Through the mists of time

Winter 2017

Alana Krug-MacLeod

Schulich Leader at University of Saskatchewan

The Schulich Leader Scholarship is allowing me to live history and imagine the future. This semester I am travelling back in history via an archaeology class. In the summer, I visited Europe, where the buildings, monuments and museums of Prague, Berlin, Bratislava, and Vienna connected me with the past.
In Prague, I had a special opportunity both to travel back “in the mists of time” and forward to the future. I visited the office of Nuledo.  Thanks to CEO Ondrej Zbytek, a talented young inventor and entrepreneur I had met at a science camp in Finland, I was able to comprehend a piece of science history.  During high school, Zbytek had the brilliant idea to modernise a device invented in 1911 by Charles Wilson. Wilson’s cloud chamber condensed water to reveal the tracks of ambient ions, and won him a Nobel prize.  Nuledo’s device uses advanced engineering technologies, and modular upgrades, with the push of a button allowing viewers to see and record decay chains from artificial and natural radiation sources . Such cloud chambers allow indirect observation of subatomic particles with the naked eye, and are excellent physics teaching and research tools. It was a privilege to see a Barcelona-bound cloud chamber (manufactured for Cosmo Caixa science museum), and to copy-edit a user manual for the most advanced cloud chamber in the world–incredibly, a device designed by a team of high school students, purchased by CERN for science education, and the basis for a multimillion dollar technology company.  Inspiring!

Photo: Prague orloj, a medieval astronomical clock installed in Prague in 1410.