Transportation Public Lecture brings community together for Science Literacy Week

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Superconductor train demo

Physics and Astronomy Professor David Hawthorn demonstrates superconductivity using a miniature levitating train.

Last night, in honour of Science Literacy Week, the Kitchener Public Library and University of Waterloo Faculties of Science and Engineering organized a public lecture entitled “Transportation Solutions for the Future” featuring two Waterloo researchers: Physics and Astronomy Professor David Hawthorn and School of Planning Professor Jeff Casello.

We are absolutely thrilled to yet again be partnering with the University of Waterloo,” said Kitchener Public Library CEO Mary Chevreau. “This particular event… is so timely for our region and our area.”

The evening event, held at the newly renovated downtown Kitchener Public Library attracted more than 100 members of the local community.

Professor Casello began with an analysis of our current transportation issues and their potential solutions. He highlighted the need for investing in both new and traditional transportation solutions to tackle problems like air pollution, urban planning, and congestion.

Next, Professor Hawthorn explained how the science-fiction-like magnetic levitating trains really work and how advances like room-temperature superconductivity could improve on the efficiency and feasibility of magnetic levitation and propulsion. A Japanese magnetic levitating train was recently clocked at 603 km/hr – a new world record.

A lively question and answer period followed, allowing the audience to share their thoughts with the speakers.

Particularly popular was Professor Hawthorn’s live demonstration of superconductivity using a miniature levitating train containing a piece of superconducting ceramic cooled by liquid nitrogen, hovering over a magnetic track.

If we can develop a room-temperature superconductor – that would really be a game changer,” said Hawthorn.

A special thanks to Professor Bernie Duncker, Associate Dean of Research for the Faculty of Science, for opening the event and moderating the question and answer period.

Science Literacy Week is a Canada-wide celebration of science and technology that continues through to Sunday, September 27th.

In addition to other events, Waterloo Let’s Talk Science hosted a series of science activities and lectures at Kitchener and Waterloo public library branches. 

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