CCIS Points of Interest

As you journey through the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, we invite you to explore several installations exhibiting some of the incredible science and research taking place in the Faculty of Science. Our outreach activities and facilities engage thousands of people each year and ignite interest in the next generation of scientists.

Number One - The Planets

CCIS point of interest number one: planet models

Reaching out of orbit to inspire imagination

Location: Level One, CCIS

Astronomy is a science that easily captures the collective imagination and can serve as a gateway to encourage people to develop interests in all areas of science. Generating, stimulating, and keeping that interest in science alive is important to the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science.

The scale model of the solar system depicts the location of the planets on September 23, 2008, the 100th anniversary of the University of Alberta. There are three different length scales used in this installation to accommodate the space available. The distances between the planets and the Sun are all to the same scale. The sizes of the planets (and their rights) are to a different scale where the planets have been made larger to improve visibility. The sun has been shrunk in size compared to the planets so that it can fit into the atrium. For more information on the scales used, visit our Department of Physics Astronomical Observatory webpage. You can also visit the Observatory (on the 5th floor), boasting three domes with telescopes along with regularly scheduled public lectures and volunteers to provide interpretation.

The solar system installation was made possible through a generous donation by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Edmonton Centre).

Number Two - Baby Dinosaur

CCIS point of interest number two: baby dinosaur cast

Little dinosaur, big discovery 

Location: Level One, CCIS/Bio Sci Link

In the badlands of Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park, University of Alberta professor Philip Currie discovered the fossil skeleton of a baby Chasmosaurus. This herbivore belongs to the ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) family. The fossil cast* of the skeleton shows how pristinely preserved the specimen is. Only the front limbs are missing—having eroded away sometime over the last few hundred years. Fossilized tendons crisscross the spinal column, and faint fossil skin impressions are visible on the flank.

Learn more about ceratopsians and other dinosaurs in Dino 101, the University of Alberta’s Massive Open Online Course. You can also visit the Paleontology Museum in the lower level of the Earth Sciences Building to see more specimens from the Laboratory for Vertebrate Paleontology.

*The original fossil is extremely fragile and is used in research and teaching.
For more information see this Dino 101 video.

Number Three - Science and Art Series

Between two worlds: the intersection of science and art

Location: Level One, PCL Lounge/Bio Sci Link

This series of drawings and digital prints by Ron Wigglesworth explores the connection between the two worlds of science and art. The series demonstrates that drawing complements and enhances scientific investigation, the acquisition of new knowledge, and the integration of previous knowledge.

These specimens are from the University of Alberta’s biology collections. The initial line drawings are analytic and focus on anatomical shape, texture, and line. The print images combine the line drawings with photography and text. The series visually links biological specimens with observational drawings then incorporates those observational drawings into the digital prints.

Ron Wigglesworth gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the faculty and staff of the E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum, the Museum of Zoology, and the Departments of Biological Sciences, Art & Design, and Secondary Education.

Number Four - Rock and Mineral Specimens

CCIS point of interest number four - rock and mineral specimens

The best geologist is the one who sees the most rocks

Location: Level Lower One, CCIS

Minerals are the building blocks of rocks. The minerals presented here are organized systematically based on their elemental composition. The rocks are organized in the context of the rock cycle, illustrating the dynamic processes through which rocks form and change over geologic time.

These specimens are used to support evidence and object-based-learning in undergraduate courses in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Observe even more specimens—including a touchable table—in the Mineralogy/Petrology Museum in the lower level of the Earth Sciences Building.

Number Five - Cloud Chamber

CCIS point of interest five: cloud chamber

Cloud capture: observing the passage of subatomic particles

Location: Level Lower Two, CCIS

By itself, this cloud chamber does not produce any particles. It uses dry ice, liquid nitrogen, or mechanical refrigeration to establish a steep vertical temperature gradient—a warm layer at the top and a colder one near the bottom. Evaporating alcohol creates a volume of supersaturated vapor that condensates on ions left in the wake of charged particles. Tracks of alcohol droplets form in this region, indicating trajectories of the charged particles.

Most subatomic particles recorded here are not the result of human activity but rather are caused by natural processes that have been present throughout the existence of life on earth. The majority of tracks are produced by either cosmic rays or environmental radionuclide decay (e.g., Radio-222 found in your basement).

Using the tracks on the bottom of the cloud chamber, physicists can actually identify the kind of particles passing and, in some cases, can identify a scattering or a collision event.

Number Six - Scales of Science

CCIS point of interest number six: scales of science instellation

Sizing up science: from subatomic particles to the vast expanses of the universe

Location: Level Five, CCIS

With more than 300 faculty members, the range of topics we explore in the Faculty of Science is extremely diverse. Our science researchers study the smallest building blocks of matter up to the observable universe and everything in between, pushing the boundaries of knowledge with infinite possibilities.

This exhibit focuses on a subsection of the research happening right here in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, highlighting research topics that are both quantifiable in and comparable by size. We feature a sampling of the discoveries made by researchers in biological sciences, chemistry, earth and atmospheric sciences, and physics. The subjects in each panel illustrate the science associated with different lengths, ranging from the smallest size at the far right progressing through increasingly larger sizes to the left until the whole visible universe is reached before the entrance of the Department of Physics Astronomical Observatory. The panels do not have to be experienced in any particular order.

Number Seven - The Foucault Pendulum

CCIS point of interest number seven: pendulum

Illustrating Earth’s rotation: The Foucault pendulum

Location: Level One, CCIS

How can you show that Earth spins? Back in 1851, the French physicist Jean-Bernard-Leon Foucault created a simple experiment to prove the Earth spins on its axis once every 24 hours. This experiment is now called a Foucault pendulum.

Our Foucault pendulum is used in undergraduate physics classes as well as public outreach events. For demonstrations, we attach a heavy weight to the wire hanging over the star Polaris (on the floor). The wire—26.4 metres in length when unwound—is free to swing in any direction. To demonstrate the rotation of the Earth, props are arranged in a circle. The pendulum is set swinging in a line with no obstruction. Within a few minutes, the rotation of the Earth causes the plane of the swinging weight to rotate, and the props are knocked over. Undisturbed, our pendulum would swing clockwise and make a full rotation in 19.3 hours, indicating a full rotation of Earth at Edmonton’s latitude of 53.5 degrees.

Number Eight - Plesiosaur

plesiosaur specimen located in CCIS

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a plesiosaur! Meet the newest addition to the Faculty of Science family

Location: Level One, CCIS

Soaring through the sky in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science swims a Cretaceous sea monster. Spanning 50 feet from head to tail, the Elasmosaurus platyurus belongs to a group of ancient long-necked reptiles—plesiosaurs—that, along with ichthyosaurs and mosasaurs, dominated the world’s oceans while dinosaurs ruled the land.

The new specimen will not only be a showpiece for the building, it will also be used for teaching undergraduate paleontology courses.

Students around the world can learn about ancient marine reptiles with a new mini massive open online course (MOOC) coming to Coursera on February 29.