Asian winners of Beamline for Schools

There was an announcement from CERN on June 20 that I’d wanted to cover, missed it and which – to my zero surprise – no one else covered either. For the first time, two Asian schools have won CERN’s annual Beamline for Schools competition. The winning students will visit the French mega-lab later this year to conduct physics experiments at the lab’s facilities and present their results.

The schools were R.N. Podar School, Mumbai, and the International School of Manila, Philippines. The Indian group’s experiment – called ‘Cryptic Ontics’ – involves the following, according to a CERN statement:

The “Cryptic Ontics” team consists of 9 boys and 9 girls. A core team of 9 students will visit CERN to study the deflection of protons and electrons in a magnetic field. By studying the interaction between charged particles and a magnetic field in the lab, the team hopes to learn about the anomalies in the Earth’s magnetic field as a function of the variance of the cosmic ray detection rate.

I don’t entirely understand this but hopefully I can find out soon. The Filipino effort is equally interesting: the students from Manila want to find out how radiation other than X-rays could be used to study cancers in the human body, for starters by irradiating pions into artificial tissue.

It’s really heartening that such things are happening and equally disheartening that they don’t receive mainstream press coverage. It’s not that the media won’t cover what school students are doing – journalists have highlighted ridiculous claims by young hacks in the past (see here and here, e.g.) – but that it has displayed an unusual knack for staying away from the legitimate, and legitimately good, stuff.