths traded glances, Root showed them how, due to the refracted index of materials, it is possible for an object to go unseen.
“That’s cool,” Shyne said as Root pulled one clear marble and one red marble from a glass of baby oil. Before taking the marbles out of the transparent fluid, both agreed that the glass had contained just one red marble.
By noon, more than 200 participants had engaged in similar activities during the Baton Rouge edition of the nationwide NanoDay festival held annually to celebrate the science of ultra-small matter. Conducted by scientists, engineers, and educators, the activities and demonstrations were designed to help both students and their parents explore the minuscule world of atoms, molecules, and nanoscale forces, Art Education Curator and NanoDay Coordinator Tammy Frazier said.
But for the museum staff and the volunteers who came out to help spread their passion for science, the event, now in its third year, is about making science fun.
“We just want to get the kids excited about science, and learn the basics of science,” Root said. “One day, they will be the ones who invent the invisibility coat.”
Zephra Bell, of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Livingston Parish, showed curious children and teenagers why, after it rains, they can sometimes see multiple colors that resemble rainbows in puddles of water.
The concept, known as thin-film interference, occurs when incident light waves reflected by the upper and lower boundaries of a thin film interfere with one another to form a new wave.
The same phenomenon occurred Saturday when youths placed pieces of black construction paper in a bowl of water and added a few drops of nail polish to the water. “It’s real simple at-home science,” Bell said.
Shyne and Kaijia’s mother, Helene Mouledoux, said the event helps promote interest in science and math to a generation that often lets technology, such as video games and cellphones, take precedence.
She said the hands-on activities provided to visitors “show science in their terms, and they can relate to it.”
Amy Tull, of Baton Rouge, attended NanoDay in hopes of introducing her two children, Aaron Tull, 3, and Anna Tull, 10 months, to science while the kids are still quite young.
Tull said she wanted to show various hands-on activities to her children because she wanted them to “know and appreciate that science is a part of our world.”
Participants at NanoDay also discovered the effects of nanoscience on society and the future with We Know NANO! as LSU professor John DiTusa talked about nanomagnets as a path to new computers, and viewed NanoCam: a Trip into Biodiversity, at the nearby Irene W. Pennington Planetarium.
Nanoscience is the study of matter ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers in size. A human hair, for example, is about 80,000 nanometers in width, organizers said.
Nanoscale science, engineering and technology is a new, interdisciplinary field of research and development. Just within the past couple of decades, scientists have created methods and tools that allow them to explore some of the most fundamental aspects of the natural world as well as to develop new materials and technologies.
NanoDays, organized by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, takes place nationally from March 30 through April 7. The community-based event, the largest public outreach effort in nanoscale informal science education, is celebrated at more than 200 science museums, research centers and universities across the nation.
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