Public Education - The Gravity Discovery Centre


The Gravity Discovery Centre is devoted to ‘Einstein’s universe’, astronomy and the spectacular and unique biodiversity on the AIGO site, which is situated within one of the twelve biodiversity hotspots of the planet. The Eureka Prize-winning centre (see the foreground of p 13 photograph) has succeeded in drawing several tens of thousands of visitors, including more than 100 schools.

It contains the largest public astronomy centre in Australia, the Southern Cross Cosmos Centre. A new million dollar robotic optical telescope (the Zadko Telescope) will be installed into the Zadko Dome in 2006, as well as a special purpose Cosmology Gallery and the Leaning Tower of Gingin, where students can repeat Galileo’s famous experiments. The site of the public centre is located far enough from the gravitational wave detector to prevent any interference.

The Gravity Discovery Centre is a unique and innovative facility that enables public participation in the process of discovery in an enjoyable and experiential fashion. It links science and art, with many exhibits created as a result of collaboration between scientists and artists. The numerous hands-on exhibits include a huge black hole model, a one kilometre acoustic delay line and art works that display the relativistic distortions of space-time. The focus of the GDC is modern physics and the ‘big questions’ of the universe, cosmology and the laws of physics. Exhibits are linked to education modules that are tied to the school curriculum.

The Gravity Discovery Centre was developed to enable the public to participate in the process of the discovery of gravitational waves. The largescale centre has been funded by philanthropic donations. Its goal is to help turn around the decline in interest in science and technology careers, and to provide stimulation and special resources for students and teachers. Students use digital cameras and digital videos to record experiments. Advanced students use frame-byframe analyses to plot graphs of acceleration, pendulum motion or wave propagation. Others ’collect’ rare invertebrates in digital images or take photos of sunspots. They create records for follow-up digital presentations. The exhibits are dramatic, interactive and large-scaled.

The second stage of the Gravity Discovery Centre includes the Cosmology Gallery, a towering, stone building topped with a 20m diameter Buckyball dome. This building is dedicated to multicultural cosmology and its contrast with the scientific understanding of the origin of the universe, the solar system and life. Huge digital projections on the dome will bring to life artistic renditions of traditional beliefs, as well as the scientific depiction of creation. The gallery is designed to expose the unity in the human quest to understand our place in the universe.

The dome of the Cosmology Gallery is a truncated icosahedron, a shape first discovered by Pythagoras in the 3rd Century BC, and later explored by Leonardo da Vinci, Newton and Kepler in their attempts to understand the universe. Richard Buckminster Fuller was a great promoter of geodesic dome structures. He invented the modern soccer ball based on this shape. In 1985, a new form of carbon was discovered in which 60 carbon atoms form the same perfect shape.

These beautiful molecules were dubbed 'Bucky - balls' in honour of Buckminster Fuller after his death. They are also the building block for carbon nanotubes - the strongest known structures which are at the forefront of the nanotechnology revolution. Thus, carbon - the atom of life - creates a link from stars to soccer, from Archimedes to advanced technology, as well as being the inspiration for the gallery roof.

A 40m high ‘Leaning Tower of Gingin’ also forms part of the second stage of development at the Centre. This iconic building will enable students to carry out high-tech Galileo experiments while providing a scenic lookout for visitors to the Centre. Elevated walkways will join the Tower to the Gallery and the main centre building.

The Gravity Discovery Centre houses a full café and is en route to the popular destinations of New Norcia and the Pinnacles.
The Leaning Tower of Gingin
The cosmology gallery
Schoolchildren experimenting with gravity.
Night at the GDC.
Children having fun.
An ion engine exhibit.

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