Students taking the UBC Science Journalism course have witnessed the extreme in science and technology during a tour of TRIUMF, a huge particle and nuclear physics laboratory located on UBC’s South Campus.
TRIUMF is the Tri University Meson Facility. At the heart of the facility lies the world’s largest cyclotron, a kind of particle accelerator that boasts a 60-foot diameter and weighs 4,000 tons. The cyclotron serves a wide range of scientific experiments that push the limits of our technology and our imagination.
Students looking to understand science and communicate it to the masses had their hands full as they toured a labyrinth of wires, computers, and equipment found nowhere else in the world. Marcello Pavan, a tour guide with infinite patience, explained the scale at which experiments operated on.
A millionth of a second was actually a long time for a physicist, said Dr. Pavan, who heads up TRIUMF’s science education outreach program. Particles traveling three quarters the speed of light can travel up to 200 metres in that time.
It is as if human kind had taken it upon itself to design and build its own sensory organ. Like our ears, noses, or eyes, TRIUMF has all the complexities and sensitivity needed to detect and describe an infinitesimally small and fleeting world.
“When you really get to see the structures, and get an idea of the size, and also how messy it is,” said journalism student Melanie Kuxdorf. “It turns something that is completely intimidating and elusive into a real place that you can see and touch.”
Trevor D’Arcy is a Masters student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism