Dust - Mirror of the Environment

staub_hofA Public Science Exhibition at the Enviromental Science Center

Every day we collect dust - if we stay in a room, if we walk through a meadow or we cross the road or if we read a book - and every day we also try to hilsfget rid of the dust. Our yearning for cleanliness has led to the development of a whole industry, producing all kinds of tools from vacuum cleaners to high-tech filters. However, from a scientific point of view, dust is not just dirt. Whereas the layman hardly perceives its existence, the researcher is highly fascinated by it. The dust, which we inhale with every breath, is really a kind of finely-ground summary of the world in which we move. The analysis of a teaspoon of dust gives us a mass of information about the condition of the environment. Using the background of the public discussion about fine dusts and the opportunities and risks of nanotechnological applications (keyword - smart dust) the exhibition is designed to provide information about the behaviour of fine dust particles in a comprehensible and entertaining way. The target group is a broader public, not just scientists from the field.

The exhibition is divided along both a spatial and a temporal axis. Spatially we begin in outer space, circumnavigating the earth, experiencing sand and sandstorms and finally meeting the so-called personal cloud dusts, which whirl up living organisms through their movement. Temporally we begin with fossil dusts form ancient high-lying moors. These dusts provide very useful information for pollen analysts about past environments. This journey of discovery continues by taking a look at important industrial dusts and on to the nanotechnologically-formed functional dusts of the future. Various exhibits demonstrate the technology used to collect fine dust particles and how these are analysed and structured. Optical, haptic and acoustic exhibits, illustrations and short films provide variety so that the visitor is not only informed but also entertained.

The exhibition took place from 23 November 2004 until Mai 2006 in the Environmental Science Center of the University of Augsburg. It includes 30-40 exhibits with many hands-on exhibits to stimulate the visitors to experiment for themselves and to gain knowledge in a playful manner. Well-known experts from various fields, ranging from physics to climatology, give presentations to accompany the exhibition, demonstrating the theme from the perspective of their individual fields of study.

Many exhibits are unique and have never been shown to the public before. These special objects were loaned to the exhibition by institutions such as the German federal criminal investigation agency (forensic equipment), a German mining technology company (dust samples), the German weather service (pollen samples) and the Münster planetary institute (astro-dust photographs).

In 2006, the Oekom Verlag in Munich published a book to accompany the exhibition. It consists of a collection of articles from experts on the topic of dust.

After the exhibition closed in Augsburg it was presented in six other locations until now and had more than 100.000 visitors. Other locations are being planned.

For more information click [here].

Dipl. Des. Knut Voelzke

Scientific Project Management:
Dr. Jens Soentgen