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SENIOR SCHOOL Science – AIGO excursion Almost 100 years ago, Albert Einstein put forward the idea that the formation of the early universe caused ripples in the fabric of space-time. However, he conceded that such ripples would be so weak as to be impossible to detect. Today, we call these ripples gravitational waves and advances in science and technology proved their existence in 2016. On August 3, the students of the STRIVE Advanced Science class along with Mr Foster and Dr Hunt attended a day-long workshop at the Australian International Gravitational Observatory (AIGO), a research facility located near Gingin, which was part of the worldwide effort to directly detect gravitational waves. Activities throughout the day were facilitated by Professor David Blair (Wb 61-63), from the University of Western Australia, and several of his PhD students who are currently involved in gravitational wave research. The day began with a role-play illustrating the history behind the discovery and evolving understanding of electromagnetic waves over a century. Some students played the parts of the key researchers – Heinrich Hertz, Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman. After this, PhD student Rahul Kumar Choudhary facilitated a presentation outlining the unusual properties of light, specifically its wave-like behaviour despite consisting of individual photons. Students were shown images of individual photons arriving at a target, yet amazingly grouping to form wave patterns. They also grappled with the paradox that during wave 24 interference one plus one equals two, but one plus one also equals zero. Other activities aimed to develop an understanding that light creates radiation pressure and can push matter that it strikes; for example, the laser used in the AIGO facility can move a large mirror about ten micrometres. Students were also given the opportunity to ask current PhD students questions about their research and the AIGO facility. The first part of the day concluded with a virtual tour of the AIGO laboratory which contains lasers sensitive enough to be able to detect movements smaller than the width of a proton. Unfortunately, the students were not able to enter the main laboratory because of the quarantine procedures, which exceed those for surgical theatres in hospitals. During the second half of the day, students participated in a series of experiments with lasers. They were given the opportunity to measure the width of one of their own hairs in micrometres by interpreting data resulting from the interference between their hair and a laser. Students were also able to observe the bewildering array of interference patterns caused by passing a laser through the surface of a soap bubble. Before and after the workshop, the students completed questionnaires that will provide data for a PhD project investigating whether it is beneficial to Einsteinian physics to secondary students. Thus, the students made their own contribution to progress of Science. Dr Brian Hunt Science Teacher