Catching the Wave: Gravitational Wave Exhibition at the Thinktank Science Museum

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

After decades of development, the gravitational-wave detector Advanced LIGO began taking data in September 2015, expecting the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves during the first years of operation. We therefore seek to adapt our gravitational-wave outreach activities in anticipation of the increased public interest around the first detection. Along with the centenary of Einstein's theory of General Relativity, this makes this a very opportune time to engage the public in the blossoming field of gravitational-wave astronomy.

The Astrophysics & Space Research Group at the University of Birmingham has a strong outreach programme. Our exhibition "Looking for Black Holes with Lasers", developed in 2010, is dedicated to introducing students, teachers and members of the public to gravitational-wave science. The exhibition has been shown at large science festivals such as Gravity Fields (Grantham Science Festival 2012) and the Cheltenham Science Festival (2013), and we continue to be invited to prestigious national science events including the British Science Festival (2014) and BBC Star Gazing Live (2013).

In partnership with the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum, we are planning a new dedicated exhibition on gravitational-wave astronomy and gravitational-wave detectors, to open early 2016. We will provide two exhibits (organised in conjunction with Lauren Deere, Museum Manager, Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum) to be featured prominently in one of the museum's main galleries. One exhibit will be a computer-based stand and the other will be centred around a working scientific instrument. At this exciting time for gravitational-wave astronomy, the high footfall in the Thinktank (260,000 visitors last year) will enable us to engage a wide audience including children, teenagers and families who would not normally come in contact with this field. After the main event, this portable exhibit will form an excellent addition to our existing materials, and will be used for many years in the public engagement programme of the Astrophysics and Space Research Group, including events held on campus, in schools and at science festivals.

Planned Impact

The computer-based resources we will develop for the exhibition will be available for download from our website. Our currently existing material, some of which we will update and develop further for the exhibition, is available from http://www.gwoptics.org/ebook/ and http://www.gwoptics.org/processing/

We are in contact with other scientists and science communicators via:
* Members of our group are STEMNET ambassadors and several of us attend the Birmingham Science Communicator Meetings and are in contact via email.
* Some of us are active members of the LIGO Education and Public Outreach group through which our material is made available to more than 1000 scientists world-wide, who have used it in several outreach events over the past years.
* Our group has a public engagement website (http://www.sr.bham.ac.uk/outreach/) which we keep regularly updated with our events.
* We regularly use social media to promote our outreach activities, such as the Astronomy in the City series of events which take place at the University of Birmingham [see https://twitter.com/uobobservatory].

Publications

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Green A (2016) Gravitational Waves in the Birmigham Science Museum in LIGO Magazine

 
Title Artist in Residence - Sarah Farmer 
Description As part of the University of Birmingham's Artist in Residence scheme, we are working with artist and musician Sarah Farmer. Sarah is visiting our group and talking to researchers about their work with the aim of producing a performance piece or recording based around sounds of astrophysical phenomena, including gravitational waves and binary evolution. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact This is a work in progress. Sarah Farmer is regularly visiting our group to talk to researchers, discuss ideas and sit in on group meetings. Sarah will also be visiting Geo600, a gravitational wave detector in Germany. 
 
Title Worlds Collide - Leon Trimble & Hetti Price 
Description This is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham Gravitational Wave Group working together with artist Leon Trimble (Birmingham Open Media Fellow) and cellist Hetti Price originating from the University of Birmingham's Worlds Collide scheme to bring artists and researchers together. We are working together to produce an immersive audio visual performance around the theme of gravitational waves. We are exploring the analogy between vibrations and sound with gravitational waves and their detectors. Leon Trimble will use a modular synthesiser to take vibration inputs from a table top Michelson interferometer, along with a performance from Hetti Price and interaction with the audience to create this performance. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact This is a work in progress, aiming towards the Birmingham Weekender festival in September 2017 along with a series of other performances including Pint of Science, Birmingham Open Media workshops and University of Birmingham workshops. 
 
Description Royal Astronomical Society Public Engagement and Outreach Funding
Amount £3,500 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Astronomical Society 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
 
Description Worlds Collide (Public Engagement with Research Committee Seed Funding)
Amount £3,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
 
Description Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum 
Organisation Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Ongoing collaboration with the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum, which is the main science museum in the city. We collaborate on several outreach and publicj enagement activies, in particular for developping science exhibits, planning and hosting public events and developping a stratgey for public engagment with research within the city and region.
Collaborator Contribution The Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum is providing exhibtion space, expert advice for devlopping exhibits and event coordination. We provide exportise in science and research, volunteers to participate in public events and to give public talks, we provide custom-made exhibition software for museum exhibits, and dedicated exhibits related to gravitational wave science.
Impact - long term exhibhit on graviational wave science, using an interactive model of a Michelson interferometer - three one-day events 'meet the expert', presenting graviational-wave research to the public - summer student project to delevelop methods to measure impact of museum exhibits - four joint planning meetings with the exhibit managers of the museum to develop the startegy of the partnership
Start Year 2014
 
Description Astronomy in the City 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Astronomy in the City is a series of free public lectures followed by observing the sky with amateur telescopes and the University of Birmingham Observatory. The talks have covered topics including gravitational waves, gravitational lensing, binary tidal disruption, gamma ray bursts and pulsar timing array searches for gravitational waves. There are also science demonstrations related to astrophysics and gravity and computer games. We held a special event for the detection of gravitational wave, with 400 attendees.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.sr.bham.ac.uk/observatory/astronomyinthecity.php
 
Description Astronomy in the City 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Astronomy in the City is our flagship outreach event. It's hosted about 5 times a year, advertised widely by the university in the city and region. Tickets are free and must be booked. We regularly have >100 attendees per event. Each event inlcudes a number of different activities, inlcuding a visit to the University's observatory, a talk by an expert and often hands-on exhibits. We make sure that the talks are related to our own STFC funded research and over the last 12 month gravitational waves and black holes have been the key feature.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.sr.bham.ac.uk/observatory/astronomyinthecity.php
 
Description Cafe Scientifique at William Brookes School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A talk and workshop on gravitational waves searched for using ground based detectors and pulsar timing. The demonstrations included gravity / space-time, interferometers, gravitational lensing, atom trap and computer games.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Catching the Wave: Gravitational Wave Exhibition at the Thinktank Science Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have developed and installed a long term exhibit on gravitational wave science based around a Michelson interferometer and custom exhibit software. This is now located in the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum (opened summer 2016). This was supported by grants from the Royal Astronomical Society and the STFC Small Award.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2016/07/Birmingham's-role-in-gravitational-wave-detection-ce...
 
Description Celebration of 100 years of General Relativity at the Thinktank Science Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A meet the expert event held at the Thinktank Science Museum in Birmingham celebrating 100 years of General Relativity. The primary audience was general public visitors to the museum, including families and young children. The event lasted all day and we had hands-on demonstrations explaining gravity, curvature of space-time and gravitational waves (sources and detectors).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description IMPACT Symposium by STFC/IOP 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact IOP, STFC, SEPnet and the University of Birmingham organised a one-day conference on sharing best pracises for outreach and public engagements. In addition to participating to the conference, our group presented a stand showcasing gravitaitonal wave science and the media and exhibits we have developed for that purpose.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://iop-london.msgfocus.com/files/amf_iop_london/project_81/Final_programme.pdf
 
Description IOP Evening Lecture, University of Birmingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public IOP Evening Lecture, University of Birmingham by Andreas Freise on "Gravitational waves, from detection to astronomy"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/physics/outreach/Secondary-Schools/IOPEveningLectures.aspx
 
Description IOP Evening Lecture, University of Nottingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact IOP Evening Lecture, University of Nottingham, public talk on Gravitationl Wave Astronomy by Prof. Andreas Freise
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description IOP Physics Big Day Out, workshop with high school teacher, Birmingham, 07/2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Workshop at RAF Cosford Museum, aimed at secondary school teachers from local area (teaching ages 11-18), around 40 people. We presneted a 45 min talk and hosted a 1 hr workshop on graviational wave science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Listening to Einstein's universe (exhiition at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We, as part of a larger UK team, co-organisted a stand on graviaitonal waves at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibitiion in 2017. The stand featrued a mini-LIGO interferometer provided by our group and two online apps (shown on tablets) made by our research group. The exhibition was vistited by 2002 students with 262 teachers, and 10,123 public visitors. We collected feedback from 100 visitors who reported a change in their understanding of current research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2017/summer-science-exhibition/
 
Description Makershack at Cheltenam Science Festival 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We had two days in the MakerShack at the Cheltenam Science Festival, which was full of hands on activities largely aimed at children and families. Our demonstrations included: design your own planet, space-time bending demonstration, Michelson interferometer (for gravitational wave detection), gravitational lensing demonstration. See and
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science/science-in-the-square/get-involved-in-the-makershack/mak...
 
Description Malvern Festival of Innovation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We were part of the Institute of Physics stand at the Malvern Festival of Innovation on the schools outreach day. We did a planetarium show about the scales of the Universe (from the Earth to the Sun, planets, galaxies, Universe). We talked to several school groups throughout the day, including: Malvern St. James, Hanley Castle, Woodrush High School, CWLS, Bishop Perowne, Baxter College, Catshill School.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.festival-innovation.com/programme/next-generation-innovators
 
Description Meet the Expert at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A "Meet the Expert" day at the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum. People from the region visiting the museum can have a go at hands-on demonstrations explaining how gravitational wave detectors work, the bending of space-time in general relativity and gravitational lensing. They can also have a go at playing free apps and games developed by people in our Gravitational Wave Group (https://www.laserlabs.org/)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2016
 
Description Oxford University Student Society, public talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Oxford University Student Society, public talk by Prof Andreas Freise.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Pint of Science Birmingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of Pint of Science in Birmingham (www.pintofscience.co.uk). Talks and demonstrations in the bar at Millenium Point (Birmingham) with the theme of "Atoms to Galaxies" covering gravitational waves, particle physics with demonstrations and performances from artist Leon Trimble.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.pintofscience.co.uk
 
Description Raddical Sabbatical, Sarah Farmer 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A new collaboration with an artist in residence, Sarah Farmer, at the University of Birmingham. The aim of the collaboration is to explore artistic explression related to the research effort around gravtiational wave astronomy. This activity has just started.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Radio Interview, Burn FM 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Interview with regional radion Burn FM on the discovery of gravitational waves with Prof. Andreas Freise.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://howesthat.org.uk/radio-show/2016/11/6/show-4-space-week
 
Description The Superposition ASMbly Lab 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In collaboration with artist Leon Trimble, we are exploring the analogy of sound, vibration and gravitational waves. Anna Green and Hannah Middleton did a short presentation introducing gravitational waves and how they are observed with LIGO which was followed by a longer performance by Leon Trimble. The performance uses a table-top Michelson interferometer to pick up vibrations from the room and surroundings along with synthesisers and Vectrex to make music. Several people gave positive verbal feed back and said that we "were not what they expected a physicist to look like" !
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.thesuperposition.org/portfolio-item/leon-trimble/
 
Description University of Birmingham Community Day 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Community Day at the University of Birmingham. Lots of activities across the campus. Our activities included demonstrations about gravity, black holes, gravitational waves, detecting gravitational waves with LIGO, gravitational lensing. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/events/events/Community-Festival-2017/index.aspx and https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/events/events/Community-Festival-2017/community-festival-2017.aspx
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/events/events/Community-Festival-2017/community-festival-2017.aspx
 
Description Website for planetarium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We developed a new webpage in-house to advertise the University of Birmingham Astrophysics and Space Research groups new planetarium allowing people to get in touch if they are interested in having the planetarium at an event and advertising events we have supported.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.sr.bham.ac.uk/outreach/planetarium/
 
Description Wordls Collide, collaboration with Leaon Trimble 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact New collaboration wth audio-visual artist Leon Trimble. The aim of the collaboration is to explore artistic explression related to the research effort around gravtiational wave astronomy, in particular the visualisation and sonification of simulated and real gravitational wave detector activity and performance with cello, modular synthesiser and 360deg projection. This project has just started.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017