Day out with quantum tech

22 December 2015 | EducationCommunity
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Year 1 Science student Min Hwee Bay from the YES programme guiding the children in using spectroscopes to reveal the various compositions of light from different light bulbs

Some 400 adults and children had their imagination fired up at Quantum dot dot dot on 19 December. The outreach activity, which sought to show the depth and breadth of physics research undertaken in Singapore, was organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at NUS, in collaboration with the NUS Science Demonstration Laboratory and members of their Young Educators in Science (YES) programme.

The event, held in conjunction with Collider, an award-winning exhibition on particle physics at the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) took place at the ArtScience Museum.

Quantum dot dot dot comprised seven zones in the Curiosity and Inspiration galleries ran by CQT researchers and their partners. The exhibits included “Secret messaging”, where visitors encoded personalised secret messages using invisible ink or cut-and-keep ciphers; “Quantum magnetic sensors”, where a miniature magnetic levitation train was featured; and “The rainbow of light”, where participants created their own spectroscope to diffract light into rainbows, learning about the physics of different light sources in the process.

“The Quantum Bunny” exhibit featured copies of Sir Fong’s Adventures in Science Book 5: The Quantum Bunny, which was developed by Mr Otto Fong during his term as Outreach Fellow with CQT. Younger children coloured illustrations from the book while older children sat on bean bags and read the book.

Professor Christian Kurtsiefer and his group led the hands-on activities at “The rainbow of light” and “Quantum magnetic sensors”, while Assistant Professor Alexander Ling’s team presented a quantum cryptography device developed for launch on a satellite.

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A young visitor cutting out a take-home cipher wheel during an introduction to CQT’s work on using quantum physics to secure communication

At the Expressions gallery, movies related to quantum physics were screened — short films from the Quantum Shorts contest and documentary Reality Lost.

Prof Kurtsiefer pointed out CQT’s role at the show, “One of the fascinating aspects of such events is that we, as in both students at graduate and undergraduate level and more experienced researchers, learn how to look at some of our work through the eyes of interested non-specialists, and to find ways of explaining and understanding it in much simpler ways then we would do without this…We also learn better how our technology can work in the rough environments posed by curious kids’ fingers on the optical systems in non-ideal lab conditions.”

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CQT PhD student Jaren Gan explaining how energy levels of an atom give rise to sharp lines in their light spectrum

CQT has been conducting outreach activities throughout the year, including holding public talks at the Science Centre Singapore and participating at NUS’ “Building Our Nation through Science & Technology” exhibition. Quantum dot dot dot was the largest hands-on event the Centre had organised to date.