Lancaster University

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Physics experiments filmed for BBC4

09/15/2006 10:32:48

Filming an experiment in the lab
Filming an experiment in the lab

A laboratory in Lancaster University’s Physics Department became a TV studio when a camera crew spent the day filming experiments.
They were making two documentary programmes about low temperature physics called “Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold.”
The one-hour programmes will be screened next summer on the digital BBC4 channel, PBS in the US and on the Arte TV channel in both France and Germany.

The programmes are being made for the BBC by the independent TV production company Windfall Films, whose researcher Helen Grinstead said: “It’s about the history of low temperature physics starting with the early scientists who were interested in the nature of cold. Then we go chronologically through the decades and we get to where scientists are racing to lower and lower temperatures to try to reach absolute zero.
“It’s also about the social history of how cold has shaped society through inventions such as air conditioning and freezer foods.”

Dr Shaun Fisher from the Physics Department said he was pleased about the media interest.
“It’s nice to have them here making a documentary about low temperature physics because it’s not something most people know much about.
“They’re looking at the experiments that we show to our undergraduates. The fountain effect is a classic experiment where you get a fountain of superfluid helium at 2 degrees above absolute zero.”

University was chosen because it was the only place the crew could film the “fountain effect”.
elen Grinstead said: “Lancaster has been extremely helpful because we couldn’t find anywhere to run a demonstration where we can film the fountain effect happening. Other places did the experiment but it was enclosed so you couldn’t see what was going on but here we can see what it looks like.”

The documentary is presented by Prof Allan Griffin of Toronto University who is both a physicist and an historian of science.