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Stockholm ‘erupts’ with activity for European Researchers’ Night

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Utbrott Pa Lava


Thousands flocked to the science extravaganza organised by the ‘Lava’ cultural and social centre in Stockholm (SE) in honour of European Researchers’ Night. ‘Utbrott pa Lava’, literally ‘Eruption at Lava’, was an unprecedented success, attracting an audience of nearly 3000 to its exciting and full programme of demonstrations and challenges.

A mini volcano erupts in the square outside Lava © Vetenskap & Allmänhet
© Vetenskap & Allmänhet
Experience a volcano first hand, see your own brain in action or learn the secrets of lying on a bed of nails. These were just some of the events that attracted so many to the ”Utbrott pa Lava” science extravaganza. “Our aim was to give young people a chance to experience research first-hand and meet researchers in a new and informal setting. We are overwhelmed and delighted that so many wanted to be a part of this day – both young people and researchers,” said Camilla Modéer, secretary general of the Swedish Science and Society Association (Vetenskap & Allmänhet), who initiated and coordinated the event.

The name was chosen in honour of a spectacular mini volcano that ‘erupted’ in the square outside Lava six times during the course of the day. The geologists who constructed and supervised the volcano were on hand to explain to the gathering crowds how and why volcanic eruptions occur. Many people on their way home in the Friday rush hour stopped in surprise to watch the spectacle and enjoy the lava-coloured soft drinks that were being handed round.

Staffan Yngve lying on a bed of nails © Vetenskap & Allmänhet
© Vetenskap & Allmänhet
Another major attraction was Staffan Yngve, senior lecturer in theoretical physics at Uppsala University, who entertained the crowds with his ‘Science Show’, the high point of which was a spectacular bed-of-nails performance. Concrete blocks weighing 30 kg were placed on Dr Yngve’s chest as he lay on a bed of nails. A volunteer was then asked to hit the blocks hard with a sledgehammer until they broke – to the horror and astonishment of the audience.

A win-win situation

The interest of the general public was very clear, but organisers were also taken by surprise at the level of attention and motivation it elicited from the scientific community. “At first we expected we would have to persuade researchers to take part in this event, but instead we were approached by researchers asking to participate,” said Esther Crooks, event coordinator.

Researchers came with a wide range of amazing exhibits, from the latest mobile phone games to robot programming, how to solve Sudoku puzzles, eye-tracking equipment and much more. New mobile phone services were demonstrated, and a model of a neutrino telescope, based in the depths of Antarctica and used to give us information about the universe, was on display. In the amazing ‘Brain Mirror’, visitors could see pictures of their own brain superimposed on a mirror image of themselves. Other highlights of the day included how to make a ‘bath bomb’, crime solving with DNA and creepy crawlies, making ice-cream with liquid nitrogen or learning to relax your brain with MindBall.

A little boy looking through a microscope © Vetenskap & Allmänhet
© Vetenskap & Allmänhet
On a calmer note, researchers and young people also had the opportunity to participate in open debates, in a relaxed and informal setting, on a range of topical issues, including: why are Swedes getting fatter; how can we effectively treat depression; what can laser light be used for; what will come after mobile phones and the Internet; and how will the climate change in the future. In contrast to traditional scientific meetings, these debates were led by the young people themselves, who also determined the topics for discussion.

The event was seen as a great success on all sides, bringing researchers and the public together in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. The possibility of making it an annual occurrence is now being considered.

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