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European XFEL-Wissenschaftler Maurizio Vannoni prüft den neuen Röntgenspiegel, dessen Oberfläche nicht mehr als einen milliardstel Meter von der Idealform abweicht. © European XFEL

Raising awareness of science in Hamburg

Science Slam,, Wissen vom Fass highlight DESY and XFEL - such events are gaining popularity

Speeches at the hit event last exactly 12 minutes. Originally from Hamburg, the event has spread all over Germany and beyond meanwhile. Several offshoots are now aiming to make scientific topics and research popular. The rules are simple – each participant talks about a random issue for 12 minutes maximum. A bell sounds loudly to signal the end. Then, the audience has 12 minutes maximum to ask questions. Three talks per evening are held and the intermission leaves plenty of time for networking.

Fundamental research for beginners

The third edition of “12min.COM – Cap’n’Collars” saw Dr. Arik Willner, Chief Technology Officer Director of Technology Transfer and Spin-offs at DESY, take to the stage on September 19, 2017. Willner focused on how commerce can profit from the recent opening of the world’s largest X-ray laser European XFEL in Hamburg-Behrefeld. The audience included mathematicians, physicists, biologists as well as entrepreneurs, who have never had close encounters with fundamental research.

Willner explained: “At DESY, our foundations are rooted in the question where we actually come from. What did the universe look like immediately after the big bang? How did today’s components of nature i.e. particles develop?“

Experts in prototype building

Aviation is just one example of how commerce can benefit from European XFEL, said Willner, adding: “If lightweight but stabile material is need, we dissolve the nano structure and see what can be removed without endangering the stability of the material.”

Industrial challenges are likely to be more important at DESY, Willner noted, adding: “New firms emerge at DESY from our problem-solving attitude.” And the research institute is also open to fledgling companies. “Start-ups often have problems developing a prototype suited to their ideas. We are experts in building prototypes,” he added.

Science slams – from Hamburg all over the world

During a compact science slam, young scientists explain their latest research projects in short 10-minute talks that are easy to follow and the audience votes afterwards. The emphasis is not on the scientific outcome of their work, but to explain it in an understandable, entertaining and concise way. Science slams take place outside the university or lecture halls and in cultural centres, theatres or clubs instead. The event pits contestants against each other who come equipped with props and can perform live experiments to grab the audience’s attention. The audience decides on winners (and losers) of the slam.

The first science slam was held in Darmstadt in 2006, followed in 2008 by a science slam in Braunschweig and then in Hamburg in 2009. That particular slam met with great media coverage and since then, the idea has spread rapidly to most university cities in Germany and gone international as well.

“Wissen vom Fass” in 50 pubs and bars across Hamburg

Exploring the depths of the universe is probably easier with a glass of beer in hand or when sipping a cocktail. Such are the adventures offered during the “Wissen vom Fass” event series, which premiered in October 2015 and was followed by another event in November 2016 with many hot topics on the agenda. Researchers outlined their projects during the most recent event held in some 50 pubs and bars across Hamburg in April 2017.

Organised by the Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging, the Particles, Strings and the Early Universe and the Partnership for Innovation, Education and Research (PIER) between DESY and the University of Hamburg, the event is held under the auspices of Katharina Fegebank, Deputy Mayor of Hamburg and Senator for Science, Research and Equality.

Spot landings

Although the emphasis is on interesting scientific research conveyed in a fun way, the question of whether the keynotes actually strike a note with the audience does come up. If the response to Willner’s speech at recently is anything to go by, then such events are gaining popularity. The scientist was surrounded by members of the audience seconds after ending his talk.

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