Shadow communities

During my years as a computational atomic physicist, I sometimes noted that, while atomic theory might not have been strongly visible in the main conference program, there was often a strong shadow community finding each other in parallel sessions (in later years also at poster session), sharing results, challenges, methods, questions, challenges and successes.

In amusement parks, the technicians are often invisble – showing up only when something goes wrong. Technical details about rides are often hard or impossible to find on park www-sites. E.g. the wonderful story about how Gröna Lund got its wild mouse roller coaster can only be read at CoastersAndMore.de. And when technical details sometimes appear, as they did when Kanonen opened at Liseberg in 2005, they run a strong risk of disappearing with the next www update. Again, details can be found at CoastersAndMore.de but not at liseberg.se. (In any case, the next year will also be the last year that Kanonen is running).

TeknikbordDuring the Edutainment Days at Gröna Lund 15-16 September 2016, a total of 9 technicians come out of their hiding, proudly presenting e.g. wheels, chains, brakes, anti-rollback devices, tools, hydraulics and pneumatics, and sensors, but also illustrations of textbook concepts, such as the lever used to lift 700 kg Jetline engine, to the nearly 6000 teenagers who studied physics and technology in the park during these two days.

Also during the recent Euro Amusement Show in Barcelona, the technology aspects were hidden apart from a few exhibits. However I found that the Safety Institute was an occasion to discover a shadow community of people interested in amusement park technology.

Knowing a few academics provided grapevines to links to other groups of amusement park academics with resulting informal discussions about questions of joint interest. Would it be possible to find ways to link to local academic communities in connections with the trade shows? Some noted that IAAPA lacks a suitable membership category for those who are no longer students, but also without direct ties with commercial interests. Would it be possible to make these shadow communities more visible – perhaps through a “bird-of-a-feather” session? Questions for continued discussions in the little network.

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