Research & Innovation Information Centre
Public Awareness of Nuclear Science
All too often nuclear technology is associated with atomic blasts, accidents and radioactive pollution. But at the heart of every atom in the universe there is a nucleus, and understanding the properties of nuclei unleashes enormous potential: it's how we choose to harness this potential that can lead to controversy.
The objective of PANS (Public Awareness of Nuclear Science) was to establish a European-wide network for communicating information on positive achievements, techniques and diverse applications of nuclear physics to the general public.
The network comprises a group of about 23 nuclear scientists from all over Europe. A number of specific activities were developed, aiming at:
• Secondary school pupils and teachers
The project’s leading achievement was the successful book “Nucleus - A Trip into the Heart of Matter” published in 2001 (Canopus and John Hopkins University Press in the US).
“Nucleus ” – The book that provides a trip into the heart of matter
The nucleus is the unimaginably tiny object which lies at the centre of every atom. It is the very heart of matter. Nuclear reactions in the Sun provide us with all the heat and light we need to survive on Earth, and nuclear science plays a key role in medicine, in industry and in our understanding of the world. The elements of which we and everything that surrounds us are made are the result of nuclear processes.
Nevertheless, the significance of the nucleus and nuclear physics is often swamped by negative connotations.
The book Nucleus, A Trip Into the Heart of Matter provides a clear and fascinating account of how a century of extraordinary discoveries has revealed the secrets of the world of the nucleus, and how nuclear science plays a key role in the daily lives of all of us.
In addition to the English original it was translated into six European languages.
Nuclear science in action
While the main aim of PANS (Public Awareness of Nuclear Science) was to help European citizens understand better the beneficial impact of nuclear science research and technology on their daily lives, the sister project PANS Expo set out to show nuclear science in action.
Three exhibitions highlighting the collaborative nature of the development of nuclear sciences in Europe were therefore launched during the European Science Week in November 2000. These exhibitions, which took place in Paris (France), Wiesbaden (Germany) and Milan (Italy), were aimed at the general public, but with a particular focus on secondary school students and their teachers.
The presentations were adapted specifically to this audience and during the exhibitions the three sites were electronically connected in order to give an idea of the way in which scientists use computers to exchange their data and information.
The active participation of school classes and visitors was stimulated through simple interactive measurements of natural radioactivity and cosmic rays.
A virtual representation of the exhibitions is available on CD-ROM.
Radioactivity in the Universe, Radioactivity and Life, Radioactivity at work.
NUPEX Nuclear Physics Experience
All that matters
Building on their success with PANS (Public Awareness of Nuclear Science) and PANS Expo, many of the original collaborators went on to create a web-based science communication system (webSCS) which carries factual and topical information about the various uses of nuclear science.
Focusing on primary and secondary level students, it involves the participation of teachers both as science communicators and as multipliers. It is prepared in accordance with national teaching plans and the needs expressed by teachers.
As a bonus, the site has a broad appeal to the general public as well and most of the material is available in eight European languages.