SciDi: Physics – Cyclotron
Music; Ambience: beeping, sounds of working in the laboratory
MK: “It is almost the end of our experiment here you can hear our beeper that lets us know that we have beam.”
JM: Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Micha Kilburn is a graduate student conducting nuclear physics research at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory. And as Micha explains, a cyclotron is not a robotic bike.
MK: “Words that have cyclo in it usual mean something round. So, a cyclotron is just a big round machine that makes particles, usually in our case, nuclei, go really, really fast in a circle, and then they add tron on the end to make it sound cool. So, we’re a national lab that takes atoms, like carbon, and we strip off all the electrons. Put them in a cyclotron that makes them go really, really fast in a circle and we spit them out, and we smash them and then we study what comes off.”
JM: Nuclear physics research has numerous applications including medicine, radiocarbon dating at archeological sites, and providing adequate protection for astronauts. But nuclear physicists are also trying to answer basic questions about the origins of the building blocks of life.
MK: “One of the big questions that we’re trying to answer at the lab is where did the elements come from. Now, we know that hydrogen and helium were made in the big bang, and we know that quite a few elements were made in stars burning, but there’s this whole range of elements that we’re pretty sure that they’re made in supernovas, that is when a star blows up. And we’re trying to figure out how it made it, how it ejected it, how it got here to be able to form earth and everything around us. Even ourselves, we’re all just made of stardust.”
JM: To check out our latest project, please visit kidsciencechallenge.com. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.