by Rosario Turrisi. Published: 30 October 2014

On Friday 26 September the European Researchers’ Night took place simultaneously in several hundred cities, with the intention to offer a behind-the-scenes experience of many research topics, usually closed within the walls of what are too often considered sanctuaries of sorcery.

Padova hosts one of the oldest universities in the world, and the town is crowded with approximately 60000 students. The Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) is present with its many research groups and strong support, and together with the University they represent the main actors of the research in particle and nuclear physics. This has been a further motivation to provide people an engaging contact with our everyday work.

For this important event a number of activities have been organized in the main places where research is conducted, and which often remind of a long and significant history, with the presence of important figures, Galileo Galilei above all. So Palazzo Bo, Caffé Pedrocchi, Specola, Palazzo Liviano, the Physics and Astronomy Department with its Museum have been crowded with people of all ages to follow ‘’Science Café’’ events, conferences, ‘’speed dates’’ where ten PhD students and researchers answered the most intriguing questions posed by visitors, hands-on events for children, and many other initiatives.

A team of researchers from INFN-Laboratori Nazionali di Legnaro, INFN-Padova and University- Physics and Astronomy Department set up a physics-devoted gazebo in the courtyard of the historical Palazzo Bo, whose most ancient walls date back to the XIII century. A number of posters illustrated the many activities developing in Padova, while a screen was cycling through appealing images of the LHC , the young researchers were explaining the methods to get information about the origin of the Universe with an LHC experiment or showing a working detector to map natural radioactivity, helping the prevention of radiation-related health issues.

We had to ‘’fight’’ against gazebos with virtual reality, remote piano playing, flying drones and other impressive demonstrations of the potential of today’s technology. Finally, when, around midnight, we were collecting our stuff, many questions came up, as it happens every year, about the impact that this event can have on other people's understanding of our work, what can be improved or has to be completely changed and if it is worth the effort. Probably the answer came from the sweet smile of the youngest lady, playing with a memory game, when she picked the same two pictures of a very complex detector she knows nothing about…see you in 2015!