Local schoolchildren to board a steam train in the name of science

Schoolchildren from the East Midlands will be jumping on board a steam train on Friday 13 March to perform a classic science experiment as part of a University project organised by Dr Emma Chung from the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences to mark the first day of British Science Week 2015, taking place between 13-22 March.

Students from Limehurst Academy, Woodbrook Vale High School and Charnwood College, will be boarding at Loughborough Station on the Great Central Railway and will be riding the train to Quorn Station, where they will be replicating a classic science experiment originally performed by a Dutch scientist, Christophorus Henricus Didericus Buys-Ballot, in 1845 that provided the first experimental confirmation of a physics phenomenon called the ‘Doppler Effect’.

The Doppler effect (or Doppler shift) is the change in frequency of a wave (or other periodic event) for an observer moving relative to its source. It is named after the Austrian physicist Christian Doppler, who proposed it in 1842 in Prague.

In the original experiment Buys-Ballot placed a group of musicians on a train and asked the driver to rush past him as fast as he could while the musicians played and held a constant note. In this re-enactment of Buys-Ballot’s original experiment, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust, students will be using electronic recording equipment to measure the frequency of the sound from the train and calculate how fast the train is moving.

This concept will be explored further in a free public lecture on Wednesday 18 March entitled ‘From inside the body to outer space using the Doppler effect’ held at the National Space Centre Planetarium at 7:30 pm which will see Dr Chung and Dr Mark Wilkinson from the Department of Physics and Astronomy discuss modern uses of the Doppler Effect.

British Science Week taking place 13-22 March is a UK-wide programme of events and activities, aimed at people of all ages, to celebrate science, technology, engineering and maths.