Science on show for summer

Research at Edinburgh is featured in a summer showcase of pioneering science from across the UK.

Three teams from the University are contributing to exhibits at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition in London.

Physicists from the University have helped create an interactive exhibit focusing on the next chapter of research in particle physics.

This follows the discovery of the Higgs boson, a particle predicted in the 1960s by Edinburgh scientist Peter Higgs, which was recently found by scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Hands-on science

Visitors to the installation can see a pinball table demonstrate how particles spin inside atoms, and can use new-found physics to balance the mass of the sub-atomic Higgs particle.

Edinburgh physicists enjoy strong links with CERN.

They will be involved in the next phase of experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which is being upgraded to operate at higher energy, producing more data for analysis.

Galaxy mapping

Astronomers at Edinburgh have contributed to an exhibit about a satellite that is mapping our galaxy in 3D.

Visitors can learn about the Gaia mission, which was launched last year, and get hands-on with spacecraft components and the controls of a telescope.

The Gaia satellite will observe a billion stars using a billion-pixel video camera, enabling astronomers to determine the origin and evolution of the galaxy.

It will also map the inner solar system, and is hoped to uncover tens of thousands of previously unseen objects, including asteroids, planets and supernovae.

Scientists at Edinburgh are creating calibration software to help process data from Gaia.

Monitoring storms

Closer to home, crucial insights into Earth’s global atmosphere are being made by Edinburgh geoscientists, with the help of aircraft.

Researchers are taking part in a collaboration using three research planes to study the impact of storms in the West Pacific.

These natural phenomena are known to carry airborne chemicals into the stratosphere, which affects the ozone layer, and also impacts on weather systems such as El Nino and the jet stream.

Airborne surveys

The planes, which were based in Guam in the western Pacific, sampled air over vast areas at up to 20km altitude.

Scientists are using the results to learn how air moves in western Pacific storms, and how this influences the composition of the upper atmosphere.

Visitors to this exhibit can learn about scientists’ experiences of their field campaign, including the challenges of working on research aircraft, as well as learning about tropical storms.

The exhibition runs from 1-6 July at the Royal Society in London. Entry is free and open to all.