Monday the 13th was laser day, which made for a great start to the ScienceGrrl week! We all gathered outside UCL where we were met by Lia- our laser scientist. She escorted us up through the corridors to the security protected laser-lab. Jumpers on. It turns out laser labs are kept quite chilly because the beams are affected by temperature (they are also really sensitive to vibrations too, so the laser table sits on a pocket of air).
|Our laser- one of the stars of the show!|
Our photographer Ben got to work straight away setting up the shot. Lights were being erected all over the place, which transformed the lab into a glamorous looking set. I was mainly just getting in the way, so was taken away on a tour of the UCL lasers. One of them could trap a speck of dust in levitation- apparently the light actually exerts a force on the dust so that two opposing beams can act a bit like tweezers, holding it in mid air. Pretty nifty. Unfortunately it doesn’t work on larger objects because you would need much higher powered lasers- which just start to burn things up. So no laser-powered levitation for me.
Back to the lab and Ceri our other laser expert had arrived- it was time to get shooting. The Grrls were naturals and we got some great looking shots really quickly, with the laser in the foreground looking beautiful. It was soon time to change the shot, which meant I got a chance to learn even more about lasers. Lia’s research looks at using lasers to cool down small particles of glass to nearly absolute zero. The idea is to see if they can get them to behave in a quantum way- apparently that’s quite a challenge as no one has been able to do this for such big particles. Aren’t ScienceGrrls great?
The next shot was with the safety goggles on- which made it look a bit like a futuristic advert for a holiday to Uranus (in a good way of course). Then a quick slug of coffee while Ben set up the final scene. This one had the Grrls in the foreground lit by a light above them. Cue my first useful moment of the evening! I held a makeshift reflector to bounce some light back into Ceri’s face (apparently it helps to prevent dodgy shadows).