World of Physics Set to Inspire DART Commuters

Posted on: 23 October 2013

‘DART of Physics’ – an educational outreach project that will inspire and engage Dublin’s commuters in the world of physics.

A trip on the DART keeps you young. Or at least relatively so due to the effects of a physics phenomenon, which can be explained by Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and which professors and researchers of Trinity College Dublin hope will be on the minds of commuters over the coming weeks.

This phenomenon, known as time dilation, means that less time passes when speeds are very high, which is why stopwatches show different times when one of them moves like lightning. Although the DART does not travel speedily enough for the effect to be noticeable, the science behind the initial statement is an example of an intriguing physics-related conundrum that collaborators of the DART of Physics project hope will inspire city-wide conversation about the discipline.  

DART commuters in Dublin will have their eyes opened to the inspiring world of physics over the next eight weeks. Twelve thought-provoking images and statements will appear in trains and stations and will make people think more deeply about the way physics affects our everyday lives. A comprehensive website provides more information about the science behind it all.

By visiting the website, people will understand the meaning behind engaging flash statements such as: “We are all made of stardust…,” and “Everyone on the DART is attracted to you… gravitationally.” The varied ways in which physics graduates use their education in the world of work will also be apparent. There is also a comprehensive section for teachers that will enable them to integrate the DART posters and supplementary material into lesson plans. In addition, a dedicated blogging section will feature articles written by people from a multitude of backgrounds and interests in physics.

Although there are opportunities to learn a great deal, those behind the initiative stress that their primary motivation is in wanting to connect more people to physics by making a seemingly complex subject widely accessible and interesting to all. In this way, by using a simple, eye-catching analogy, people on the way to work will be exposed to the link between atom bonds and the heat that different materials seem to retain. They might not know it at the time, but a follow-up trip to the website will quickly enlighten them.

Shane Bergin, Assistant Professor in Physics and CRANN at Trinity, who is spearheading the project said: “We wanted to challenge the idea that physics is ‘not for me’. Physics is a way of thinking, of using logic, and of using deductive reasoning. People don’t always know it, but they use physics all the time.”

Colette Murphy, Associate Professor of Education at Trinity, added: “Dart of Physics is physics for Ireland… I’m really excited about all the amazing science lessons that will come from it!”

As well as benefiting from funding from the Schools of Physics and Education at Trinity, which are jointly leading the initiative, Science Foundation Ireland, Intel Ireland, the Metro Herald, and DART and Irish Rail have all provided financial and/or in-kind contributions to ensure the project is a success.   

David Franks, Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann said: “DART & Iarnród Éireann are delighted to be involved in this thought provoking campaign, which will entertain our customers on their commute. We would like to wish DART of Physics every success with this unique initiative. “

The DART of Physics initiative was inspired by the highly successful ‘Poems on the Underground’ project, which was launched on the tube network in London in 1986 to showcase historical and contemporary poetry to a wider audience. Bergin won the 2012 ‘Designs for Learning’ competition after putting forward his vision for bringing physics to the masses in Dublin, and things took off from there.

This a not-for-profit educational project directed by Dr Shane Bergin, Dr Colette Murphy, Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin and Dr Jessamyn Fairfield at Trinity College Dublin.