Science Day at IMSc

On the 28th of February, the Institute Of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), CIT Campus, Taramani, was bustling with an unusual amount of activity. The reason for this : The annual Science Day was being held. Until then, it hadn’t been conducted on a very large scale and was open only to college students. But on the 28th, the general public was invited. Invitations had also been sent to several schools. Everything was completely free, including lunch and refreshments. Some buses were also arranged by the institute to transport students.

The IMSc Science day was the ultimate treat for science freaks and geeks. After all it is not everyday that you get to walk on liquids or watch magnets float in mid air. Students from various schools such as Bhavans and Vidya Mandir as well as college students from Loyola, CMI, IIT attended the event. Madras University students also contributed a demonstration on superconductivity.

The day started off in Ramanujan Audtiorium with a lecture on math, computers and easy money by Prof. Daniel Lokshtanov from the University of Bergen. This was followed by a fifteen minute session : Ask-A-Scientist, where people could ask scientists questions on everyday scientific phenomena. A short coffee break followed. The day’s proceedings resumed with another talk : The Sound of Music and the Physics of Sound by Prof. Ronojoy Adhikari, IMSc. The third lecture was on the Indian mathematician Brahmagupta and the various mathematical questions he asked himself. It was given by Prof. R Sridharan of the Chennai Mathematical Institute.

The crowd broke up for lunch after the third talk. After lunch, various experimental demonstrations were staged, and several of them were counter-intuitive. For example, a mixture of corn starch and water had been prepared. The mixture was a liquid, but when one ran on it or did some quick walking, one did not sink! Another demo showed the formation of smoke rings. There was also an experiment on magnetic levitation using high Tc superconductors (superconductors below 90 degrees Kelvin).  Liquid nitrogen was used to cool it.  Incidentally, liquid nitrogen costs only as much as milk!

As said on the home page of the IMSc Science Day ( : “The uber-cool thing about our acts is that they don’t need expensive or funky setup. The ingredients are often easy to find, and you can execute them in the comfort (or discomfort) of your own home.”

After the demos, there was high tea. The next item on the agenda was the quiz. School students had been given a set of questions to answer earlier during the day. This was the preliminary round. College students were selected based on their performance in an online quiz on the website.

For the final round of the quiz, everyone reassembled at the auditorium. Students were grouped together in teams comprising two school students and one college student each. Some of the questions were…

“You are given two iron rods. One of them is magnetized and one is not. How will you find out which is which? You are not allowed to use anything other than the rods given to you, not even the earth’s magnetic field.”

Another one was, “You are in a train that is going at the speed of light. If you begin to run at a speed u, then what is your total speed?”

The quiz concluded after six, slightly behind schedule. But no one seemed to mind that. The winners received attractive prizes.

All in all, it was a day of unlimited fun. All those who attended Science Day were presented with a book called Physics Can Be Fun, by Yakov Perelman. The organizers of the event succeeded in doing what they wanted to do : “to provoke a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around us.” A smash hit.

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