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Touring Physics

Greetings, readers new and old! Thanks for coming along to this week’s tour of the physics department buildings. Let’s go for a stroll through the important sites while we teach you the facts that you’ll need to survive an on-campus semester. If you get lost during the tour, please refer to the marauder's guide to the Physics Building.

1) Upstairs Nanoscience & Messel

2) Slade Lecture Theatre

3) Tearoom

4) 2nd Year Experimental Labs

5) Basement/ Nuclear Waste Site

We begin our tour in the most important location of all: the top floor of the Sydney Nanoscience Hub (SNH or top-floor Nano, for short). The top floor of SNH is safe and secure: far away from the gross “people sleep here” Fisher vibes and SciTech’s threatening “basically an engineering building” aura. While we admit that engineering majors do frequent the building, and the occasional PhySoc president has been caught snoring on the sofas, top floor nano remains preferred to all other study locations in the university. Here in SNH, you will also find the Nanoscience mascot: Cassie, a waist-high stuffed teddy bear. Cassie was found dumped outside a lab, but we don’t hold it against her.

We must point out the new and improved nano microwave, an object of primary concern for any uni student wanting to survive the winter. Not only does the SNH microwave actually heat food (a dramatic improvement over 2020) but it also doesn’t rotate (positively concerning). Please also note the black hole in between the wooden dividers that separate the study tables. One of our taller readers once climbed in there (for science) and hasn’t been seen since.

[Error404: Image not found due to lockdown laws]

Continuing downstairs from top floor nano, we come to the Messel lecture theatre. We feel obligated to warn you that the Messel thermostat has been precisely and maliciously tuned to be exactly cold enough to send you straight to sleep in your 2 pm thermodynamics lectures. Not to worry! Messel compensates by being the fanciest lecture theatre in physics. Behold, the 3 inordinately large projector screens (oooh!), the comfortable padded seating (ahh!), the power ports between the seats (wow!), the beautifully carpeted floors (*clap here*). This incredible facility is the pride and joy of all the physics lectures. No other lecture theatre can hold a candle to this magnificent jewel that new students will have the luxury of experiencing for exactly one semester. After you’ve been so thoroughly misled as to the quality of physics lecture theatres, you’ll never see the inside Messel again. Instead, you’ll be relegated to Slade lecture theatre.

We’ve left the Nanoscience hub now and crossed into the physics building proper. The Slade Lecture theatre is also freezing, but this has less to do with AC and more to do with the physics building being about as chilly as a flamingo in a snowstorm. The hard wooden fold-down benches in Slade are “heritage” and “can’t be replaced”, so settle in for knowing the true fear of being that student who accidentally kicks one down while Tim Bedding is talking.

We’ll next pass by the physics tearoom. To the best of our knowledge, the school of physics is one of the few schools that has a common room open to undergraduates. Our best guess as to why this works is that the presence of that many physics academics in one room is sufficient to scare off most of the first- and second-years, which keeps numbers down to a manageable level. If, however, you are brave enough to frequent the tearoom, here’s what you should know:

There are two microwaves in the tearoom. One is always broken, while the other is chronically underpowered. These are some of the most reliable microwaves in the university. There is also a bookshelf, filled with books that belong in a physics tearoom – like a French dictionary. The meeting room in the tearoom cannot be booked. Be aware that the meeting room is booked on Fridays at 2 pm.

Heading upstairs, we need to find the top floor 2nd-year labs. Reaching the top of the stairs we can see locked research labs, mysterious piles of dead cables, and… lecture theatre 4? Going back down the stairs you pause, take a breath, and head back up again. The labs are here now (*).

(*) Note: there are two staircases in the school of physics – the staircase with the labs is the third one you try. The reason for this is that the land for the building was originally acquired from Paul’s college, and one condition of the land being sold to the university was that any buildings should not impede the view between the college and science road. Heaven forbid we ruin the boys’ view.

After your lab, you walk back along the main physics corridor. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a friend of yours heading down some stairs into… the basement? You follow. Entering the basement, your footsteps echo loudly around you. The stark white walls and harsh fluorescent lighting does nothing to compensate for the ceiling, which starts low and seems to get lower as you walk further down the corridor. You’ve heard they keep researchers down here, but you can’t see any right now. Up ahead, you hear a door close – your friend? As you walk onwards, the air cools. Are the pipes getting bigger? At some point, you remember the impossible-to-substantiate rumours that the physics department used to house a nuclear reactor here. The lights buzz slightly overhead. You walk further into the basement.

Thanks for coming folks! We hope you enjoyed the tour. If we missed an important detail about campus life, be sure to drop a comment below.

- Alice and Jean Luc

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