Just north of Perth there is a little known town called Gingin, and close to this town is a Government research establishment called “The Gravity Discovery Centre.” We read about this in our Explore Australia book, and decided to visit, as the kids love science stuff!
Furthering the work of Einstein and Newton, the centre is part of a worldwide network of research stations that are measuring gravitational waves moving through space. It is the only centre of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and an awesome place to spend a few hours.
Out tour started with a 6 minute video presentation, explaining what the centre does. From here on, there are interactive displays on everything from bending light, to parabolic descent into a black hole. The kids really liked the aerodynamic pump, where a ball sits suspended in an upwards airflow, until something interrupted the airflow. They were also enamoured with the sound drum. With this drum, you could knock a cup of someone’s head by aim and punching the rubber bladder at the back. You could also blow smoke rings, but that is really hard to photograph, so you may not see it here.
We stopped for lunch, and then had a tour guide show us around the exhibits, pointing out things that we had missed, or adding information to make each demonstration more interesting. An interesting display was the Interferometer which is the instrument used to measure the gravity waves in space. It is mounted on a table weighing 1 tonne and the lasers display a regular wave pattern on a small screen. When anything interferes with the signal, the waves move and display the interference. We tapped the table, and the waves moved dramatically. We stomped on the floor beside the machine and the waves moved. We sent Connor to the front door of the building, about 30m away and he jumped up and down. The waves moved again. This thing is VERY sensitive!
Another fascinating demonstration was measuring the speed of sound through a system of pipes over 1km long, with both ends beside each other. Bang one end of the pipe, and wait for the sound to arrive at the other end – 4 seconds later.
The highlight of the tour was the leaning tower of Gingin. The tower is 45m high and leans on an angle of 15 degrees. There is 160 tonnes of concrete holding it in place, and the whole structure hinges so it can be lowered for maintenance. The centre gives you balloons to fill with water, and the idea is to replicate Aristotle by dropping them from the top. But, you have to climb the 222 steps to get there……. on a 15 degree angle…….with the wind blowing madly……
Daniel and the kids made it successfully, although some kids were feeling a little stretched. The floor where the shutes were, was made of see through steel mesh, so you could observe the results. It also meant you looked down…….and saw how high you were……Our water bombs were quickly dispensed with and the return journey was undertaken.