Ernest Lawrence Exhibit

This is a virtual tour through an exhibit in progress. These are photos of my scale mock-up for an exhibit developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science on American physicist and engineer Ernest Orlando Lawrence, who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the cyclotron, the first practical atom smasher.


This was a great assignment, combining real artifacts and immersive story-telling with interactives that physically engaged visitors in some pretty challenging concepts of physics. The project was put on hold partway through fabrication.





The entry is between two life-size photo-portraits of Lawrence: as a young boy in Canton, South Dakota, and as an accomplished physics researcher at UC Berkeley in the 1930s.

Upon entering, the visitor is greeted with an an old lab bench, crammed with the same wonderful instruments and gauges Lawrence would have used. A pair of interactive gadgets allow visitors to play with some of the basic electro-magnetic phenomena Lawrenced harnessed in his cyclotron.

Experiment bench

A cloud chamber (center), and, on the table corner (left), a replica of Lawrence's first scribbled notes about his idea.

The resonance sphere—a tethered acrylic sphere with a steel ball inside—is a common physics interactive: with a series of small, well-timed nudges you can get the steel ball screaming around the inside of the sphere at very high speeds. It is analogous to how the cyclotron accelerates protons. Behind are enlargements of the US Patent drawings for the cyclotron.

The exhibit displays Lawrence's first cyclotrons, from his earliest palm-sized prototype made of glass, wire and sealing wax, up through a 27" version. My design uses historical photos of Lawrence's lab enlarged to life size and contour-cut to make dimensional scenes: photographed moments you can walk into. A mirror creates the illusion of a full cyclotron and electro-magnet while saving precious space.

A colossal 35 foot by 15 foot, three-dimensional photo-mural of the colossal 184" cyclotron.

Although Lawrence's cyclotron was surpassed by more powerful kinds of particle accelerators, his big approach to physics research was the progenitor of the "Big Science" facilities, such as CERN, Fermilab, and the Large Hadron Collider.




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