British Science Week – From inside the body to outer space using the Doppler effect

Medical Physicist, Dr. Emma Chung, and juggling Astrophysicist, Dr. Mark Wilkinson, travelled from the level of red blood cells to exploring the Milky Way using the Doppler Effect. Emma showed how the Doppler Effect can be used to measure blood flow through arteries using ultrasound, with a live demonstration provided by special guests from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. The images are very dark, as the lectures were held at the planetarium (National Space Centre), but hopefully you can still see the blood vessels on top and the flow measurements at the bottom of the screen.

demoMark then went on to explore how Doppler’s theory was later extended using Albert Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity to analyse the light from distant stars.

MarkToday, the Doppler Effect provides a vital tool for mapping the motion of stars in the Milky Way and has enabled us to detect the otherwise invisible dark matter that provides the gravity that holds the Galaxy together. This talk explored what we know (and what we don’t know) about how a cosmic soup of dark matter, gas, and dust produced the magnificent range of stars and galaxies that we see in the Universe today. Along the way he showed how astronomers are using the world’s most powerful telescopes and computers to answer questions such as: what happens when galaxies collide? How do supermassive black holes grow? And what can juggling teach us about astronomy?

We have also filmed these lectures and the video will be edited soon and made available on our youtube channel, so that you can learn more about the uses of the Doppler effect in two very distinct fields: medicine and astrophysics!

These events have been coordinated by STEM Ambassador, Dr Emma Chung from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, who hopes to inspire young people to consider careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.


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