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Particle Physics and Pony Fiction Experimentalist

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Finland, Cruise Ships, and Bioluminescent Algae · 1:20pm Apr 19th, 2019

Just returned from a week in my current favourite country Finland, where I went to a ShowScience workshop in Turku. I was travelling with a large suitcase full of physics toys. Just the basics: cloud chamber, silicon detector, radioactive objects, Lego kits, LHC posters; as well as an electron, proton, positron, Z boson; up, down, top, bottom, strange and anti-charm quark plushies; and laptop loaded with virtual model of ATLAS detector. I was very restrained in my packing compared to some participants. I didn’t bring any liquid nitrogen, or explosives, or anything on the Finnair List of Restricted Items (unless you count a very small bottle of isopropanol that somehow ended up in my case – but that hardly counts).

As we were staying in tiny cabins in a hostel in an old steam ship, this led to a few On the Road to Friendship -like moments - trying to find my toothbrush among boxes of soft toys, Lego bricks, particle detectors, and other essential kit. ‘Show Science’ is a very Trixie activity. Although some of us would insist Twilight Sparkle is best pony and we are doing serious science education stuff, a lot of it is about sharing tips for how to get the audience’s attention and make the best stage explosions. I gave my presentation on Particle Physics Public Engagement activities, and then gave the audience my six minutes on how to communicate science with My Little Pony fanfiction, which they loved. My quest to educate pony fans about science and the science communication world about ponies continues.

This ended with SciCruise – a floating trilingual science festival on the Turku-Stockholm ferry, where I learnt a few new things. Including about the bioluminescent microalgae Alexandrium ostenfeldii found in the Baltic Sea. Evidently what Twilight was talking about in Spring Breakdown.

Twilight Sparkle: What you saw was probably nothing more than an innate phosphorescent biochemical property of common algae.

While not exactly the Evil Magic preferred by Rainbow Dash, this toxic organism is a more serious environmental hazard than Twilight appears to realize. “Across the globe this glowing seaweed has historically caused the deaths of sea birds, marine mammals and even humans."

I also learnt more about cruising on visiting the Meyer Turku shipyard where they build really huge cruise ships (now limited only by the height of the Danish bridge they must pass under to escape the Baltic). For their next project, the customer wants a ship with a roller coaster on top. I wonder if those who thought the petting zoo on Spring Breakdown was a plot contrivance too far may have not entirely appreciated how flexible and crazy this industry can be.

I am also very happy to be able to return home still a European citizen. The Brexit war of attrition continues. Meanwhile there is the exciting story of imaging a black hole, and a new season of Friendship is Magic to enjoy.

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Comments ( 25 )

electron, proton, positron, Z boson; up, down, top, bottom, strange and anti-charm quark plushies

How would you even. . .

Could you perhaps create sharable data files containing 2-d visual representations of these items with some manner of imaging device, and upload them to this comment thread?

Fascinating to hear that that petting zoo doesn't even qualify as far-fetched for cruise ships. Also, I had no idea glowing seaweed was so deadly. :twilightoops:

Author Interviewer

Particle zoo, particle zoo, doin' the things a particle do! :D

5046397 I see what you did there.

That's the theme from Zooboomafoo, isn't it.

I understand the specifications for any new project are drawn up after extensive discussions to strike a balance between what the customer is dreaming of, and what the builder can actually do. Which raises the question of what the client suggested to which the shipbuilder replied "How about a petting zoo?".

I think there is more than one species of glowing algae. They are not all toxic, but the one that makes news in the Gulf of Finland is.

5046397 5046402
Do you have one that rhymes with quark?

I think it’s really cool that you do all these sciencey things with your sciencey pals. Keep it up!

I'm picturing the poor customs guy who gets to deal with a whole line of physics geeks and their toys.

"Sir, what does this do?"

"It detects the polarity of anti-quarks in a neutral ion stream when intersecting a depleted uranium target."

(pause) "Move on."

Just try to stop me. :pinkiehappy:

Customs guys are fine. It's airport security who are a real nuisance and won't let us take our custom-made muon spectrometers as carry-on baggage. It's silly. What are they afraid of?

"Stop! Nobody move! I'm hijacking this plane. Do whatever I say or I'll tell you the precise energy of the cosmic ray muon flux inside this cabin!"

Considering that we developed the detector technology inside their fancy scanners, you would think they would be a bit more grateful and accommodating.

Whee! Glad to hear you enjoyed Finland; this is a pretty nice country. :twilightsmile:

They been looking at using butterfly iridecence scales as quantum physical coloureants becase they dont fade, but has anyone been looking at strains of non toxic flourescent algae to see if they make a surface or tankage treatment bright enough t replicate whole room illumination?

What would be weird, is that if it turns out that due to electric charge being movement in the 4th dimention, that neutrinos were perfect 3D flatlanders, only having a 4th dimentional componant for interaction due to their energy, uncertainty componant? Then in your models, they wouldne be plushes, but thin plastic placemats? :derpytongue2:

Author Interviewer

I hate you so much right now. :|

Author Interviewer

You know what you did >:V

Finland is an easy country to fall in love with.

Some discussion of possible applications here: https://theconversation.com/what-is-bioluminescence-and-how-is-it-used-by-humans-and-in-nature-100472

Author Interviewer
Author Interviewer

Well, I don't hate you no more, at least... :B

5046662 Well, I'm glad of that, anyway.

5046850 Oh, we pretty much always have been.

We just get a bit silly from time to time.

I request pictures of the plushies!

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