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
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."