National Science Day Celebration

The national science day in India is celebrated on 28th of February each year to commemorate the momentous discovery made by Professor C.V. Raman in 1928. In those years professor C. V. Raman worked at Indian Association for the Cultivation of Sciences, Calcutta. Working tirelessly day-night he discovered Raman Ect that goes after his name. This discovery was important, for the progress of science as it strengthened proof of the quantum nature of light. Needless to say, Raman spectroscopy, which has a considerable application in molecular sciences, is based upon this particular physical phenomenon. The 1930 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Professor C.V. Raman for this landmark discovery.

In this spirit, every year, the Institute of Physics celebrates the day by inviting local school students and exposing them to new ideas in science through popular lectures and lab visits. In 2008, the first batch of NISER students took part in this by making posters and demonstration of lab experiment, in addition to the activities planned by the IOP. But this year, NISER dominated the scene. National Science Day-2010 was the first of its kind, celebrated by the Science Activities Club at NISER jointly in association with IOP. It was a two-day program. The program on 27th February was mainly intended for people at NISER and IOP. The day started with Nature Walk. The campus of IOP abounds in rich ora and fauna. At seven in the morning we assembled to make a round trip of the campus. The students were accompanied by few faculty members from the biology department. The cool spring morning was an optimal time to discover interesting species of insects and reptiles. In this two-hour walk we surveyed the general biodiversity of the campus. Since then students, especially from the first year, have carried out regular nature walk programs. Beautiful pictures and an elaborate account of these activities are documented at our nature club website. The main program started from 9 am. Two talks were organized, both given by the faculty members of our institute. Prof. Suresh G. Misra spent an hour on the life and scientific work of Professor CV Raman. In the talk, he presented a brief introduction to the contributions of Professor Raman to various branches of Physics and to Natural Science in general. The second talk delivered was given by Dr. Sudakshina Prusty. She presented an informative talk on Raman spectroscopy. Both the talks were very well received by the audience, which mostly comprised of students and teachers from both NISER and IOP. The audience was dispersed after the talk but, the students were thoroughly involved in making necessary preparations for the rest of the day. The entire set-up was divided into Physics Chemistry and Biology sections. The audience was regrouped at 3 pm for viewing the experimental demonstrations set-up by the students which lasted up to 6 pm in the evening. `Contact'-the movie, based on the novel by Carl Sagan, was screened later in the evening. Carl Sagan was a famous American scientist, a popular science writer and author of the television series `Cosmos' which was first broadcasted on American television in the 1980s.

On the second day of the event, around hundred school children were invited. The day started with opening remarks by Prof. A.M. Jayannavar, Director of Institute of Physics. Two popular talks were organized for the event. The first one was on 'Excitements in Biology' by Prof. Rabi Nayak, NISER and the second was on 'Elementary Particle Physics', by Prof. Swapna Mahapatra, Physics Dept. Utkal University. These talks were delivered in English and Oriya to make the subject comprehendible to a wider audience. Both the talks raised a lot of curiosity among the students which could be judged by the level of audience participation. After a short lunch break arranged by the IOP, the students were grouped for lab visits and experiment demonstrations. Most of the experiments were pitched at a level suitable for school students ranging from grade six through beginning undergraduates. Simple experiments like extraction and determination of the uorescent nature of chlorophyll from a green leaf; using petunia owers as natural indicator of acids and bases; illustration of the evolution of our atmosphere using yeasts; incubating a fertile egg to observe the embryo during the initial stages of its development were some of the major highlights in Biology. There were poster demonstrations by the students. Some of the themes were, 'Golden Ratio: Nature and Man', 'Pain Research', 'Origin of Life'. There was an on-going documentary presentation on the 'Evolution of Life on Earth' in the lecture hall.

A series of small and interesting experiments was arranged that encompassed exciting concepts from physical, theoretical, organic and inorganic chemistry. The experiments were based on simple chemical reactions and physical processes like extraction of chlorophyll from leaves by the method of thin layer chromatography; rapid crystallization of a hot sodium acetate solution by inducing nucleation; mechanical oscillations of mercury droplets on contact with an iron rod due to the red-ox reaction between the two; oscillatory reactions like changing colors of bromine-bromate solution using ferroin as an indicator; prepare smoke bomb using table sugar (sucrose) as fuel; baking soda as moderator and potassium chlorate as an oxidizer; prepare elephant's toothpaste via the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide catalyzed by potassium iodide (which in-turn gives rise to a huge foamy end-product, hence the name). Apart from these the demonstrations, the students also performed computer simulations based on molecular orbital theory and dynamics of surface induced dissociation of polypeptides based on SN2 reaction mechanism.

The audience was exposed to the fascinating world of Physics by few simple experiments albeit some of them being counter intuitive in nature. The major demonstrations were the formation of rainbow through natural sunlight and artificial rain; illustration of why a clear sky is blue and the sun is red during sunset by an artificial sunset; a very nonintuitive experiment demonstrating the working of a gyroscope through a bicycle wheel; demo of a near-gravitational lensing phenomenon through a particular kind of optical lens; illustration of electromagnetic shielding through a faraday cage; magnetic levitation using a superconducting material; demonstration of total internal reection in streamline jet of water; production of diffration pattern through compact disks and a human hair; a very interesting experiment based on surface tension where one could observe bouncing of liquid droplets on a liquid surface over a macroscopic time scale; illustration of multiple refractions through laser and liquids of different refractive indices and few more lab-based experiment on optics and modern physics. The demonstrations for the school students lasted till four in the evening. An astronomy session was planned for late evening but eventually it could not be realized because of the moon.

The program was largely focused to stimulate the minds of young children by exposing them to thrills and excitements in science and to spread science awareness in general. Being first of its kind, the event was also a good learning experience for the students as well. All the members of the club, the faculty and of course the students of the various departments and members from the IOP are acknowledged for making the event a success. Future endeavor in such programs is highly promoted at NISER, so as to create a conducive scientific learning environment outside the regular academic arena. We seek to intensify the scale of such programs, linking up with various other institutions in the country, in the pursuit of sharing and expanding knowledge.

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