November 19, 2004  


Future Science for Future Scientists

By Raven Hanna

How many CDs are in the box? "100," one child guessed. "1,000," said another. The answer was 2,000, representing the equivalent of just 0.1 percent of the database capabilities at SLAC. "Imagine two million CDs," explained Yemi Adesanya (SCS). "Stacked end to end, they would span the length of the Golden Gate Bridge."

Last month, 600 Chicago area children, ages 11 to 13, glimpsed the science of the future. The ĎWhatís Next: Future Science for Future Scientistsí exposition at Chicagoís Navy Pier featured exhibits intended to interest and amaze. Sponsored by the DOE, the programís aim is to retain the interest students have in the sciences beyond their junior high school years.

SLACís exhibit, ĎHigh Speed Data Transfer will Revolutionize Your Lives,í demonstrated the cutting-edge technology of the large and fast database developed.

Along with impressing students with a large box of CDs, the exhibit included a video demonstration on a large plasma screen. Visually dramatic, the video compares the speed and quality of downloading streaming video over a DSL line with downloading at SLACís data transfer speed, which allows 100 DVDs to be simultaneously transferred in highest quality. The children first watched the jumpy and grainy DSL-transferred Spiderman movie, then were delighted to see quick and crisp clips of their favorite movies superimposed on the screen.

"I enjoyed the challenge of trying to convey to children what we do and why the database at SLAC is so special," said Adesanya, who helped represent SLAC at the expo. "What we are doing today they will see in their homes in the future."

At other exhibits the students were able to isolate their own DNA, preserving it in a necklace with assistance from LLNL and burning, literally, CDs in a microwave oven provided by Underwriters Laboratory.

The Whatís Next Expo will be an annual contribution to the DOE program Scientists Teaching and Reaching Students (STARS), which Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced during his July visit to SLAC. The STARS program was created to help reverse the declining trend of U.S. childrenís performance in the sciences after fourth grade.

"Iíll bet you didnít think in the fourth grade that you were at your peak in comparison with other students around the world, but according to this study you were," Abraham told the students at the Expo. The study the Energy Secretary referred to also found U.S. students to be among the worst performers, compared to 21 other countries, in math and science in grades eight and 12.

"I sincerely hope that someday in the future, when one of you steps up to receive the Nobel Prize for physics or chemistry," Abraham said, "you can say you owe some of it to Whatís Next."



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

Last update Tuesday November 16, 2004 by Emily Ball