Press Release 062/2021

Tracking Down Neutrinos with Virtual Reality

New Virtual Reality Environment Makes the KATRIN Neutrino Experiment of KIT Accessible to Everyone
2021_062_Mit virtueller Realitaet den Neutrinos auf der Spur
The KATRIN neutrino experiment on the KIT North Campus. (Photo: KIT)

Virtual reality now enables everybody to explore the physical inner workings of the international large-scale KATRIN experiment at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). In this virtual experience, visitors learn how KATRIN works and can even use interactive elements for their own experiments. The VR environment was created in cooperation with the National Institute for Science Communication (NaWik). It is now available online: https://vr.nawik.de/

Neutrinos are the lightest, most abundant, but also most mysterious mass-bearing particles in our universe. They have no electric charge and interact with their environment only via gravity and the so-called weak force. Until recently, neutrinos were described as massless particles in the Standard Model of particle physics. However, observations of atmospheric and solar neutrinos have shown in recent years that neutrinos do have a small mass. The magnitude of their mass, however, is still unknown. With the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment (KATRIN), researchers want to precisely determine the mass of these mysterious particles for the first time. This requires, among other things, a high-resolution spectrometer with a large diameter (ten meters). The experiment is carried out by researchers at KIT in cooperation with national and international partners. Currently, about 200 scientists are involved.

Novel VR Environment Makes Large-Scale Experiment More Accessible

Usually, large-scale experiments in fundamental research, such as KATRIN, are hardly ever accessible to the public. This is due to the special cleanliness requirements and safety regulations – and, of course, the fact that ongoing experiments must not be disturbed. Now, a virtual reality application is opening up new ways to experience what actually happens. Users thus get a direct insight into the inner workings of the research facility and learn how elementary particles move and behave in this large experimental setup. Moreover, the application also enables the public to assume the role of a scientist and to interact with the experiment – for example, by changing measurement variables in virtual operation.

Future Application in Teaching Planned

The novel VR application has been developed in the “Science in Presentations” research project at NaWik, in cooperation with KIT, and is funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation. It combines photo-realistic 360-degree views of the KATRIN experiment setup with a virtual level. The application consists of a guided section in which, similar to a real-life guided tour, a scientist presents the facility and his or her own research. Then, the “visitors” have the opportunity to explore the facility on their own. During this time, other KATRIN researchers will tell them even more about how this unique experiment works and what its goals are. The VR application runs in the browser and can be used either with a special head-mounted display (“VR glasses”) or alternatively on a tablet, laptop, or PC.

In the future, the VR environment will also be used in teaching at KIT. For this purpose, it is currently further enhanced by the NaWik and the KIT Center Elementary Particle and Astroparticle Physics (KCETA). The project is financed with funds from the KIT “Research Infrastructures in Research-Oriented Teaching” grant within the framework of the Excellence Strategy initiated by the German federal and state governments.

Einblick in die VR-Anwendung: Der Physiker Dr. Manuel Klein erklärt neben dem Hauptspektrometer-Tank das KATRIN-Experiment. Mit dem virtuellen Tablet können die Benutzer und Benutzerinnen der VR-Anwendung das Experiment steuern. (Quelle: Screenshot aus der Anwendung)
Insight into the VR application: Physicist Dr. Manuel Klein, standing next to the main
spectrometer tank, explains the KATRIN experiment. Using the virtual tablet, users
of the VR application can control the experiment. (Source: Screenshot from the application)

Online Event in the VR Environment

The VR experience of the neutrino experiment will be presented live for the first time during an online event on July 7, 2021 at 5:00 pm. Media representatives and the interested public are cordially invited to attend. After some short introductory speeches on the KATRIN experiment and the “Science in Presentations” research project, insights into the VR application will be given. This will be followed by the opportunity to ask questions and take part in discussion.

In parallel, participants will have the opportunity to test the browser-based VR application themselves on their own devices and to enrich the discussion with related questions and comments.

Participating Experts

•            Professor Kathrin Valerius, Institute for Astroparticle Physics at KIT

•            Dr. Philipp Niemann, Scientific Director of NaWik

•            Yannic Scheuermann, Research Assistant at NaWik

In addition, Professor Carsten Könneker, Managing Director of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, will be connected to give a virtual welcome address.

 

Registration

Kindly register by Wednesday, July 07, 12:00 by e-mail to Yannic Scheuermann: scheuermannDxm0∂nawik de

 

Zoom Access Data

Zoom access data will be sent to all participants after the registration deadline.

 

About NaWik

The National Institute for Science Communication, a non-profit company with limited liability, was established in 2012 by the Klaus Tschira Foundation and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The vision of NaWik is to improve the information flow from academic research to the public with the goal of a more scientifically literate society. For that purpose, the institute trains researchers and students to communicate their intentions, findings, and issues to a wider audience. The NaWik teaching program currently comprises twelve course types with a uniform didactic concept – from basic or presentation courses to media courses. The seminars are organized as attendance courses or as virtual offers. A dedicated research department at NaWik empirically investigates questions of science communication that are relevant to practice. In addition, NaWik is part of the editorial team of wissenschaftskommunikation.de, a platform dedicated to science communication. NaWik has its operational headquarters in Karlsruhe. Seminars are offered throughout Germany.

 

More information: www.nawik.de

Details about the KIT Center for Elementary Particles and Astroparticle Physics: www.kceta.kit.edu

 

Kontakt für diese Presseinformation:

NaWik:
Dr. Philipp Niemann
Scientific director
Tel.: +49 721 608-41650
E-Mail: niemannHmp6∂nawik de

Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,600 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

mhe, 02.07.2021 updated 08.07.2021
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