15. Scientific Picnic of the polish Radio and the Copernicus Science Centre

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On May 28, 2011 the 15th Scientific Picnic was held at Marszałek Rydz-Śmigły Square in Warsaw. This year’s motto was: FREEDOM. More than 250 institution from Poland and abroad presented their scientific goals and achievements. Like in previous years the Nencki Institute participated in the event; this time with two presentations:

Freedom and enslavement among the ants organized by the staff of the Laboratory of Ethology

Freedom of thought organized by the PhD Student Council of the Nencki Institute.

Presentations of the Polish ants’ colonies were a huge success.

Visitors learned about ants’ social behaviour and methods of studying its causal factors.

A presentation of small ant colonies placed in observation nests allowed visitors to watch ant queens and workers (Who is giving orders here?).

Observation nests within housing fragments of ant colonies of various size allowed visitors to witness important enrichment of the behavioural repertoire shown by ant workers kept in larger groups and illustrated striking forms of individual and group behaviour of these insects (One ant is not an ant!)

The visitors could also observe nest housing in a fragment of a natural mixed colony composed of workers from two ant species: Formica sanguinea (facultative social parasite), and Formica fusca (slave species) (Mistresses and slaves).

Participants saw a video recording showing how individually marked ants tried to rescue their trapped nestmate (Help a trapped ant!).

A special drawing competition for children attracted many younger visitors. Awards were given and works were exhibited. Children had a chance to make drawings and/or play dough models of their own impressions of ants.

The second presentation was also well received.

During a show entitled Secrets of the microworld participants worked with a light microscope – from the preparatory stage to watching the results. They did the preparations by themselves and later watched and photographed them using the camera in the microscope.
The visitors also got acquainted with various optical illusions and their explanations (Do not believe your eyes!)

The youngest participants had an opportunity to transform into chemists, work in a laboratory and get familiar with basic laboratory equipment such as test tubes, pipettes, dishes, etc. Using coloured solutions and dry ice they created steaming concoctions (The magic elixirs).

Have brain – have fun! was a competition during which the visitors had to answer questions and perform different tasks related to how the human brain is involved in memorizing, reading, perception of shapes, etc.

All participants, organizers and guests of the 15th Picnic promised to come back next year.