Some fairly young school kids were taken on a visit to Fermilab, the USA’s equivalent to Europe’s CERN particle research facility.

Before Visit

Before they went though, they were asked to draw a picture of a “scientist” and describe the person – and you got drawings of stereotypical balding males in white coats holding flasks of chemicals.

After their visit the exercise was repeated – and you got drawings of fairly normal people in average clothing, and in surroundings that quite often veered towards almost being outdoors.

I thought it was an interesting experiment and you can see all the results here.

I have myself had such a transformation in opinion – as an adult – after a visit to the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing centre. Our group was lucky enough to spend a day at the place going to all the bits you don’t normally get to see.

Before I went, I wasn’t entirely sure what the work was like – which was part of the reason for visiting – and had presumed it to be largely lots of people in white overalls wandering round with clipboards and monitoring systems.

After Visit

Actually, most of the people working there are blue-collar workers who are physically working on, for example, cutting up nuclear waste containers. All the work is done through radiation shielding, but the manual labour is unchanged. In fact, part of the reason for the sitting of Sellafield where it is was to take advantage of the local labour force which had been largely mining and manual labour at the time.

A total “eye opener” as they say.

Incidentally, don’t ever go to Sellafield for the public exhibition centre, it is utterly crap. Try to organise a day trip with tour which is quite amazing.


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  1. Graham says:

    It’s amazing how wrong our perceptions can be sometimes. Or, for that matter, how smile inducingly similar to that of a child they can be.

  2. BaldJohn says:

    That Sellafield visit still rates as one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve had. The sheer strangeness of those rooms behind heavy shielded glass, that nobody is ever, ever, going to enter; and standing on top of the storage chambers – which were warm to the touch if they were full, and cool if they weren’t…

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