This weekend was Austria’s ‘Long Night of Research’ – an evening where people across Austria could visit over 2,100 scientific exhibition venues in 253 places from 5 pm until midnight. FOR FREE! Usually those places are either not open for the public or you have to pay (a lot) to go inside. This event is held every other year and most of the stations are very child-friendly. This year more than 180,000 people decided to go. I was one of them.
Two years ago my friends and I were able to see parts of a live broadcast of an artificial heart-transplant operation. Crazy! :D So this year we decided to go for less graphic stations and paid the IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency – a visit as the agency’s headquarter is in Vienna in the Vienna International Centre or UNO-City, which also hosts the United Nations Office at Vienna.
The IAEA is an ingovernmental scientific and technical forum where the peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology is promoted. The agency has three main missions: peaceful uses of nuclear energy by its members, safeguards, and nuclear safety. Currently 186 countries are members of this organisation.
So on Friday, IAEA experts hosted more than a dozen scientific booths for us visitors. The scientists showed us how they can detect when or if anywhere on the globe played around with nuclear energy without giving notice to the IAEA. Any nuclear blasts – even little ones – would be noticed by the various stations that the IAEA strategically placed around the globe. They also showed us how radiotherapy works and how the agency tries to help ‘poorer’ countries to use this technique. Another expert talked about how to ‘get rid’ of nuclear waste: for example if it is Caesium it will be buried in a small container deep down in the earth where it has to stay for the next thousand+ years or it will be shipped to the US as they are one of the only ones who are willing to store it for others. Yay. He also told us that only three people are responsible for this ‘job’ and he is one of them.
At another station scientists explained how they use radiation to save bananas from a deadly fungus. We took part in a quiz an won a banana plant. I am so excited to plant it at home!
All in all we spent around 2 hours at UNO-City and decided to go somewhere where we could chill a bit – the Planetarium! For those of you who don’t know what a Planetarium is – it is a theatre that its main purpose is to present educational shows about astronomy and the night sky.
The two shows we watched lasted half an hour hour each – so one blissful hour in the most comfortable chairs while listening to the voice of Universum speaker Otto Clemens (Austria’s pendant to BBC’s David Attenborough) and hearing interesting things about the history of astronomy (and astrology) and how various cultures influenced the research of astronomy.
I recommend that everyone should take the opportunity if an event like that is offered in your country or your city. It is the perfect place to learn about interesting stuff and you can even take (your) kids with you as most of the stations are interactive or for children and all the scientists are super friendly and helpful :)