Jena’s Long Night of Science (Lange Nacht der Wissenschaft)

On Friday night, we participated in the 5th annual “Long Night of Science” in Jena.  The evening took place from 6pm-midnight and was an overwhelming collection of things to do across town.  University departments and labs and affiliated institutes opened their doors and sponsored various demos.  This included the University hospital and several medical clinics.  I liked that it wasn’t just natural sciences; everything from the Departments of Ancient History to Geography to Languages sponsored events.  Companies also participated, and there were abundant goodies to collect along the way.  Our ticket to the event also got us unlimited free transit on the buses and trams.  The most frequently-running bus up to the Beutenberg Campus, home to most of the research institutes (including Andrew’s), was called the “Denkbus” (Thinking Bus).  Some of the things we saw and experienced:

– In Andrew’s building, the Institute for Photonic Technology, we saw part of a Science Slam (the top student received an iPad) and got free “mad scientist” drinks at the Gin and Photonics bar (pictured below).

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At the Institute next door, the kids were able to get pens with their names and the date laser-engraved on them, in addition to several other cool-looking pens and pencils that were free for the taking.  Conveniently, Henry had just learned the name of his secret Santa partner from school that afternoon and Andrew was generous enough to pose as Elias, enabling Henry to include a personalized pen as part of the gift.

At the Fachhochschule (technical college), Henry learned a new math game, Marlena made cool bubbles with geometric shapes, they both got a print-out of where their birthdate first falls in pi (around the 67-millionth digit for Marlena and 132-millionth digit for Henry), went into an acoustic lab, and saw other various posters and demos.

The highlight downtown was going up to the 14th floor of a company building (Jenoptik) where they were shining lasers in various patterns onto the ground nearby.  It was cold, windy, and drizzly, which was semi-miserable but made for a great visual effect, as you could see the beams of the laser as they passed through the droplets in the air.  Andrew took a bunch of pictures but unfortunately none came out very well.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening and we managed to stay out until 9.  It was made even more fun by meeting up with Marlena’s English teacher and her family, and their giving us a ride home through the ever-increasing rain.  There were still lots of things we would have liked to see but didn’t have time for, but that’s the challenge with having such a large-scale event.  Seeing the number of people who turned out to experience it, though, was inspiring.  Jena was named a “City of Science” in recent years, and this was a good opportunity to see why.

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