October 17, 2003  



SLAC Physicists Promote Interest in Science at Sally Ride Festival

By Anna Gosline

Though Britney Spears might be cooler than British Thermal Units, nothing is cooler than ice cream—except maybe ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. On October 5, a group of young SLAC physicists marched over to the Stanford campus and hit a real sweet tooth with the enthusiastic throng of middle school girls who had come out for the Sally Ride Science Festival.

Steaming liquid nitrogen draws curious onlookers at the SLAC booth on the Stanford Campus. (Photo by Diana Rogers)

These festivals, held nation-wide over the past two years, are the creation of Sally Ride, who rocketed into stardom in 1983 as the first American woman in space. Over the years, Ride realized the need for programs that would encourage girls to continue on the science and technology path. "Girls start to fall away from science in middle school in much higher percentages than boys," said Ride. In 2000 she founded Imaginary Lines, a company created to keep middle school girls engaged in science by connecting them with people and ideas to nurture their relationship with science and to give them the confidence to achieve their dreams.

The Science Festivals are an integral part of this plan. These events give girls the opportunity to interact with women in science and technology and gain a better appreciation of the careers and possibilities that are open to them. "[Festivals] give them a push," says Ride.

SLAC had an enormously successful display booth featuring liquid nitrogen-made ice cream and a mysterious cloud chamber full of cosmic rays. Large queues of hungry girls crowded around the SLAC table, watching with amazement as steaming cascades of liquid nitrogen were poured into giant bowls of cream and sugar and whisked to make ice cream. SLAC volunteers gave out posters and specially designed SLAC mirrors, whose shining reflections could be seen glinting all over the festival.

The SLAC booth was one of the most popular destinations at the festival and many of the girls and their families signed up for SLAC tours later this month. "[The girls] leave these events totally energized about science, but they often don’t have anywhere to direct it," said Ride. "It’s great that SLAC has tours to follow up on the festival." Ride also commented on the great success of the SLAC demonstrations. "Liquid nitrogen to make ice cream; a cloud chamber, what could be better?"



The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Thursday October 16, 2003 by Kathy B