The Slovenia Times

100 Years On and Still Relative



Some time back, the International Union for Pure and Applied Physics decided to declare 2005 as the World Year of Physics (WYP). "Why 2005?" you may ask. Well, it was one hundred years since a 26-year-old Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists and scientists of all time, wrote the three fundamental papers that subsequently provided the groundwork for three basic fields in physics: the Theory of Relativity, the Photoelectric Effect and the Brownian Motion. The main aim of the worldwide celebration was to increase awareness of physics, physical science and their essential contribution to solving environmental, scientific, technological and global problems. "Annus mirabilis" - The year of wonder Slovenia was one of the many countries from all over the world to stage special events in order to bring the excitement of physics to the public and to inspire new generations of scientists and researchers. "We have to remind everybody that popularisation will still be needed in the future if we want people to change their long-term attitude towards physics and science in a more positive way," Dr Jure Bajc, a national coordinator of the WYP and a professor at the Faculty of Education, said. He championed two very successful projects throughout the year: The Chain Reaction Experiment and Science on the Buses. The Chain Reaction Experiment The more than 80-m long Chain Reaction Experiment was built using 53 devices designed and constructed by teams from all parts of the country, including nursery schools, primary and secondary schools, faculties and even pensioners. The various innovations were then coupled together to form part of a dynamic, almost 30-minute long, event on 14th May 2005 in Cankarjev dom. "The experiment was so successful that we have decided to repeat it on 20th May 2006 in Bistra," the professor announced during the closing ceremony. Why is the sky blue? You will find the answer to that question on the one of the city or intercity buses. "Science on the Buses" is the name of a project initiated by the House of Experiments that tries to bring science to the public through a series of 50 illustrated and thought-provoking questions and answers displayed prominently in the city's buses. Passengers are challenged by a question as they board the bus and have their curiosity satisfied by a short, informative and scientifically correct answer displayed towards the rear of the bus. At the House of Experiments they believe that the humorous illustrations relax readers and make them far more open to new knowledge. The project has been so successful that it is being extended until at least the end of the current school year. Signalling the world The largest internationally-conducted project held to mark WYP involved the transmission of a signal around the globe between 18th and 19th April 2005. A light signal travelled round the world starting from Princeton on the east coast of America - where Albert Einstein lived, then travelling across the USA, the Pacific, Asia, Europe, the Atlantic and back to Princeton. On its way round, the signal successfully traversed Slovenia, travelling from Sentilj to Trieste (Trst). Towards new challenges The closing event at the Ljubljana castle was an opportunity to bring together and to thank all those who had cooperated in the activities. Dr Jure Zupan, the Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, believes that "if young people begin to look at problems differently - as Albert Einstein did - then the experiments will have benefited society". He was certainly very pleased that the project had achieved it goal of increasing the awareness of natural sciences, particularly among the young. A number of eminent foreign guests at the ceremony, Dr Max Lippitsch (Austria), Dr Cludio Tuniz (Italy) and Dr Amir Hamzic (Croatia) used the opportunity to outline how WYP was promoted in their countries and Dr Bogdan Povh presented a lecture entitled "Cosmologists, physics and the stone of wisdom". "It is not just about physics and knowledge, but about people, the people who move things," Dr Franci Demsar, director of the Slovenian Research Agency, stressed. Dr Zvonko Trontelj, president of the DMFA, is definitely one of those "people" and he summarised the project with these words: "Some of the things were good and deserve to be continued in a way that would make us satisfied". Physics is faced with a whole sphere of challenges in the modern world, but this "miraculous year" in the history of physics was certainly a step into the right direction.


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