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Physics Phun Night Finds Entertainment in Science Demonstrations

(Posted March 30, 2009)

James Borgardt, associate professor of physics, will smash a cement block with a sledgehammer during Physics Phun Night. The block will be balanced on the chest of Juniata strength coach Doug Smith.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata science students will experiment as entertainers during demonstrations of astounding pheats of physical science during Physics Phun Night at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 2, in Alumni Hall in the Brumbaugh Academic Center on the Juniata campus.

Physics Phun Night, sponsored by the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and the physics department, is free and open to the public.

Perhaps the most popular demonstration during Physics Phun Night, at least among the student body, is an activity illustrating the distribution of force over a wide area. Juniata strength coach Doug Smith will inexplicably volunteer to illustrate this phenomenon by balancing a cement block on his chest and allowing James Borgardt, associate professor of physics, to smash the block with a sledgehammer. Oh yes, Smith will be lying on a bed of nails during the entire demonstration.

Other demonstrations will include:

Barrel Crush: A team of students will use atmospheric pressure to "violently implode" two 55-gallon drums.

"Using props like the bed of nails or trying to pull two phone books apart makes teaching the principles of a fairly complex science both memorable and fun. It helps us understand science much more clearly."
James Borgardt, associate professor of physics

Pencil Gun: A student will use a fire extinguisher to drive a pencil through a thick sheet of plywood.

Bubble Boy: Several physics students will envelop a person within a giant soap bubble.

Static Electricity: A shocking exhibition of self-generated electricity.

Phone Book Strength: By interweaving the pages of two phone books, friction prevents the books from being pulled apart. This demonstration has been seen on the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters."

The students also will illustrate freezing principles by using liquid nitrogen in a series of crowd-pleasing demonstrations, and also fill bubbles with methane gas.

"Using props like the bed of nails or trying to pull two phone books apart makes teaching the principles of a fairly complex science both memorable and fun," Borgardt says. "It helps us understand science much more clearly."






Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.