It is our pleasure to represent a new scientific-educational Internet project aimed at creating a distributed setup for investigating cosmic rays (Broad Atmospheric Showers (BAS) and implementing, with its aid, scientific studies involving broad participation of school children and visitors of the Internet.
Why are we sure that such a project is substantially important now?
Most recent history provides numerous examples confirming the idea that the main capital of a nation, in the modern world, is based not so much on the level of available natural resources, but consists mostly in the level of education of the population. This level should exhibit a certain optimal structure. 100% of the people cannot be specialists in innovative or nano technologies, not to mention financiers or legal experts! Society is healthy and has stable perspectives of development only if the educational structure of the skilled part of this society includes the complete sum of modern knowledge, starting from fundamental up to purely applied or consumer based sciences.
The interest in and, consequently, the level of understanding and support of fundamental sciences in society is dropping. This tendency is bad and dangerous. One must not forget that absolutely everything, that surrounds and is used by modern people, was some time ago the subject of studies in Fundamental Science.
One of the key problems, here, consists in the continuously increasing gap between objects studied by modern science and the level of information in society, as well as the content of courses taught in schools and higher education institutions.
One of the main reasons for origination of the aforementioned gap consists in the complexity of the experimental base of modern science and, also, of its theoretical interpretation. What kind of experiments are demonstrated in our time at lessons of physics? Most of these experiments were subjects of scientific studies many years ago. This is quite understandable: it is difficult to bring an accelerator or a TOKOMAK to school.
This project was contrived and started by the enthusiasm of staff from Laboratory of Nuclear Problems of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (located in Dubna city). The 1st cluster - composed of 7 workstations - is allocated within the institute buildings.
Presently the "Livni" project has no official status.
Cosmic rays make it possible to perform real and quite comprehensible studies in within the framework of science, which still now represents a source of most interesting data, and through this "window" to manifest "live" a whole series of lines of research in modern fundamental science!
The project has two main components: educative and scientific. The principal task of its first stage consists in developing motivated interest of the Internet visitors (primarily of students, naturally) in Physics and, as a consequence, in improving the knowledge of fundamental natural sciences (astronomy, physics, mathematics and informatics) in society, in general, and in Higher education institutions and schools, in particular.
Starting from 1996 projects are worldwide considered (and realized!) for getting large numbers of elder pupils of secondary schools and of students to participate in important scientific studies by creating a Distributed Detector for Studying Broad Atmospheric Showers. (See detailed list of projects here)
The main difference of the project we propose from all other previous projects consists in the following: detector stations are not to be placed in schools. Detectors not having to be located in schools gives rise to a number of essential advantages. First, as it has been shown by mathematical simulation, the detector stations are most reasonably grouped in clusters of 5-7 separate stations distributed uniformly over the area of interest at distances of several hundreds of meters from each other. This condition cannot be fulfilled, if one is attached to schools. If the stations are located in schools, a number of additional unnecessary difficulties arise, related to safety issues, to providing for their operating uninterruptedly day and night, and so on. Transition from a "school-based" to a "cluster-based" structure together with accessibility via Internet to obtained data essentially extends the circle of potential participants from a restricted number of school children, directly involved in the project, up to any individual interested visitor of the Internet.
Thus, the project breaks up into several parts. First of all, the efforts of physicists-specialists result in the creation and maintenance of a distributed setup exhibiting a cellular structure. The "cellular structure" implies that the setup consists of a series of most simple working stations, registering cosmic rays. The stations are grouped into clusters of 5-7 stations each. The number of stations/clusters may increase indefinitely during implementation of the project.
Each individual working station "RUSALKA (mermaid)" (details here) consists of two scintillation counters, a receiver of a global positioning system GPS or GLONAS and a block of electronics for forming and inputing data to the computer that has access to the Internet.
Access to data, continuously obtained by such a setup, permits a participant from the very beginning to take part in studying the properties of cosmic rays and, which is no less essential, to thus familiarize with the most modern scientific and practical problems - starting with hypotheses concerning development of the Universe and ending up with methods of handling and transferring data via the Internet. The list of scientific and technical issues, related to the topics at issue, as one can imagine, is unusually broad, although it is not the subject of the present short introduction. The list of studies, in which interested individuals may take part, will, naturally, be subject to updating and can be seen here.
The second point of principle concerns the cellular structure of the setup to be created. The presence, in the complete set of receiving equipment, of the system of global positioning, known to the wide public as the navigational device, i.e. the device for continuous determination of the geographical coordinates of the receiver, exhibits a second, key to this very idea, feature: the possibility of precise (with an accuracy not inferior to 50-100 ns) determination of the absolute appearance time of the object studied. This means that an event registered by a certain station has a precise absolute time mark and that this parameter can be used (for instance when simultaneity or a certain time sequence of signals are required) for analyzing it together with all the other data, obtained by the setup. By establishing a connection with similar projects operating in other countries, it is possible to establish the fact of coincidence in time between events registered in Dubna and, for example, in Bucharest, Prague or Warsaw.
It is necessary to stress one more key point: the setup will become a source of information, that is extremely important for teaching starting from the moment the first several stations are put into operation, but the commissioning of each new station enhances the scientific significance of this work and, from the stand-view of perspective, if the project becomes widespread (N > 100 stations), this project may result in the creation of a global super-detector for studying super mysterious and super rare showers from cosmic particles of super-high energies (> 1019 eV) at the level of the best world installations.
Clearly, the project must be accompanied by relevant support: the development of Internet contacts between participants and physicists-specialists, development of the base of educational methods for the project, publication of posters for educational institutions with colourful expositions of the main physical concepts relevant to the project and of many other things.
The present-day state of the project in the world. Projects similar in the basic idea are already being realized in at least 16 countries (For details see here)
As far as we know, no such project has been considered yet in Russia