Professors Ayana Arce and Mark Kruse Featured in Video Series

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Professors Ayana Arce and Mark Kruse are featured in a new series of videos called “Physics for the 21st Century” produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and available online. Kruse says the goal of the videos is to “share some of the excitement of what’s going on in the frontier of physics right now to high school students and teachers, and interested undergrads as well.” The videos, with accompanying transcripts and lesson plans, are available for free on the Annenberg Media website.

Kruse says of the videos, “It’s not just all glamour; they wanted to really show the audience how these questions are being answered.” Kruse is featured in the first video (there are 11 in all), called “The Basic Building Blocks of Matter.” In the 30-minute video, he explains the work that he and others are doing to look for the Higgs boson at Fermilab’s Tevatron in Illinois. Arce stars in the video accompanying the second unit, “The Fundamental Interactions.” She talks about her work verifying data from the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland. She uses Monte Carlo analysis and other statistical tools to analyze simulations of the ATLAS experiment; when compared to the actual data coming out of the ATLAS detector, the simulation analysis can give physicists a good idea of whether the detector is performing correctly. In the videos, both Kruse and Arce are shown interacting with students and colleagues, as well as making some explanations directly to the camera. Some of the more complex ideas are illustrated with animation while they are talking. “It was a fun experience,” Kruse says. “The cameraman and director were very professional and good at putting everyone at ease. They give you a little bit of coaching beforehand about how to interact in front of the camera.” He was filmed at Fermilab over the course of two days. He said the film crew collected perhaps 10 hours of footage from which they chose less than 15 minutes of film to use in the video. Arce says, “It was the most intensive involvement with a camera crew I’ve ever had in my life.” She says the camera crew followed her around for a couple of days (the footage was shot while she was still a post-doc at UC-Berkeley), filming her interactions with students and colleagues. Being filmed during candid conversations—and shooting second takes of these—was  “a new experience,” she says. “It was a lot of fun.” While she hasn’t watched the entire video (“I have a problem watching myself on video,” she says. “I watched as much as I could take.”), what she saw was “really nicely done.”