Get spaced out at Gravity Centre

31 Jul, 2011 03:00 AM
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 The Leaning Tower of Gingin
The Leaning Tower of Gingin

THE Gravity Discovery Centre (GDC) at Gingin West offers inquiring minds a fresh look at science and a chance to also have some fun.

Located off the Indian Ocean Drive, about an hour's drive north of Perth, the GDC is an outreach centre for the nearby Australian International Gravitational Observatory (AIGO).

The observatory is currently involved in a hi-tech world effort to detect the gravitational waves mathematically predicted by Albert Einstein.

One GDC activity likely to get the blood pumping to the brain is the Leaning Tower of Gingin, a 45 metre tower with a lean of 15 degrees.

Water bombs can be dropped from the top to test Galileo's theory that objects of different weights fall at the same speed or within "two finger widths" of each other.

Another item of interest is the Foucault Pendulum, a tripod structure which confirms Sir Isaac Newton's theory that a body set in motion will move continuously in the same direction unless interrupted by an outside force.

This was demonstrated by a tour guide placing a circle of tenpins on the ground where the movement of the earth would slowly turn the tenpins into the line of the freely swinging pendulum and knock them over.

The GDC has many displays inside the main building, including a sky-lab oxygen tank, meteorites, Einstein's Space, Chaos mirror, Corkscrew Laser, Gravity Wave Interferometer model, Breathing Mirror, Time Coil and the Eddies, to name some.

The Eddies is where a pole with a strong magnet at its base is pulled back and let go towards somebody standing just behind a copper plate on the floor.

The copper plate brings the pole to an abrupt halt within inches of the face and induces people to flinch.

There are scheduled school holiday activities and tour guides show people around during the weekends.

GDC manager Anja Cherian said the centre was mainly about promoting science education.

"I think we need to inspire students to continue studying science and taking up careers in science," Ms Cherian said.

"We have just had this issue in the press where we have to import skilled labour and I think centres like this can actually pave the way for students to maintain an interest in science and to take up university studies to produce our own skilled workforce.

"There is a lot more focus on science and astronomy is growing politically in this State as well as among the general public.

"We get good feedback with a limited advertising budget so there are still many people we haven't reached but we are getting about 20,000 visitors a year.

"We are also becoming a well-known tourist destination.

"I think the centre will continue to grow, especially with the square kilometre array (SKA) coming on line."

The non-profit GDC has had difficulty in gaining long-term funding in the past but it recently secured a four-year agreement with the State Government.

"We are really excited about that because it gives us security to grow and implement new programs," Ms Cherian said.

Meanwhile the Cosmology Gallery at the GDC explores how various cultures and religions understand and depict their place in the universe through art.

One of the many works in the Cosmology Gallery is by Toogarr Morrison, who will be holding an exhibition at the gallery from August 25.

"We are really excited about that because he is a well known and respected artist," Ms Cherian said.

"He does a lot on indigenous astronomy which is an area we are extremely interested in because we feel astronomy in general is something that bridges cultures.

"It is a little bit magical, a little bit mysterious for everyone.

"We don't think about the fact that other people or other cultures look at the sky differently.

"We look at star signs and star constellations and that's what we think everybody does but they don't.

"The indigenous people look at the black gap between the stars."

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