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Ring laser project highlight of German visit

Article from the University of Canterbury's Chronicle - 16/01/03

Twenty-five years of scientific and technological co-operation with Germany was marked recently with a visit to the University of Canterbury from a delegation of German scientists and officials.

The New Zealand-German Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (STC) has been the basis for a successful partnership that has bridged the geographical distance between the two nations, leading to student and scientist exchanges and a number of collaborative projects.

During a day at the University of Canterbury, the German delegation of six visited the National Centre for Research on Europe, Gateway Antarctica and two joint research projectsóthe Canterbury ring lasers and air pollution research led by Professor Andy Sturman (Geography).

Delegation leader, Ms Vera Stercken of the Ministry for Education and Researchís International Division, said the STC agreement had brought tangible benefits to both countries, generated a large number of co-operative projects, and was a model for collaborative links with distant countries.

A visit to the ring lasers in the Cashmere Cavern was a highlight of the visit for the German delegation, where they were shown around by Professor Phil Butler, Professor Geoff Stedman and Dr David Wiltshire, all from the Physics and Astronomy Department.

The Canterbury Ring Laser project began in 1987, using the properties of ring lasers to measure local variations in Earth rotation and investigate some fundamental questions about physical forces.

In 1988 the prototype ring laser was installed in the Cashmere Cavern, a World War Two command post bunker that had lain forgotten for 42 years before its rediscovery by then-TVNZ journalist Jeff Field.

Cashmere Cavern
The German delegation and Canterbury representatives gather in the Cashmere Cavern in front of Ultra-G1, the worldís largest ring laser, built as a New Zealand-German-United States collaboration.

The Canterbury group collaborates strongly with the Technical University of Munich and the German Federal Institute for Cartography and Geodesy, and has built a series of increasingly sophisticated ring lasers. More sensitive than any others in the world, they are able to measure effects never before measured, such as the rotation accompanying the waves from earthquakes and small wobbles in the Earth's rotation axis.

The 25th anniversary of the STC agreement was also marked in Wellington with diplomatic functions and a visit from the German research vessel Sonne.

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