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Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bubbles, bosons and unexplained biology

Did you know that if you hit a bubble with enough sound, you can make it implode, emitting UV light in the process? 

Because I didn't! The phenomenon is known as sonoluminescence, and since we can't measure the conditions within the bubble directly, but must infer them from the nature of the emitted light, the mechanism behind it is still a topic of debate. This is just one of the things I've been writing about this past week. I had a very productive chat with Dr. Kevin Donovan where he explained some of the difficulties in measuring this effect, and hence attempting to understand the physics behind it. 

Earlier in the week I met with Prof. Steve Lloyd, to consider the question of why there are three generations of matter and to help me understand why the Higgs Boson is important, and what further questions it's tentative discovery raises. In fact we will be posting a guest blog by Prof. Lloyd on the Higgs Boson next week! I also talked with Dr. Theo Kreouzis, who introduced me to Organic Magnetoresistance, which has a number of competing explanatory theories, as well as pointing me in the direction of some more very useful people to speak to.

Last Sunday I visited the Royal Society summer exhibition and spoke to a number of exhibitors who suggested interesting questions I might look at, such as “why do scorpions glow in ultra-violet light?”, and “how can we build a large quantum computer?” It was great to see how others approach science communication and the variety of ways they were engaging people's interest, with demonstrations, interactive exhibits and games. I definitely felt that as with most science communication I have experienced, the exhibits focussed on what science has taught us, and the unanswered questions were not at the forefront. This re-affirmed my desire to convey the sheer volume of mystery that exists within our understanding of the universe.

Ed has been back in the UK this week, and it has been very helpful to get some face-to-face feedback on how the work has been going. We met with Claire from SEPnet on Wednesday at the TWDK offices in The Hub to discuss my internship and I was really pleased with what came out of the meeting. I would thoroughly recommend working in science communication to any scientific student as a way of broadening their knowledge of front-line research beyond their own field. If anyone's interesting in getting involved in Things We Don't Know in the same way I am get in touch - contact@thingswedontknow.com