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Celebrate science this weekend at magnet lab, Center for Advanced Power Systems Open House

Flowers are flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen, then given to guests, at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory's 2011 Open House.

If you like to see things ignite, levitate or go kaboom, don't miss the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and Florida State University Center for Advanced Power Systems' annual, joint Open House on Saturday, Feb. 18. It's fun for the whole family — and you're sure to learn something new, too.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place:


10 A.M. – 3 P.M.


2000 LEVY ST.


Free parking will be readily available adjacent to both facilities.

While there is no cost for admission, visitors are asked to bring a can of food to the magnet lab to donate to the America's Second Harvest of the Big Bend food bank. Last year, the lab collected 1,670 pounds of food, which helped to feed more than 33,000 people in the Big Bend — nearly half of them hungry children and older residents.

Visitors to the magnet lab will get to build a comet, explore the microscopic world, launch a potato cannon, shrink a quarter, make silly putty, eat liquid-nitrogen ice cream, watch electricity jump from a Tesla coil to a person, touch a superconductor, and a whole lot more.

"The only place you're going to see us launch our rocket car is right here at our Open House," said Ernesto Bosque, a magnet-lab engineer in the facility's Cryogenics Lab who oversees a liquid-nitrogen rocket car demonstration that is always popular with visitors. (Cryogenics is the study of extremely low temperatures.) "The whole demonstration is just too big to take on the road for outreach at schools. The rocket track alone is 12 feet long."

The same can be said for the magnet lab's popular shrinking-quarter demonstration: If you want to see it, you'll have to come to the Open House. There, mechanical engineer Russell Wood has constructed a black, 7-foot-tall machine with a single purpose in mind.

"I designed it to look a little like a Frankenstein-type machine," Wood said. "What it does is take a regular U.S. quarter and shrink it down to a dime — and it still looks like a quarter. It uses a high-energy, pulsed magnetic field to do that. It shows how powerful a magnetic field can be and how controlled it can be, and how you can make a powerful magnetic field do work for you."

The shrinking-quarter machine also "has a flash and a bang, and it makes smoke, so it's very entertaining," Wood added. After each demonstration, the shrunken quarter is raffled off for free to a lucky ticket holder in the crowd.

Each year, about 5,000 people come to the Open House to watch — or participate in — the 80 or so special science demonstrations created by magnet-lab scientists to showcase the research and the scientific principles put to work daily at the sprawling 370,000-square-foot lab.

Visitors will also get a chance to see the big tools scientists use everyday, too. They include the mighty 45 tesla magnet, the most powerful magnet of its kind in the world. (A tesla, by the way, is a unit of measurement for magnetic fields. A junkyard magnet that can pick up a car is about 2 tesla, so you can see how powerful the lab's giant, two-story, 45 tesla magnet is.)

But wait, there's more: Visitors can see and learn about the lab's most recent engineering feat — the 25 tesla magnet with four windows, or ports, built right into its center. The ports allow scientists to access their experiments in new ways, and are the feature that makes 25-tesla magnet a world-record holder for its type.

Around the corner, at CAPS, visitors will get to build a mini-motor and a homemade photovoltaic electricity cell and take them home. They can also learn about smart energy grids, the future of Navy ships, and superconducting electricity cables. CAPS will be showing off its 5-megawatt electric motor and its Real Time Digital Simulator as well.

For more information, contact Amy Winters Mast, communications director for the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, at (850) 644-1933 or

By Kathleen Laufenberg
14 February 2012

"The only place you're going to see us launch our rocket car is right here at our Open House."

Ernesto Bosque
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory