Yesterday was my first day in Physics area 2, wave phenomena. I have to explain how sound waves work, the photosphere, and a spark chamber. The exhibits are really spread apart, but I gave it a try going back and forth between them, but I ended up staying by the spark chamber most of the time because it lacked good explanation. At one point, a little boy came up and started watching all of the different sparks in the chamber. When I offered to explain it to him and he ran away behind his mother. She came up and asked for an explanation. As I talked to her, he shyly came up from behind her and continued to watch the different sparks. When I told him he was watching bits of cosmic rays, he gave me the most serious and horrified face in the world, and ran in the opposite direction. The mother looked at me in all seriousness and told me that I’d scared him, and went off in the other direction! I couldn’t believe it!
Later on, I had a chemical engineer that I talked to for quite a while educate me on what the different particles in the spark chamber were, for example, I had no clue that muons were so similar to electrons, fitting in the same category of leptons! It was really fascinating to get his point of view on what he thought was interesting about the exhibit and hearing a bit more about what I was presenting.
Then, I happened to bump into a Physicist designing a museum in Brazil who mentioned that each of the exhibits should have more explanation, like the Explainer’s Programme in the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I finally found someone that kew about the programme, but it also showed that we definitely need more advertising as to who we are and what we do, or we just look like random overseers in the museum. He also gave me some information on some of the other Physics sections, including information that was not on any of the panels on the walls.
Finally, about 30 minutes to the end of my shift, after having explained the spark chamber to another visitor, he told me that he was a Pharmacist with a deep interest in Particle Physics and chemistry! It turns out he also had a lot of information to share and a lot to discuss… I felt so lucky having met so many professionals at the museum yesterday, especially since it was my first day! Well, at least not I will be a bit more experienced when talking to the other customers next week.
‘Till next time!