Tuesday, 07 June 2016 09:22

Making science easy

Vasilis Vasiliou explaining the Galilean thermometer Vasilis Vasiliou explaining the Galilean thermometer

Limassol’s ‘House of Science’ opened its doors on an auspicious date – May 9 – the day Mercury transited the Sun – a rare celestial phenomenon which happens about 13 times each century.

The founder and owner, Vasilis Vasiliou, had set up a special telescope outside his new shop off Ayia Filaxeos Street and throughout the afternoon (the transit started just after 2pm) around 100 visitors came to have a look at the sun through the telescope’s special protective lens and learn about the physical processes causing the transit.

A Mercury transit takes place when the planet  passes directly between the Sun and a superior planet, becoming visible as a very small black disk moving across the face of the Sun.

Even though small, it diminishes the observed light throughout the transit duration – a phenomenon that has helped astronomers confirm the existence of 1,500 planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy by pointing their telescopes at stars and seeking for this kind of intensity modulation of starlight.

Sharing his knowledge

Vasilis was as excited about the great turnout as he was about the heavenly event. “Many people here know surprisingly little about the planets and our solar system – not even the basics – and I am always happy to explain them in simple terms,” he says.

The young Limassolian has been interested in how things in the world around him work since childhood. He studied Science and Physics at the University of Ioannina and then got a Master’s degree in Principles of Physics at the University of Cyprus.

Today a certified science teacher, he has decided to use his time waiting for a position in a public school, already sharing his passion in a different setting. Via ‘The House of Science’ he plans to organise regular events to share astronomical events, observe night skies and teach people about the many things around us in ‘simplified’ scientific terms.

Passionate about teaching

Vasilis’ passion for teaching shows in the volume of his voice which rises in excitement as soon as he talks about anything scientific.

He is a big fan of Walter Lewin, a Dutch astrophysicist and former professor of physics who was known for “making you love physics whether you like it or not” by teaching it in a very entertaining and unconventional way.

Currently, Vasilis works as a math and science tutor along with running his innovative new shop, trying to make his students not only understand but love their subject matter.

“There are so many fascinating things out there for people to know – it is just a matter of presenting them in a way that is easily understood. One does not have to be a scientist to understand science,” he says.

“When I was in school, the only thing we learned about science was from complicated textbooks. Not once did we get to look through a telescope or even watch one video to help us understand the planets in our sky.”

A place of knowledge and fun

The idea for the shop came when upon returning from Greece, the graduate wanted to observe celestial events and he could not find any place to do so.

For the last visible lunar eclipse, he recounts, he went down to Limassol’s beach with some friends and a telescope, while passersby had had no idea it was happening.

He wants his ‘House of Science’ to be a meeting place for lovers of astronomy like himself.

Apart from professional telescopes, weather stations, microscopes and binoculars, the ‘House of Science’ carries games and books that help young and old understand and love the world of physics and science.

There are three dimensional puzzles, computer games, volcanoes to be built for experiments, gadgets such as copies of the original Galilean thermometer, stickers to recreate the solar system… a whole universe of things worth learning.

More about the shop and upcoming events can be found via the Facebook page ‘House of Science’ or 25 253580.

Article as published in the Cyprus Weekly of May 27, 2016 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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