While a visit to the virtual South Pole IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the Nehru Science Centre, Worli, on Tuesday saw a huge participation of students, who flooded scientists with questions, the actual tour left them asking for more.
Encompassing a cubic kilometre of ice, IceCube is the first detector of its kind in the world designed to observe the cosmos from deep within the South Pole ice and enables researchers to address major questions in physics like the nature of dark matter and the properties of the neutrino.
While around 200 students and teachers were scheduled to participate in the programme at the Nehru Science Centre, more than 500 participants from nearly eight schools and three colleges turned up on Tuesday, according to officials at the Centre.
The distance between Mumbai and South Pole is approximately 12,000 km and the time difference is approximately 19 hours. There were 10 global centres, a majority from the US, including Nehru Science Centre, which participated in the two-hour event that began at 7.30 pm on Tuesday.
Even as Prof Jim Madsen, associate director for education and outreach, Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, USA, gave a nearly 25-minute overview of science and IceCube in particular, he had to field several questions of students, which included whether one could harvest energy from neutrinos, what gave them so much energy, how were neutrinos useful to us, what was unique about IceCube, how does one deal with technical difficulties there and the challenges faced to establish such an exclusive lab in a disconnected part of the world.
At 8.30 pm (Indian time), however, as students began the virtual tour of the IceCube, they were left a little disappointed with the slide-show. Many students felt the tour should have had more videos and less technical talks. “I enjoyed the fact that we could interact with international scientists and see their work. But during the virtual tour, we had expected more videos, instead of a slide-show,” said Tanishq Kumar, a student of Pawar Public School.
Though the programme concluded at 9.30 pm, several students were seen leaving the Nehru Science Centre auditorium, half-an-hour into the session. “Overall, it was a good learning experience and informative. But some of the talks were technical and the virtual tour could have been made more interesting through videos,” said Atharva Anchalwar, a student of St Xavier’s Boys’ Academy.