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MagLab Open House Merges Science and Cinema

Tom Flanigan

When it comes to the world’s most advanced scientific laboratories, almost none of them ever open their doors to just anyone who wants to come in. But one of them does every year and it’s located in Tallahassee.

That world-class research center is the Capital City’s own National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, where Kristin Roberts is the public affairs director. And once again, she’s been promoting the Mag Lab’s yearly open house this Saturday.

“Open house is taking place the eve of the Oscars and so it’s going to be a weekend of movie magic and we are literally rolling out the red carpet for science,” she said.

Roberts explained the idea of a different theme for each open house is nothing new.

“Last year we explored science and music and that was very successful. More than 8,200 people came to have fun with us during Open House 2016. So ‘Science and the Movies’ just seemed the next natural step.”

Of course, Roberts said, the central purpose of any open house is to give anyone and everyone a chance to see first-hand what’s going on inside one of the world’s most advanced places for scientific research.

“Playing with science, talking to the scientists who are doing the research, building the magnets, they will all be available at Open House, as well as some new experiences this year as we explore science and the movies.”

A link, said Roberts, that is stronger and more extensive than most people think.

“We’re going to look at the science of popcorn and microwaves. We’re going to look at how the pixels on your screen create a big – or small – screen watching experience. And this year we’ve partnered with the (FSU) College of Motion Picture Arts to provide some insights on the science and technology involved in actual movie making. So they’re going to show us how green screens work and actually showing us some really interesting developments in virtual reality and augmented reality, which is starting to become a real thing in movie making right now.”

Roberts said cinematic-connected exhibits will include the hover transportation shown in “Back to the Future”. Also, for Harry Potter fanatics, a kid-friendly “Hogwarts Muggle Science Academy”. There will a display called “Honey I Shrunk the Quarters” in which an insanely powerful magnetic pulse transforms a 25-cent piece and, just days after Valentine’s Day, magnetic resonance imaging films that shows what love looks like from inside the body. In fact, Roberts said the buildings surrounding the Mag Lab will also be showing off their science and technology, so make a day of it.

“Innovation Park is filled with a number of buildings that will also be opening during our Open House so there’s a lot to see and explore. Park anywhere in Innovation Park and stroll around, stopping wherever you’d like and ending up at the Mag Lab and stay with us all day. Try to arrive early, crowds are a little bit lighter around opening at 10:00 a.m. and we’ll have food trucks available for lunch.”

After all, neither movies, nor some of the most cutting-edge research on the planet, should be enjoyed on an empty stomach.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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