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Particle physics science communication prizes


The Spanish National Particle Physics, Astroparticles and Nuclear Physics Centre, CPAN, in collaboration with Fundación General CSIC, has awarded the prizes to the winners of its first science communication competition, an initiative that was launched last year with a view to encouraging the production of popular science materials in these areas of physics. This first edition of the competition received 47 entries in the four categories (articles, websites, audiovisual materials and experiments), from authors in Spain, Argentina and Chile. The winners include a story about the formulation of the concept of antimatter, a blog on the latest news at the LHC, a documentary on the MAGIC gamma ray telescope, and two experiments to build low cost particle detectors. The second edition of the competition will be announced shortly on the CPAN website.

The award ceremony was held on 23 May at the headquarters of the CSIC in Madrid, during the Loops 2011 conference. It was attended by José Vicente García Ramos, assistant vice president for Scientific Programming at the CSIC, Guillermo Mena, director of the Materials Structure Institute (Instituto de Estructura de la Materia, IEM, CSIC) and conference organiser, Marcos Cerrada, joint coordinator of CPAN, Jaime Pérez del Val, head of the CSIC’s Scientific Culture Area, and María José García Borge, researcher at the IEM who read out the panel’s minutes.

The winner in the science communication articles category was «Antimateria, magia y poesía» (Antimatter, magic and poetry), by José Daniel Edelstein, a researcher at the University of Santiago de Compostela, and Andrés Gomberoff, a Chilean physicist, recounting the process of gestation of the idea of antimatter by the physicist Paul Dirac and its subsequent discovery. The panel of judges praised the literary quality of the work, its ability to communicate the key concepts of particle physics to a general audience and its value in narrating the chronology of a scientific discovery, thereby highlighting the internal dynamics of scientific research.

In the web sites and blogs category, the prize went to La Hora Cero, a blog on current topics at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s biggest particle accelerator, coordinated by Carlos Escobar, a researcher at the Particle Physics Institute (Instituto de Física Corpuscular (IFIC), a joint CSIC-Valencia University centre) which is taking part in the LHC’s ATLAS experiment. The runners up in this category were the wesbite MiGUI, created by Miguel Rodríguez Lago, a physicist, who has been analysing general news in physics since 2007, and the popular science website Centro Nacional de Aceleradores run by the National Accelerators Centre (Centro Nacional de Aceleradores).

First prize in the audiovisual materials category went to a documentary entitled the «Universo Extremo» (Extreme Universe), promoted by the Centro de Ciencias «Pedro Pascual» in Benasque describing the construction and commissioning of the MAGIC gamma-ray telescope at El Roque de los Muchachos (Isla de La Palma). The panel highlighted its high audio visual quality and its successfully reflecting the «human side» of scientific research. The runner up in the video category was «Materia Extraña«, by David Cabezas Jimeno, which describes the main sources of astroparticles and the experiments being run to detect them.

Finally, the prizes under the heading of Experiments/Demonstrations went to «La cámara de niebla: partículas de verdad» (The cloud chamber: real particles) by Francisco Barradas Solas, and «Cooking Muons«, by Jorge Barrio Gómez de Agüero and Eva López. These two experiments both showed how to make a low cost cloud chamber with which to detect fundamental particles and were devised with practical work in secondary schools in mind, an aspect that was highly appreciated by the panel of judges. The runner up in this category was «Midiendo la radioactividad con un Electroscopio casero» (Measuring radioactivity with a homemade electroscope), by Vadym Paziy, a researcher at the Madrid Complutense University.

This first edition of the CPAN Science Communication Competition awarded first and second prizes of 1,000 euros and 500 euros in the articles and websites categories and 1,500 and 600 euros for audiovisual materials and experiments. The panel of judges was made up of four researchers representing the CPAN’s scientific areas (high energy experimental physics, astroparticle physics, nuclear physics and theoretical physics), together with an outside expert in science communication, the director of the University of Valencia’s science magazine Mètode, Martí Domínguez.

Spanish National Particle Physics, Astroparticles and Nuclear Physics Centre, CPAN (Centro Nacional de Física de Partículas, Astropartículas y Nuclear) is a Consolider-Ingenio 2010 project made up of 26 Spanish research groups whose main goals are to promote the coordinated participation of Spanish scientists in cutting edge particle physics, astroparticle and nuclear physics research, facilitate the incorporation of technical and research personnel, run joint R&D activities, technology transfer and scientific outreach in general.

Source: CPAN