Monday 13 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #1

Today the 'I'm a Scientist – Get me out of here!' event began.


What an amazing experience. As I mentioned in yesterday's web log article about the event, the first few questions had started arriving on Friday. I thought back then that was a lot. No way! Today the flood gates opened and a host of intricate and interesting questions piled up on my online desk to get answered.

Then, to add to the excitement, there was a 30-minute live session, where the five scientists in our zone were in an online chat with an entire class of students. That was hectic. The questions ranged from things concerning 'what's it like to be a scientists' and 'what do you do each day' through to questions about 'how did the universe form' and 'why does wool shrink in clothes, but not on a sheep'. Then there were questions about careers and studying; which subjects to learn and how best to revise for exams. There were also questions like 'what's your favourite book' or 'what are your hobbies'. Superficially, these may seem not to have anything to do with science, but they were an essential part of building up a rapport with the class and getting them buzzing. By the end of it, we'd covered so much material that my hands were aching from all that frantic typing. It was a stunning 30 mins, but well worth it and I am certain that the school students got a lot out of it.

It was also very popular. The web site groaned under the strain, as this has obviously attracted a LOT of interest.

In addition to the 30 mins of live chat, there was the daily questions. Unlike the live chat, they were more measured and we certainly have more time to consider them and give longer responses. It was certainly nice to see that the students we'd spoken to earlier in the day were asking a lot of questions that afternoon.

Although only the registered students can ask questions, a full list of all the the answers given by the scientists is available for anyone to browse. Mine are listed here:

The web site is and you can also follow it on Twitter (@imascientist) — watch for tweets marked #ias2011.

And the top question for Day #1 (asked by user ''faiza") is 'Is light a wave or a particle? Or can it be both (Wave-particle duality)? I've read somewhere the photoelectric effect suggests it's a particle but diffraction suggests its a wave. The double slit experiment further confuses things. So which is it? Thank you.'

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